Monday, November 17, 2008

Some disenchanted evening

Every year about this time, things change. My simple life seems to be not quite enough. Everywhere I look I see things that remind me that my life just really doesn't measure up--from Martha Stewart shows that model finely carved pumpkins, to perfectly browned turkeys on immaculately placed tables, to jewelry commercials where an unsuspecting woman is swooped off her feet by her boyfriend/fiance/husband with a gift that we can't afford in a situation I will never find myself, to the myriad of toy commercials with adorable children perfectly dressed opening toys under a department store-worthy tree on Christmas morning. These things seem to mock me for about eight weeks each year, screaming at me that my life is just not quite good enough.

I suppose the irony is what this season is really, truly about.

In a week, we will spend hours cleaning our homes and cooking, baking, sauteeing traditional foods such as green beans, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce/relish, followed by pumpkin pie (or apple, or pecan, or whatever suits your fancy). We will stress out about whether there is enough room for all the adults in the dining room, and if there is a relatively "stain-proof" area to host a dozen small children eating without adult supervision (because 17-year old zit-covered Wii-playing cousin Brent doesn't count as supervision). At the last minute Thursday morning we will realize that some critical ingredient for our feast was forsaken and will send our poor husbands running to find a grocery store within ten miles that is actually open to pick it up. Never mind that it will never truly be missed from the recipe. And we will urge the children to sit quietly and not touch anything in front of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We'll remind Tommy and Sarah to stay out of the kitchen, to wash their hands and face (again!), and to keep their voices down. And Dad will count the seconds until Santa draws up the rear of the parade and he can switch over to the football games.

At dinner, we will put on "airs" and hold hands while Grandpa blesses the food and every other thing he can possibly think of that has happened in the last year that could be considered "prays-worthy". Grandma will pinch his hand after eight minutes, while the kids poke their fingers in the dinner rolls and mashed potatoes. Uncle Joe will spill wine on the new fine linen tablecloth. Aunt Nora will again tell the now infamous story about her first turkey baking fiasco. And your loving spouse will have one eye glued to the TV in the other room (or even worse...receive text updates on the game! on his cell phone at the table).

Afterwards, the men will collect in the den watching the game and fall asleep, feet up on the coffee table and snoring, each to his own drummer. The kids will run to the basement to play which is a blessing only for the minute while you attempt to clean the dining room, kitchen, and living room from a feast to feed twenty. Later, much later, you will tackle a family room that appears to have only barely survived a grenade attack. (You will do this alone at 11pm, barefoot and on hands and knees while wishing you could just go to sleep.) Your mother-in-law will stand and tell you every bit of gossip she has heard in the past month about her co-workers/neighbors/other family without reaching to help with a single dish. She'll ask if you need help halfway through only to pull your poor sister-in-law with a two-month old baby out of the den where she was attempting to calm the baby.

And at nine, the house will be empty once again. The only sound will be your yawns over the third load through the dishwasher and your husband's snoring.

This is what we get for Thanksgiving. But I think it leaves us all a little bit disillusioned. We are bombarded by the media with idyllic settings that we will never experience. And we spend the day stressed out, irritated, short-tempered, snippy, put-out, and overwhelmed. Never do we really stop to take account of our blessings.

I'll be honest. Right now I'm not looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Not at all.


Because I am caught in the midst of the commercialism of the holiday. I am caught in the human elements of the holiday. I am weary because I know that it will never be for me what it really ought to be.

I will never experience a truly thankful Thanksgiving the way the first one was. The Pilgrims didn't fuss over what brand of turkey they were going to have, or what kind of stuffing they were going to serve with it. No. They were ecstatic because they had food and had survived! They had learned how to cultivate crops with the help of the Native Americans. The Pilgrim women weren't concerned about whether or not their table linens were the same ones they'd used the last five years (okay, so that was impossible for them....), or whether their hair and makeup was perfect, their clothes as nice and new as could be.

They had food! They had each other! They had survived a year!

What can I be thankful for in the last year? Perhaps by looking at that, I can strip the holiday of its commercialism and truly be thankful.

1. A new big family!
2. A beautiful new baby girl
3. Being able to stay home to raise my children
4. Financial blessings that were unexpected
5. Labor/delivery blessings
6. Time spent with my kids
7. One year wedding anniversary
8. Opportunities to serve and bless others
9. My health and my family's health
10. Freedom of religion

These are just a few. I could go for hours. But the point is simple:

Strip the season of its commercialism and get back to "THANKS-GIVING".

I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
--Psalm 69:30

I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
--Psalm 95:2

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
--Psalm 100:4

Father, it is easy to see why this season is difficult for so many. Without your Spirit dwelling within us, it is impossible to grasp the truth and embrace what this time of year is truly about. Strip from my home, my heart anything that would keep me from seeing and celebrating the blessings that you have given me over the past year, and the promises you have given me that have yet to be fulfilled. Let each moment be a moment of praise and thanksgiving for all that you have given me. Remove the parts of my heart and mind that dwell on what I don't have. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

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