Holiday Obligations


That was the sound of November rushing by adorned by crisp autumn leaves. In case you didn’t realize this, tomorrow is the last day of November. For me, it became a month of continual change in the direction of the wind. If I were floating in a sailboat, I would have made several circles on the lake. I have let go of the rudder in complete submission to God’s will. At this point, there are many ways this journey can go, my wrist would certainly cramp trying to steer my own course. The vast differences in options before me would have driven my former Type A personality insane. The adventurer I’ve become is less worried knowing the wind, tide, and body of water on which I am sailing could change at any time. I describe my emotional state as being frustrated and content at the same time. It is erratic, yet possible to be both frustrated and content depending on where I anchor my faith.

November has traditionally been a month of intense reflection for me. Long before I was reborn or considered my compositions anything more than a letter,  this writing journey began with our annual Thanksgiving greeting card and letter. It has become a tradition and an outpouring of my heart. However, in some ways it became an obligation.

Because my blog is read in random parts of the world, I need to explain we are coming off American’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This holiday can stir up emotions to either catapult us into the Christmas season or shake us down to what truly needs to be our focus during the season of Advent.

I appreciate Thanksgiving for its predictability–
-It is always on the same day of the week leaving a few days of family time and relaxation before a new week begins.
-The menu is pretty consistent with the exception of blending families and expectations for particular casseroles to accompany the turkey.
-The focus is on gratitude. All things considered, dismissing extreme tangents of political discussion as to the origin of our nation, the focus on gratitude can transcend any race or creed. Or at least it can if we allow it to simply be a day focused on gratitude. I wish football wasn’t a part of the day, to be honest. It seems to interfere with festivities more than contribute to meaningful conversation.

Thanksgiving almost slipped by this year.

I wasn’t feeling festive and didn’t know why…
Was it the aftershock of my mission trip to one of the most impoverished areas of the world and returning to a nation obsessed with consumption?
Was it the requirement to work at a restaurant that is open 365 days of the year?
Was it the lack of extended family?
Was it the lack of funds to mail the greetings?
Perhaps it was the lack of time to create something meaningful?
Maybe it was because the message God put on my heart this year is more appropriate for Christmas than Thanksgiving?

All of these perhapses (and more) contributed to my conclusion to allow myself grace and forego sending greetings the week of Thanksgiving. I let go of the action but couldn’t ignore the root of the issue. You see, I didn’t feel qualified enough to write about gratitude or anything different than what was already written that might make a difference in today’s world. Except for this…

Being grateful for adversity.

In my November 24 devotional from Billy Graham, he spoke of Paul’s thanksgiving despite adversity from Ephesians 5:15-20

“… to give thanks to God the Father every day through the name of our Lord Jesus the Anointed for all He has done.”

Paul wrote these words while in prison. Falsely accused. Abandoned. Mistreated. He could have justifiably complained but he continued with praise and thanksgiving.

Surely, this year I could site many examples of trials that proved to be incredible life lessons. The stumbling block– how to relay this message without sounding pious, pompous, or like a self-proclaimed martyr. Aside from this struggle, I have this nagging issue…

To know my heart, you may know I’ve been struggling with skepticism regarding the holidays– especially the season from Thanksgiving to Epiphany. Honestly, I’ve struggled with any holiday that has been used for marketing, including ‘lesser’ holidays such as Columbus Day. My skepticism is somewhat healthy in that I question what it’s all about.

I want to be grateful 365 days of the year; not just the fourth Thursday of November.
I want to feel loved 365 days of the year; not just on February 14 or on the anniversary of our wedding.
I want to appreciate the gift of Jesus 365 days of the year; not just on December 25.
I want to celebrate life and living; not just on the anniversary of my birth.
I want to celebrate freedom and patriotism; not just on the 4th of July.

By looking at this short list of examples and pondering just a few moments, you might realize why I feel skeptical. There is much pomp and circumstance leading up to each day. Often, the day after, we move onto the next holiday while the true meaning is lost in the details. Now, more than ever, I want to be sure I am focusing on the meaning rather than the details… the traditions… the obligations.

I often feel morose in my writing as I’m trying to get to my point. You know, sort of like Ecclesiastes– far more philosophical than others perceive the issue. I hope you can see me though as I work on the basis of my writing. It am not trying to rain on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade— I just want life to be less superficial so we don’t miss the reasons we can celebrate life 365 days of the year; not just on those appointed by legal holidays.

So if you’ve read this far and found yourself somewhat empty after the feast, this blog post may be for you. Maybe you and I together can pray our way through Happy Honda Days to celebrate 365 days of the year based on love rather than obligation.

Grab that holiday ‘to do’ list and prioritize what you will do out of love and those things that are simply going to distract from the true meaning of the holiday… from the true meaning of life.

I am grateful the restaurant gig came to an end last week. I wished I could have seen my obligation through to Christmas day as I thought I should have done. But a change of plans, a change in the wind, redirected my sail. I had a mental list of things I would be compromising for the sake of work. The list was getting longer and breaking my heart. It wasn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving but I’m grateful it was a day spent with family rather than looking back with regret that I almost missed one of my favorite celebrations. I learned a lot this year. I’m grateful for the lessons learned and the adventures still to come.

I’m writing through a storm of uncertainty at this moment. Simplifying life even more than before will surely benefit clarity in an overwhelming season. Thank you for your prayers, from all corners of the world.

The world surely needs prayer.
It is the greatest gift we can give one another this year.



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