October is done. Nothing against the month in and of itself, but for the last 31 days, I've been noticing the Halloween decorations everywhere (because seriously, stores start putting them up in September), raising my awareness of Breast Cancer, and helping raise others' awareness of Pregnancy and Infant Loss. And while PAIL awareness especially is one of my passions, I'm ready for a breather.
Which brings me to my favorite holiday of the year. I love love love Thanksgiving for so many reasons - mostly because even in our materialistic society, it has retained a certain purity. It has somehow avoided the commercialism of the other holidays. There's no mythical "character" that represents Thanksgiving, nothing like Santa or the Easter Bunny or anything like that. It's not yet the busiest time of the year, a title reserved for those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it's okay to start playing Christmas carols (our Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas CD is coming out tomorrow!!). It's not overrun by gift-giving. The focus of Thanksgiving is still...to give thanks. To gather with family and celebrate, being thankful for the blessings we have been given. It is full of Christian virtue, and yet open to people of every faith. And it can be as simple or as ornate as you want, and it's still good and focused on giving thanks.
Every year, I tell myself that I want to take advantage of the season and milk it for all I can. This year, I'm going to. I'm going to focus on home and family projects that will allow us to enjoy "the holidays" to their fullest. And I am going to focus on cultivating an atmosphere of thanksgiving in our home - something that should be going on everyday, I know, but maybe by focusing on it a bit more in the next 30 days, I can establish new and better habits that will overflow to the rest of the year.
One thing I'm going to do is an idea that someone in one of my Facebook groups shared - cutting out enough construction paper leaves to have one per day between now and Thanksgiving, and writing one thing you are thankful for each day. I'm going to do this with my daughter (although if you don't have children in your home, you could certainly do it on your own, too), put them in a vase, and then pull them out on Thanksgiving Day to scatter as a decoration on our dinner table, allowing us to look at them again, and to remember again all the ways God has filled our lives with good things.
And there are so, so many things. Even when life is hard, God is good, and we can always find something to be thankful for. One of my favorite Bible passages, Habakkuk 3:17-18, shares this thought:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The first time I heard someone teach on this passage was when I was in seminary, over ten years ago. Our professor for Old Testament prophets taught on the book of Habakkuk that day, ending with this passage. He then shared that he was leaving for the rest of the day because his wife would have quadruple bypass heart surgery within the next couple of hours. I will never forget how, even though he was facing such a hard day with the love of his life, he came and taught anyway, wanting to make sure we understood this passage, that no matter our circumstances, we can rejoice in the Lord. He lived that passage that day, and while I don't remember the exact words he shared, I remember the lesson well. I want to live that, too. To "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). To make everyday Thanksgiving in my heart.
Welcome to November, friends. What are you doing to prepare your heart for Thanksgiving this year?
p.s. to my Canadian friends - I know you already had Thanksgiving. What did you do to make it special this year? :)