Thanksgiving at our house yesterday was not social media-worthy. We did not consume a feast. No turkey, potatoes, stuffing, or pie for this family. I did not take a single photo. Our house was a hot mess.
I’ve been sick for the last week and a half, and we just couldn’t get it together in time. Concerns about a possible Covid diagnosis meant I was not only sick, but isolated for many days from my husband and kids while we waited for my test results. This was a new level of emotional difficulty I had not faced before. My empathy for those isolated during this time only increased.
But the morning of Thanksgiving brought a beautiful gift in the form of an email. My Covid test was negative. I could hug my husband! I could hug my kids!
We huddled together on the couch and watched a movie in our messy living room while we ate the pasta dinner my husband had made.
And you know what? As hard and messy and ugly as it was compared to most other Thanksgiving Days…it was Thanksgiving stripped down to its purest form.
At the end of the day, I don’t give thanks because of turkey or pie. It’s not the decor or even the traditions that fill my heart with gratitude.
It’s the fact that no matter how much is stripped away, there is sweetness that remains. There is always something to be thankful for. For me, it was the simplicity of being able to hug my family again. It was just being around them and watching them interact. It was being sprung from the isolation of my bedroom to be in the midst of those I love.
Sure, there is other family I missed, too. I think most of us had a different Thanksgiving this year than we are used to. But wasn’t it a relief to spend a day contemplating gratitude? It seems this year we have complained so much. We have grieved and mourned so much. But I felt a beautiful shift yesterday. I felt it was a day spent doing what we were created to do: be thankful. What a relief to go to social media and see people expressing gratitude for what really matters, rather than more opinions or complaints.
My Thanksgiving Day embodied so much of what I feel 2020 has been about: the stripping away of things that we took for granted, and finding that the things that remain are more important than we’d realized. It’s been a simplifying and a refining. It’s given us a laser-like focus for the things that are most important to us. Our hearts have learned more than ever what it’s like to yearn for family, to long for community. We yearn for justice and to see wrongs being made right. We may not all agree on how to go about it, but most of us seem motivated by these same general principles.
Today is the day after Thanksgiving. But my family will celebrate it today. I’m going to do my best to help cook a big meal even though my stomach is unimpressed with food this week. But our gratitude continues. I get to be out of my bedroom! I get to hug my kids!
I’m praying that your gratitude continues, too. We are loved. We are in this together. We have what we need. It’s the day after Thanksgiving but there’s still so much to be grateful for.
Sometimes when things are hard, I catch myself wallowing in self-pity. But that just makes me more sick and miserable. I’ve discovered there’s really only one antidote for that sickness: thankfulness. So I start making a choice to shift my mind to fix on what I’m grateful for, and my mood follows! It’s amazing.
So this is my day-after-Thanksgiving prayer for you, too: may we fix our thoughts on what we have to be thankful for, however small. Maybe, just maybe, instead of wishing away the remainder of 2020, we can change it by changing our own minds. Sure, this year has been a disaster in many ways; but looking deeper, we see new levels of appreciation and gratitude for family and community that didn’t exist before. We see a new thankfulness for the simple things.
Personally, I’ve discovered at an even deeper level that Jesus is enough for me. Not just when things are going well, but also when they’ve gone off the rails. He was enough for me in 2019 and He’s been enough for me in 2020. He was enough for me in health and He’s enough for me in sickness and isolation, too.
If you don’t know Him, DM me. I want to tell you more about who I’m most grateful for. I want to tell you about the one who has turned much of the ugliness of this year into moments of triumph and overcoming for me. I’ve actually taken giant steps towards lifelong goals and dreams this year that I would not have taken if it weren’t for this pandemic.
I don’t want to ignore or seem tone-deaf to anyone else’s pain or hardship this year. It’s been beyond challenging for our nation and the world. But there is still good to be found. There is still sweetness to uncover. There is still love to be given and received. There are people who care about you (even if you don’t always feel it).
If you’re reading this post, I want you to know I’m thankful for you, too. Many of us do not see eye to eye on various issues, but I see in you a beautiful person who was created for a purpose. Your life has tremendous meaning and value and I’m so thankful you exist. I wish I could hug you right now and tell you how important and loved you are.
Let’s keep Thanksgiving going, shall we? We’ve got another month left of 2020. What if we were truly radical and continued to look for the things we are grateful for? You and I just might shift the rest of this year to something beautiful.