This has been a year dedicated to looking for the joy in the day-to-day events, the daily habitudes, the small and seemingly insignificant things that mostly go unnoticed.
This has been a year of not getting lost in the bend of pessimism, but intentionally looking for the hope I have in Christ – the long-standing hope of eternity, as well as the immediate hope in moments that revive my heart.
With this, Thanksgiving is like a culmination of this very habit I have been practicing.
Even before this practice of joy, I have loved Thanksgiving; it is my favorite holiday. This year is no different even given the change of this season being away from family and spending a day in quiet solitude.
I think this partially comes from a changing of expectations that I have learned over the years. In years past, it has felt as if the holidays, whichever one it may be, has been built up to an unattainable experience, yet I would try to fill that gap through too much food and too much time pushing into social invitations.
This year, ironically, I did some of that in preparation of Thanksgiving. I pushed myself into social invitations and enjoyed feasts of food as this day rambled closer. This was because I knew Thanksgiving was coming and I would have this day to myself.
Seems a bit selfish when I think back on my own hopes for this day: a day to myself when it is designed to be a day celebrating with others.
Yet it was a glorious day.
It was a day filled with some of my favorite things for which I am thankful for:
time in the kitchen
cooking new recipes
reading without reservation
time to consider so much
not changing out of my PJs
Even in the midst of such a day, I knew what my heart rejoices over and it is not among the above listed. I am thankful for all of that, and still more.
In years past in similar situations, I have a history of becoming easily overwhelmed with a sense of loss when I conclude that I am alone. I am prone to sink into a pit of despair that I dig for myself when I think on how left out I can feel and how isolated I seem spending a day like Thanksgiving alone.
Yet, this practice of continuously looking for the Lord, of laying down my own self-destructing habits and picking up the habit of looking for the overlooked joys, leads me back to the conclusion that no one else is responsible for my emotions. Not one person is or should be in charge of how I interpret this day.
Throughout the last few years, it has become like a mantra to me: if you feel left out, step in. Realizing that no one can know my heart unless I share it, no one can be expected to come close unless invited, and no one is capable of realizing my needs unless I am clear about them myself. It is not left to others to initiate or even know what is needed; it is left to me to be the purveyor of my self.
In that reaching out and inviting in, it becomes a step of hope and joy and I am moved into a position to be able to see more clearly what is actually true instead of tainted by blurred emotions and selfish will. There is something strangely wonderful when I give up my self-pity to act counterintuitively and think and speak the goodness of Truth. Truth becomes a light into that pit and I can begin to see the path out.
Counting the joys. Naming the joys. All leading back to the One who is the character of Joy.
In these steps, I can remember that people are a gift from the Lord. I have been remarkably blessed with people who have spoken truth, grace, encouragement, humor, love, hope, rest, reproach, honesty into my life throughout my life.
That, to me, is a most precious moment: to realize that the Lord cares for you in the people he has given to you.
I am thankful that I could look forward to this day of quiet thanksgiving because I knew it was by choice. I can easily recall too many people I need to call or text to tell them how they have been a blessing to me.
My heart is a bit tender after spending a day alone reflecting on how the Lord has been good to give me my people. It has been a day of giving thanks and more thanks and there is still more thanks to give.
And it is my hope to continue this practice – to look for the joy in the thanksgiving and to see the Lord more fully in the process.