I woke up this morning with a heavy heart.
I know that’s not the sort of thing you’re supposed to admit the day after Thanksgiving.
But in this case, Thanksgiving is to blame for my melancholy.
I had such high hopes for yesterday. For years now, our family holidays have tended toward the cultural and superficial. Nothing wrong with that. I love to cook a Thanksgiving meal, and family time while opening presents on Christmas morning is a warm memory.
Problem is, those events skin the surface of the real reason we are celebrating. These holidays (literally, holy days) are about much more than food and gifts. They are about God and our relationship to Him. They give us a chance to stop and remember and worship. The routine act of eating transforms into an humble act of thanks. The gifts exchanged are but a tiny echo of the Great Gift lavished on us.
In the midst of the cultural celebration, it’s easy for those deep truths to get lost – especially for those of us who have many wonderful family traditions. There’s nothing wrong with the way the day has always been spent. It’s just that I want it to be something more.
So yesterday, we said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” But the family hike in the woods I wanted to do, the one that would be the beginning of countless thoughtful family hikes in the woods on Thanksgiving, never happened. First the baby fell asleep. Then the turkey had to be put in he oven. Then the baby woke up. Then the baby was hungry. Then the guests arrived. And so I found myself crunching through the frosty air by myself at 4:00 PM yesterday, a journey separate from the one my husband took with our older kids a few hours earlier.
And my heart was glad to be outside and thankful for this great gift called life. But honestly? I was also discouraged.
Because by the time the walk was over and I went back inside to warm up, the game of Monopoly was still going on. Dinner was ready and yet the table wasn’t set, so we rushed to pick up the game pieces so we could eat. A prayer was said, but it was rushed because the kids were restless. And then two of the kids didn’t want to eat, having contented their bellies with the appetizers of crackers and cheese, and Teyla wouldn’t sit in her chair and someone started to talk politics and I left the table in the middle of dessert to bathe the baby so I wouldn't say what I’m thinking and suddenly
the day was over.
And we didn’t thank God for hardly anything. We didn’t focus on the many, many gifts we’ve been given.
It was just a day, a day of food and fun. A day of stress and distractions. Not a day of mindful gratitude.
Just an ordinary American Thanksgiving.
And I hate it.
I wanted something more.