Hello, Mini-Women! Don't you just love Thanksgiving? (Yes, I know you Canadian gals had yours already, and if you're an Aussie girl, you've probably at least heard of this stuffed-turkey holiday) If you're like my friend Hannah and me, you love the smell of the turkey cooking when you go outside and come back in -- the whole process of making mashed potatoes (which she has just about mastered) -- the way the peas and and the cranberry sauce and the sweet potato casserole all touch on your plate and melt into a flavor you don't get at any other time of the year. And then there are the men in the den hollering about a football (who KNOWS what that's about) and the relatives coming together to put aside their little snits and stuff and behave like the loving poeple they really are. There's just a whole feeling of gratefulness that reaches beyond just going around the table saying what you're thankful for (while the gravy gets cold!) It's not something you can really put your finger on, but as you're scraping up the last of the pumpkin pie and whipped cream from your plate, you can still feel it. You kind of want to hold onto the whole thing, don't you?
I think you actually can. I don't mean you should have a turkey dinner every day (although I wouldn't mind it once a month!) or have every member of your entire extended family around you twenty-four seven (that wouldn't bring out the best in any of us!). What I mean is that the thing about Thanksgiving that you can't quite put your finger on (the way you do on the cranberry sauce when nobody's looking to see if it jiggles) -- that thing you CAN hold onto. Let's call it the "thank you 'tude."
You know what an "attitude" is, right? Most of the time we think of it as something negative. Like when a girl (certainly not you!) acts all snotty to her parents, you think, "Man, she sure has an attitude problem." Whenever my sister or my brother or I would say something snarky about somebody, my father would say, "Now, is that the Christian attitude?" Even when I was 8 or 9, I knew what that meant even if I couldn't have put it into words. I'll try now, though.
An "attitude" is the general way you think and feel about certain things. For instance, you have an attitude about school. You either love it and can't wait to get there (okay, maybe that's a little extreme!), or you hate it with everything that's in you, or you can take it or leave it - something like that. You have an attitude about your siblings (brothers and sisters), your parents, the absurd little creep who sits next to you, even your church. It's that attitude that determines how you behave with those people or in those situations. An I-hate-school attitude probably means a person (again, certainly not YOU!) doesn't do her best, sulks around in the classroom, and maybe even backtalks the teacher.
Got that? Okay, so on Thanksgiving Day, people tend to focus on what they have to be grateful for, so they have a thank-you attitude. Whether it's a go-around-the-table discussion or a few words exchanged in the kitchen while you're loading the dishwasher (or stuffing bread crumbs into a dead bird's gut, as my daughter always says!), people tend to talk more about the things they appreciate than they do on just about any other day. I bet God receives enough thank-you prayers to fill all of heaven. That, I think, is why we love the whole feeling of Thanksgiving Day. I think we might feel it even if we ate hot dogs and sauerkraut. (Okay, maybe not sauerkraut . . .)
So why couldn't we have that thank you 'tude all the time? Seriously, Paul did tell us, in one of his letters (who wants to be the first to tell us which one?) that we should give thanks in all things, in every kind of situation, even if we have to dig way deep to find something. He wasn't saying (and neither am I) that we should go around grinning when we fail a test or our kitten dies or our parent loses a job right before Christmas. The first thing we want to do there is go to God and wail, "What is going ON? Help!" And that's what God wants us to do. But . . .
Our whole attitude, and our ability to handle stuff like that, would be different if we ALSO looked for the things that would make us go, "Thanks, God." Here are some ways we can all work on our thank you 'tude, so that the feeling of Thanksgiving Day doesn't fade with the leftovers.
1. Keep a gratitude journal (which we've talked about before) and every night before bed, write down five specific things you're thankful for, even if it's only, "Thank you that I didn't flush my little brother down the toilet when he spilled a chocolate milk shake on my homework."
2. Tell at least one person a day that you appreciate something they've done. Again, it can be small, and it would probably be more meaningful that way anyway. So instead of every day thanking your mom for being such a great mom, one day you could tell her you really appreciate her packing your lunch, another that you're totally grateful to her for reminding you to zip your backpack so everything doesn't fall out of it, another (the day you have no cavities at the dentist) for making you brush your teeth.
3. When you're all bummed out about something, whether it's not being invited to the sleepover or having your BFF move away, look for something in it to thank God for (probably AFTER you've done some grieving; those feelings are important, too.) Left out of the sleepover? Thank God that you won't be tempted to gossip, which is what everybody's going to be doing there. Best friend moves to a far away town? Be thankful that you HAD a BFF, and that there's email and texting, and that God is going to fill that space with yet another fabulous friend when the time is right.
Those are what we call "practices". If you do them often enough they become a habit, part of the way you do things naturally. They will shape your thank you 'tude, and you'll find yourself being happier, not getting so bogged down by the stuff you can't control, seeing God everywhere.
So what will you try starting Thanksgiving Night when the football games are still droning on and the turkey is nothing but greasy bones and you've been told you've had enough pie for one day? Will you start a gratitude journal? Tell somebody you appreciate him or her? Look for the thank you thing in a tough situation? Whatever you do, share it with us, will you? It'll help EVERYBODY's attitude!
I won't be posting again until next Tuesday. That day we'll start our Advent journey together (Advent begins this Sunday). Get ready to "prepare him room" . . .