I might have a bone to pick with Thanksgiving.
I mean, I love a sleep-inducing, kitchen-trashing, dirty-every-pot-in-the-house, gain-five-pounds-in-one-day, deliciously decadent traditional Thanksgiving dinner just as much as the next person. Even when it means scrubbing mashed potatos off the radiator (courtesy of the 1 year old), sweet potatos off the fish tank (courtesy of the 3 year old with a really good arm), and fishing pie crumbs out from under the stove (that wouldn’t be my fault would it?). It’s like the ultimate in comfort food feasting shared with family and friends. And I’m not even sure I mind the added expenditures – a turkey dinner with all the trimmings adds up fast, especially for a family of 8 plus relatives. (My grocery budget is bleeding out, but that’s ok, the leftovers will sustain us for quite some time).
Thanksgiving is a great day to celebrate being together and being thankful for all that God has given us. Except that I think spending 1 day being thankful for 1 giant feast kind of defeats the purpose. Spending 1 day proclaiming our gratitude for our families, friends, jobs, food, warm homes, sports teams, toys, tech, and pets is just the tip of the iceberg. Hmm, maybe more like the size of an icecube. It just doesn’t cut the cranberry sauce, er, mustard.
Joy is born out of gratitude. Not just a one time, once a year spirit of thankfulness. Not just a once a day blessing on the dinner meal. But a life lived in constant gratittude to the Giver of all good gifts. I can’t help but wonder if, when I’m unhappy, its because I’m not being grateful? Today, I caught myself getting cranky because – just when I wanted to show the tiny humans a video on letters and the sounds they make – the computer decided to install 36 updates. 36! Tiny humans can’t wait that long. And apparently, grown up humans aren’t so good for 36 updates, either. But then I realized what a ‘first world’ problem that is. I’m feeling a little bit entitled here – to a clean, warm home, with lots of food, cars that go, tech constantly at my finger tips, while some people are struggling to find a meal or to live in a home with heat and electricity. I am so routinely blessed by what we consider to be basic necessities that I fail to appreciate them.
Last night, I lay in bed, listening to the quiet crackle of the fire slowly dying in the wood stove and the gentle hum of the baby monitor reminding me that my children were cozied up peacefully in their quilts. A kitty purring happily at my feet. A house-full of filled up tummies, snuggled up and warm, resting sweetly. The struggles of the day fading into the shadows of the night, as I try to pass them on to our God who never slumbers or sleeps.
This, I thought, is the real thanksgiving. It is beginning of contentment, the genesis of gratitude. Baby steps towards joy.
There is an udeniable connection between food and the soul. From tiny babies who comfort nurse in their mommy’s arms, to the little hands that grasp a lollipop in the doctor’s scary office, to would-be, wanna-be, hopefully-becoming grown ups seeking asylum in a steaming gingerbread latte. There is comfort in the rhythms of a morning cup of coffee or a glass of milk and a bowl of oatmeal, shared before the busy day begins.
We love food.
Food nourishes the body while gathering around the dinner table with our favorite people nourishes the soul. It is no wonder that Jesus asked us to remember Him with a glass of wine and a loaf of bread shared among believers. A shared meal binds us together, delicious aromas remind us of happy times, and shared stories bring us hope, laughter, and joy. A family meal fosters love, and isn’t that just what we all need?
I am no Martha Steward, no culinary genius, no master chef. But I can whip up a mean grilled cheese sandwhich, simmer soups from scratch, and I know how to delight my little ones with Goldfish crakers, pretzels, veggies, and plenty of dip. I readily accepted ketchup as vegetable since my small people have forever devoured it on any number of side dishes like green beans, apples, and even, gag, strawberries. But then Baby number 5 came along and opened my eyes to the potential of ketchup as an entree. He can make a meal out of a plate of ketchup and a spoon. And again I say, gag.
Food doesn’t have to be fancy to fill up the soul. A hot meal, a cold meal, a simple dinner or a fancy fare, Jesus gave us the right idea – share it together among loved ones, remember Him, ask for His blessing. My busy, big family doesn’t have it all together often, we’re too busy running here and there, cleaning up, picking up, dropping off, and taking naps. But if we do nothing else right, we eat together and often. It nourishes the soul and grows the family stronger with every bite.
This morning, while my kids snacked on Goldfish crackers and milk, I tested an idea that I had been dreaming up. And surprisingly, it actually worked! This might make a yummy, easy snack, a quick desert, or even a steaming hot breakfast for a cold day. Try this out…
Apple cobbler in a cup. Serves 1.
Cut up one apple, any kind will do, into bite size pieces in a microwave safe mug.
Cover with a layer of brown sugar (you can substitute maple syrup if you prefer).
Top with four small chunks of butter (a tablespoon or two will do)
In a small bowl, mix equal parts of instant oatmeal and whole wheat flour – just a couple of spoonfuls is plenty. Add a drizzle of olive oil and mix until crumbs form -you may need to add a bit more olive oil until you find that just right consistency. Dump your crumbs on top and microwave for 2 minutes.
The results? Delicious! Just becareful, because the apples in the bottom are very hot!
Make one mug per person and enjoy!
It took me a week, an over-filled, sweaty, ripe, grimey, headachey week to find 42 minutes to plop myself on my plumped up sofa, prop my feet on the coffee table, and zone out for an episode of Bones on my laptop. Yes, it took a good 7 days to find that quality time to spend with Hulu. And do you know what happened?
I promptly fell asleep.
What’s going on here? Am I that old? I don’t even have enough energy to relax! Something is very wrong. How can I discover God’s hand in my life – how can I gaze in awe at Him – if I can’t stay awake? If I am so busy that I fall asleep the moment I sit down, then I need to make a change. When people talk about priorities, they usually mean putting family first, or making time to spend with God, or date nights with their spouse. But what about sleep? Where does rest fit in? Somewhere, I read that Rick Warren commented on this when he said that sometimes, the most spiritual thing that we can do is to take a nap. Our human bodies need rest, and I am no exception. The problem is, how?
My life is so full that I get in the bad habit of thinking that the only thing that can give anymore is sleep. And with 6 small children in my house, uninterrupted sleep is impossible to find when babies need fed in the early morning hours, nightmares need soothed, and cups of water need to be dispersed. With all this nighttime activity, I need to spend more quality time with my pillow as well as weed out some of those energy sappers – scrolling Facebook on my phone is one of them. Oh, I’m not anti-facebook at all, it’s a great tool. But filling every second of each day with mindless scrolling and random information doesn’t give our brains the needed time to process the days events and emotions, and it distracts us from thinking about God. I’m not going to say I won’t scroll at all – but maybe I can give those spare minutes a good trim? To let my mind wander over God’s gifts rather than Facebook memes and status updates.
So there are 2 steps that I’m taking this week towards finding more awe and wonder in my life. The first is to keep tracking my sleep with my Fitbit, and keep trying to add a few minutes to my night time by doing little things like shortening my shower, enlisting the kids’ help in cleaning up toys, and heading to bed a few minutes sooner. 6 hours of sleeping is my goal, and last night I didn’t even clock 4 1/2. I can’t keep this up.
The second step I’m taking this week is to cut down on cell phone app usage, including Facebook. Whenever I have a few seconds to wait, such as in the parent pickup line, or while waiting for the spaghetti to cook, I want to pause, and think about God first before I pull up my favorite apps or check up on my FB friends. Less information for my brain to sort through means less brain power being used, and more energy being reserved for things that matter all the more.
2 small changes. Let’s hope for some big rewards. What lifestyle tweeks are you making this week? What small things can you prioritize to make big changes in your life?
Pray for me and I’ll pray for you as we seek out the awe and wonder of God.