Originally published Friday, 21 December 2012.
Thanksgiving. The day of thanks.
Facebook has been populated with daily proclamations of gratitude from so many. All leading up to that day. November, the month of thanks.
I didn't use to like Thanksgiving very much.
I didn't hate it. It just didn't mean anything. In my teen years, we didn't do much. Just hung out. No siblings or cousins to share it with. No close family friends. The only child of a single parent. It was like any other day. Just the two of us on a Thursday night.
I am so very blessed to share Thanksgiving with so many now.
My mom, of course. But I also have my husband, our son, an amazing extended family.
We are blessed with a fantastic church, wonderful friends, beautiful home in sunny, Southern California. I could fill more than a month, a year, a lifetime with thanks.
We all try to focus on what we have, not what we lack.
On the people we are thankful for, not those we have to pray for strength and patience to deal with. But there are still those people in our lives.
Because my life isn't perfect. Neither is yours. So I have to pray for help in dealing with the not so pleasant parts, the not so pleasant people.
Thanksgiving is one of those days. One of the ones I want to be picture perfect.
It joins a long list. Christmas, Mother's Day, birthdays, graduations, bridal showers, my wedding day. Special days. Days when I want to be loved. Days where I want heaven on earth. I want easy people, whole people, who love me perfectly.
I want people to be thankful for, not people to be frustrated with.
People who won't ruin my special day by saying the wrong thing, being the wrong thing.
Instead, I'm surrounded by sinners.
Some of them get it right, love me His way. Some get it wrong.
To be honest, I'm just a little less than thankful when sinners sin on my special days.
I'm hurt. Frustrated. Bitter. When my special days are marred. When the image I had of this day isn't quite Norman Rockwell worthy. And not just one time. Pretty much every year.
I've had so many of those days in my life. I could tell too many tales of disappointments, hurts, betrayals, loneliness on my various special days.
I could also list so many reasons why I should be, should have been, thankful instead. All that has gone right, all that I've been given.
But this holiday season, I'm looking at these special days through a different pair of eyes. The eyes of a precious 15 month old boy.
Instead of thinking of my own disappointments or blessings, I think of his. I want to be a gift to my son. I want to be a special part of his special days. Which made me ask myself...
Am I giving others reason to be thankful for me?
Forget my list of blessings or irritations. For one moment, think of myself in the scope of someone else's story. And not just in the story of a someone who "deserves" a special day. Someone who I love dearly, who loves me His way.
Am I a blessing in the story of an annoying or hurtful someone?
Thanksgiving is someone else's holiday, too, you know. That person across the table. Maybe a friend, maybe a foe. Maybe a frustrating family member. I'm in their story, in their portrait of this holiday.
Forget what they have done to my special day. What am I doing to theirs?
Am I bringing down their holiday or am I enhancing it?
I don't want to think like this. I'd rather stay annoyed. I'd rather feel entitled to a perfect day. A day free of hurtful words, actions, omissions. Why can't they step up? Treat me well, fulfill their obligation to be pleasant, to be better, on this day of all days.
Even if I don't hope they are better. Even when I've lost hope and just decided "it is what it is" I still don't want to bring extra joy to them on this special day. I'm not getting mad or being rude. That's enough. But I have to acknowledge that lack of rudeness is the bare minimum. It's a step in the right direction, but it's not the end of the journey.
I don't believe bringing glory to Jesus means simply not being cruel. I think it means being kind on purpose.
Maybe being a reason for someone else to give thanks means...
- not just holding my tongue, but also finding something kind to say
- not just refraining from rolling my eyes, but also intentionally making eye contact and slapping a pleasant expression on my face
- not just overlooking their annoying or hurtful traits, but also lookingfor positive ones, seeing them as a beloved child of God
- not just praying for strength & patience in dealing with them, but also praying for blessings in their life and forgiveness of my ownsin, my own annoying or hurtful tendencies
- not just praying for them to change, but also praying for my own heart to change, for my own sins and weaknesses to fall away as I become more like Christ
When I step back and think of all the people I come in contact with, live in relationship with, I'm part of a lot of other people's days.
This holiday season, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a random Monday morning, I hope I can live out His love by being someone else's "something to be thankful for," instead of just counting my own blessings and slights.
Perhaps I'll start a new family tradition for my blue-eyed bundle of joy.
Instead of just listing our blessings, we'll work on blessing someone else. Especially those who are on our list of frustrations.
How do you "live out His love" on Thanksgiving in the lives of frustrating friends or family members? Maybe your holiday is less than perfect, can you think of ways to be a blessing to those who might "ruin" your perfect holiday? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!