Yesterday started with a debate on whether or not to join my cousin and her hub for the communion service at the church we've been attending, but like usual, I'm glad I did. I mean, what better way to start Thanksgiving than to give thanks where thanks is most due, to receive communion, and to hear a great message. The elementary age gal in front of me was adorable and when I told her that I enjoyed the drawings she was creating, she gifted me with one--sweet, and that lil scrap of paper came in handy when I decided that the mini-sermon was so good that I needed to jot down the following messages:
1) Gratitude breeds generosity: The more we give, the more we tend to receive in the long run...and the more we lead others to create their own opportunities for generosity. Ex. the pastor was in the drive-thru line at Starbucks and let another car that arrived later go in front of him even though he didn't want to, when he arrived to the window, his drink had been paid for by the car in front of him...and he felt more desire to continue to be generous.
2) Lack of gratitude (ingratitude) feels like rejection: If you don't express appreciation, it doesn't exist. Ex. How often do we harbor resentment for the everyday tasks that people take for granted cause we feel they go unnoticed aka unappreciated. (working hard to pay the bills, cooking a meal from scratch, etc)
3) Generous hearts attract others.
4) If the emotion isn't expressed, then it doesn't appear to exist. (This one hit home in so many ways....)
There was also a bit of a lesson on the notion of humility vs entitlement--how frequently we feel that things are owed, when really we are owed nothing. And the notion of being a Returner: one who goes to share thanks to those who enabled them to move forward......
All this led me to spend the next 1.5 hours, trying to be a better returner even if people won't know it, as I went through my phone and half my facebook list and spent 30 secs to a couple minutes praying for every individual person, his or her partner, and any kids they might have. I prayed in gratitude for their presence in my life, for things I know they struggle with, and for ways I hope they might be blessed---all while acknowledging that God has His own plan for each one of them whether or not they know it. I sent a few text messages to many of the ones that weighed most on my heart, including one to Tall D, letting him know that regardless of everything, I do appreciate and am thankful for the good that we created together.
Being generous of spirit and being mindful of God's control over my life isn't always an easy place for me to get to, but I can tell you that this Thanksgiving I was more at peace, more accepting, and more settled than any of years passed. My expectations didn't matter--in fact I had none and I was more fulfilled and blown away by the course of the day. Definitely a reminder, as well, that starting my day with prayer has never had a negative effect on the rest of the day.
My contributions to the day's meal included a kale salad, rolls, vino, and a bacon flavored cheese ball with Ritz crackers (don't knock it til ya try it...and then you'll be addicted!!). I love that each member of the family contributes to the overall load and after the meal is over we all attempt to help with clean-up and break down.
This year my nearby aunt and uncle transported me across town where the meal was held. It was just my parents and I from my immediate family, as my Oregon siblings did their own things (hopefully they both had good meals and created great memories; operating independently of each other definitely isn't outside our norms), and there was a slightly smaller crowd in comparison to prior years (14 of us in total). It also was my cousin's 30th, so for the first year ever we had family games after dinner. I'm not gonna lie, usually I'm a bit of a stick in the mud about these things....BUT it was a total blast as we all participated in our Minute to win it teams to celebrate A and I loved being introduced later to Banana grams as well. The food was amazing, the vino flowed, A was celebrated, Granny appreciated, and time with family was relished. Altogether a quite incredible Thanksgiving.
I got home about 8pm and let the dogs in (noticing that their breaths had a faint hint of turkey that I'm assuming was probably gifted to them across the short back fence :)), before we settled in just relishing our evening of solitude together. (Although I did finally remember to write an email in support of my old high school buddy who is applying for legal residency in Canada--gonna be sad to have the US lose him, but man, is Canada gaining a great one!) One thing the holidays usually does is leave me quiet, introspective at times wanting to just be still in the presence of well, life lived. (One of my favorite Christmas annual traditions is to just spend time curled up on the couch next to the twinkling of the tree, nose deep in a book.) As much as I love the fulfillment of catching up with friends who come home for the holidays (something that recently dawned on me and has increased my excitement about Christmas), spending quality time with my parents and other family members, the holidays also tend to make me relish and desire more moments of solitude.
I crawled into bed early-ish with every intention of just reading but instead rehashed separate holidays of awesomeness with the Tall one across the distance. While we never could quite figure out how to make it work as spouses, I do hope that in time we're able to create a new relationship based upon our married years of friendship. And in many ways it was nice to touch base with the one who has been my primary confidant and best friend, especially when so much of our hometown, friends, and recent traditions are so incredibly entwined. The trick will be to ensure that emotional boundaries are maintained and continued space is ingrained.
Continuing with what I think of as the Thanksgiving weekend, I met up with another old buddy of mine from my undergrad years for breakfast this morning. A guy who I seriously used to enjoy, who taught me to use chopsticks, exposed me to more of the arts, and was the first infantry guy I'd ever spent much time with. Mom loved him, he let me hip toss him in the shared quad, and he was my buddy J's roommate our freshman year of college. (The irony of a small town: My best gal Deir and her husband J and I all went to high school together, although I was a year ahead. J and I went to college together, and D&J got married after our freshman year. Thus J and I have similar college friends and also high school friends, and as mentioned, J & Tall D also share a hometown best friend B...and B's in-laws are who Tall D considers to be his family..... Confused yet?! HA!)
Anyway old college buddy and I haven't seen each other since 2008, when he was on a hiatus from his now ex-wife and he was recently out of the Army. We are both still in touch with another shared buddy though, so I've heard updates on him throughout the years and vice versa. Since we're both recently divorced and back in the area, we figured it'd be awesome to try to reconnect and redevelop a new version of the old friendship we both enjoyed.
On the way to breakfast this morning I was thinking about all the fun times we used to have, but I also was reminding myself that we all grow and change. Sometimes there's nothing more frustrating when getting together with old friends and they expect you to still be the same version they knew originally, so I kept that forefront in my mind as we dove into conversation. And what a great catch-up it was, especially with shared friends, college, and military insight...and in some ways similar marriage and divorce experiences---the hour flew by fast and we left both promising to reconnect over breakfast again soon. Definitely thankful for catching up with an old friend!
Now I'm off to trudge through the rain on a run, to hopefully spend some moments grading, and then to relish an evening spent being perfectly content and lazy. Tomorrow I'm to connect with another new person at some point and then I'm uber stoked to go watch my high school football team compete in the semi-finals with a bunch of Tall D's "fam" who are also my friends. Love those moments when our hometown friends are forced to venture up to the city...and hopefully we'll watch the team win! Regardless, it's the first time they've ever made it to the semi-finals. Sunday will include a morning of church and a stop-by/interview from a potential short-term house share in the evening. Woot woot--so thankful for peaceful, lazy, fulfilling weekends full of individual little moments!