A Secret Thanksgiving Recipe for Lasting HappinessBy
Christmas was the big deal in our house. Mom made sure everyone had presents under the tree. Several Christmas dinners with cousins, including gift giving, made it special. Vacation from school and hanging out with my friends added to the fun.
So Thanksgiving was just the warm up act. It felt more like a delay than a holiday. It was the kick-off to the real holiday season. But not the real holiday.
Yet, as I’ve grown older Thanksgiving has become a favorite. Because it’s the kick-off to the shopping season it kind of gets lost. There are no big Thanksgiving sales. No frantic rush of gift buying. No marathon of Thanksgiving parties. No huge expectations met or disappointed. Just a quiet holiday with family and friends.
Our traditions have changed as our kids have become adults. Now they get home on Wednesday evening, hopefully. Thursday Jennifer and Beth are cooking. So Drew and I find things to do outside. Stay out of the cross-fire.
Working in the back garage on the classic cars. Tuning up the skis for the upcoming season. Throwing around the football. Chopping wood.
It always involves lots of coffee and usually a couple of beers.
In the evening we feast with Jennifer’s family. Her dad at the head of the table complaining because dinner is so late or the pie is too short. Jennifer’s sister helping diligently. Jennifer’s mom telling them what they are doing wrong and how she taught them better. But then we quiet our hearts and give thanks to God for another year of blessings. After dinner we enjoy the evening playing pool with some of Drew’s friends, dessert and conversation.
It really is all the good things of life wrapped up in a single day.
And I‘ve thought, “How could I do a better job of carrying that same attitude into my daily life?”
Life fills up with pressures and challenges. More needs doing than there is time. Often our solution is to go faster. Our mantra becomes, “If I just accomplish more then I’ll be happy. Once I get these things cleaned up then it’ll settle down.”
Yet, it seems the more speed we have the more pressures we feel. The faster we go the less peace we have. Far from accomplishing enough to finally be happy we seem to drift away from the very happiness we’ve been frantically chasing.
What do we do? How can we get off the merry-go-round?
I find helpful what the apostle Paul writes, “Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NCV)
Seems like a good formula for lasting happiness.
And it ties in so well with what I enjoy about Thanksgiving.
First, I need to choose joyfulness. Enjoy each day. Make time for things I enjoy. Don’t wait. Enjoy life along the way. I find this hard to remember. But it’s so rewarding.
Second, share those times with others I love. Build into the relationships that really matter. Take time everyday to connect with those I care about. This doubles the joy and makes it even fuller.
Third, be thankful for what I have already. I try to take time each day to pause and reflect on the blessings I have. Then I thank God for them. This encourages my faith in the future.
Fourth, after looking back at all of the blessings God has given me already I look forward to all he has prepared for me ahead. If he has given me so much so far can’t he provide for tomorrow? This gives me confidence and anticipation.
And finally, I realize it’s God’s greatest joy to bless my life as it is mine to bless my children. He delights in giving me what’s perfect out of his love as I simply receive it. That realization brings an inner peace nothing else can.
James puts it this way, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV)
That confidence gives me hope for each day and the resulting peace.
I love this quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Happiness is as a butterfly, which when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
I hope that happiness alights upon you this Thanksgiving and throughout the year.
What are your traditions for Thanksgiving? Or if you live outside the U.S. how do you celebrate with loved ones a time of thankfulness?
Please let me know. I’d love to hear.
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