Mmmm, Thanksgiving. I remember waking up at home when I was in elementary school early enough to hear The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade playing in the background of the kitchen, as my mom quickly and precisely rolled out the pecan pie crust, and popped her homemade rolls in the oven. Derek and I would gather around the electric heater in the TV room and hope that the Backstreet Boys would make a special appearance after the Charlie Brown balloons.
Thanksgiving is a Sabbath. Americans don’t take many breaks, but on Thanksgiving we do. (Let’s try to forget for a moment that Black Friday is trying to steal away the sacredness of the holiday). Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday to celebrate abroad, because it was a time for me, as an American, to explain why the holiday is so desperately needed in the USA. We don’t often take the time to rest and be grateful for what we have. We overachieve and overcompensate and complain about trivial things. But on Thanksgiving, we say grace, and give thanks. We spend time with family we haven’t seen for months, and let ourselves live a little – by watching too many parade performances and football games, eating too much food, playing too many board games and napping in between the chaos of the cooking. On Thanksgiving we rest. We set aside work duties, and we tune in with our relationships. For those of us that are fortunate enough, we eat pecan pie to remind us that it’s good to be alive.
Over the weekend the New Orleans YAVs had a community day where we learned about and listened to The Liturgists’ Enneagram podcast – I was skeptical at first – but it most importantly advised us to not see the Enneagram as 9 fixed numbers. My overall personality type explains why I was frustrated with having to choose one category: I wanted the perfect match and definition which would perfectly explain me.
We learned that the Enneagram is made up of a spectrum of colors with each number (personality type) being a different color; there are an infinite number of hues existing on the spectrum, which makes every 9 or 1 or 7 uniquely different from the other. This put my perfectionist (#1) mind at ease. It made something so seemingly structured, patterned and formulated, become abstract, unique and beautiful. Perfection exists in the infinities. The YAV house has it’s own Enneagram painting waiting to be created. . .
During the month of November, Courtney has been leading our house in the spiritual practice of “Gratitude.” We’ve been challenging ourselves to look through the lens of gratitude to be thankful for all things, even the mistakes, tears and struggles that are hard to find thanks and grace for at the present moment. This spiritual practice (using the lens of gratitude) allows us to be thankful for what we see as imperfections – fitting for an Enneagram #1. Through this, we remind ourselves that true perfection already exists in every moment, because God is everywhere, and in everything.
This blog post is about being vulnerable and honest in my Thanksgiving. If you know me at all, you know I usually take an evening or two to get my writing/blogging ‘just-so,’ but I’m challenging myself to stop overanalyzing and criticizing. During this month of gratitude, I seek to turn away from my own thoughts and toward the way in which God is moving through every person and situation around me. Give thanks for everything, for God has said “it is good.”
True perfection already exists in every moment.
This month I give thanks for:
- Any chance I have to be outdoors in creation, going for a run or walk.
- A house that I look forward to coming home to every day, with housemates that love, support, challenge and encourage one another.
- For the patrons I spend time with at the library, and the rare moments when they come back just to say hello or update me on their job search.
- The opportunity to tell other young adults about the YAV program, and the ways in which it can change their lives.
- The reminder that each sunset and each sunrise is the beginning of a new day, and a second chance.
- Learning how to forgive.
- Physical sickness, because it forces me to take a day of mental and emotional rest.
- A steady job, even though I dislike sitting at a desk all day.
- The janitors and security guards at the library that help me feel like a part of their family.
- Being a girl boss, even though it means I work mostly alone.
- Moments of loneliness and darkness, helping me understand a bit better those who experience loneliness and darkness daily.
- When we run out of food in the house, because it lets me be creative with my cooking.
- Words of wisdom from unexpected sources.
- Long distance relationships, because they require hard work and time commitments.
- Missing Thanksgiving at home – but getting to make pecan pie, taking a road trip, and creating new holiday memories.
- Gilmore Girls release (!!) as a wonderful excuse to spend time as a YAV family. #TeamJess
- Remembering how fortunate I am to have a car, even though I dislike driving to work.
- Katrina stories and other life stories from my patrons, because they are a reality check to my white middle class privilege.
- Being overwhelmed by the future, because it means I have access to many possible paths.
- Feeling scared or nervous, because it means I am experiencing something new, or care deeply about something.
- For knowing when I’m emotionally unhealthy, because it means I’m aware and can make changes.
- Tears, because it shows I’m finally processing a transition, and that I’m opening myself up to others.
- Laughter, because it gives people life and happiness.
- Spontaneity, because it helps me be unstructured.
- Music, because it speaks to all languages.
- For the election results, because it’s making passive minds proactive.
I’ll leave you with a quote that rings true.
When we observe Sabbath, we allow revelation to happen, and we see through the lenses of gratitude. Anne Lamott puts it so well here in her book about prayer Help. Thanks. Wow.:
“. . .in our quieter moments we remember that (a) there are no codes, and (b) if you are paying attention, plenty is being revealed. We are too often distracted by the need to burnish our surfaces, to look good so that other people won’t know what screwed up messes we are. . .but if you gently help yourself back to the present moment, you see how life keeps stumbling along and how you may actually find your way through another ordinary or impossible day. Details are being revealed, and they will take you out of yourself, which is heaven, and you will have a story to tell, which is salvation that again and again saves us, the way Jesus saves some people. . .So I say ‘Thanks’. . .without revelation and framing, life can seem like an endless desert of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise.” (p. 52-53)
May you be thankful for all things, and renew your mind and spirit.
Happy turkey day!