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When I was a self-righteous twenty and thirty-something, I dreaded going home for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t imagine sitting at a dinner table without all the sibling drama bubbling to the surface, bringing up old hurts, and inevitably resulting in tears before the pecan pie was served.
So, I stayed in New York while my family celebrated in Florida. I went to the Thanksgiving Day parade and hosted an “orphans” Thanksgiving dinner for my friends. We were young and full of the limitless freedom of living in New York in the 1980’s. Yet, I longed for my family.
Now that I am fifty-something, my siblings and I understand that the past should remain there and as adults we are responsible for our own happiness, not our parents or our childhoods.
With these lessons in mind, as we approach this week of Thanksgiving when most of us will be heading home, I’d like to share a five-day plan to prepare our hearts for a blessed Thanksgiving.
Monday – Look for things to be grateful for in your life
Gratitude lists can feel hackneyed until you actually spend a few minutes each day looking for just three things for which you are grateful. After only two days you will discover that your attitude begins to shift as you recognize all the good in your life. Here are my three for today:
- Our pre-dawn sky when stars seem brightest. It’s four a.m. and my dog has brought me out here still half asleep, but look what I would have missed!
- Weekly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This one hour of silent prayer centers my entire week.
- Daily phone calls from my 90-year-old mother. The joy of hearing her voice even though we live so many miles apart.
For the next five days, will you join me in naming three specific things each day for which you are grateful?
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when the grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Romans 8:38-39
Tuesday – Give thanks
As you recognize the good in your life and your heart fills with gratitude, I encourage you to thank God for each of these blessings. You’ll find yourself whispering under your breath, ‘Thank you, God’ throughout the day, as you become aware of God’s blessings. Suddenly, you’ll discover God’s real and constant presence in your daily life.
Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20
Wednesday – Look for the good in others
Make a point to look for the good in the people you cross paths with today. Thank the cashier or the person bagging your groceries. So often we breeze by people in service industries as if they are automatons, rather than our neighbors.
And as you travel this week remember: We are all fighting private battles which can bubble to the surface and take the form of rudeness, unwarranted anger, or a lack of empathy. When you see that in someone, or in yourself, make room in your heart knowing we are all God’s children and called to love one another as we love ourselves. Let God’s love for each of us, his willingness to forgive our sins great and small, inspire us to extend love to those who need it as much as we do.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. Psalm 89:15
Thursday – Expect Joy
As we wake up this morning and consider the day, let’s expect joy. No matter what happens, let’s make a point of for looking for the good in others, in our circumstances, and in ourselves. Let’s invite God into our Thanksgiving Day celebration, ask him to bless us throughout the day, and give us peace. We are blessed because God loves us just as we are.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:1-2
Friday – Trust in God and Rejoice
We will doubltless have moments of stress this week; it’s unavoidable. When we feel tension rising, let’s give it to God, rather than taking it out on the nearest person in our vicinity. Take a deep breath, roll your shoulders, smile and go forward. God is with you. No one can steal your joy unless you allow it.
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18