3 Thanksgiving Cliches Renewed

I’ve never enjoyed Thanksgiving – in the way people look forward to turkey and stuffing all month, name it as their favorite meal, crave pumpkin pie. I’m glad I grew up in the United States. I love my family. I enjoy being grateful. But somewhere between my hatred for vegetables (yes, even mashed potatoes) and the holiday posts infiltrating my feeds, I haven’t found real meaning in the holiday.

Thanksgiving exudes cliche. I admit to mimicking the popular choice, “I’m thankful for my friends and family,” when we go around the table. It’s easy to go through the motions, especially when most of the motions involve ingesting seconds and thirds of American comfort food and falling asleep in front of the TV.

My problem is that I haven’t looked deeper, bothered to understand how the traditions affect my everyday choices. So here’s my attempt to trace Thanksgiving cliches back to the meaning the should always hold:

1. The “I’m thankful for _____” cliche. I am thankful for my friends and family. But is that all there is to it? Are these people simply there to benefit me and make me feel loved? We all know that’s wrong, but we often make it sound right. Someone recently asked me, “Was it just me, or were everyone’s ‘I’m thankful for’s a little shallow last year?” I jumped to the defense, but he had a point. This year, I want to reflect on the following blanks before saying what I’m thankful for:

  • “I’m humbled by ______.”
  • “I admire _____ because ______.”
  • “I often fail at _____, and I’m only able to continue because of ______.”

It takes vulnerability to complete these statements, and that’s what I want. I want my gratefulness to be so true that it hurts.

2. The “I have to visit my crazy family this holiday” cliche. Yeah, they’re crazy. They bring out the worst in us and they don’t bother to be polite and they hurt us. But I’m much more of a criminal then they are. More importantly, my family formed me and knows me better than anyone. And they still love me unconditionally. We crave ingenuity in this world blanketed with artificiality. Family is as real as it gets, baby. Perfection is not an option in a fallen world, but forgiveness and relationship will always be there.

3. The generosity cliche. I fall into giving because it feels good, because my blessings mean that I have a responsibility to give. I see the holidays infiltrated with this mentality. But this type of generosity is no better than hording everything for myself. I want to give because my sole purpose in life is to glorify my creator. Because every person reflects his image. Because I am a servant. Because loving everyone I know is not a means to feeling good but the end to loving God.

There are probably a few cliches in these paragraphs (*cringe*). And I know I’m participating in one simply by writing a holiday-themed post, promoting thankfulness via social media. I’m okay with that because it’s real thankfulness. And to get there, I’m experiencing real forgiveness, real love, and real relationship. Let Thanksgiving drive us not only to gratefulness but also unstoppably toward contagious, real joy.

You are beautiful. Thank you.

Thanksgiving table

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Finding Identity

Do you ever lie in bed ready to go? Unable to stay there, sleep, because you know there’s one thing to do in that moment, one thing driving your soul? One thing to “dangle from…limp wherever it takes you”? That was me at 1:30 pm on Saturday, November 9th.

Unable to fall asleep for my craved afternoon nap, I lie tired under my white-white sheets under white-white quilt under white-white down comforter under white-yellow lines of sun shining through white-gray mini-blinds.

Shades of white

I brainstormed for my blog. I want a new design, my own domain. I want a title. Choosing them comes down to this: my identity. In the sun-bed, I realized this: I’ve claimed myself more than ever in the past 12 months. And I knew that I had to write.

So, I transplanted myself, laptop on lap, to my oversized chair under white-white slip cover under white-yellow lines of sun shining through white-gray mini-blinds.

I’ve stifled identity – to make friends, to keep friends, to impress teachers, to please bosses. I forget to be real.

But this year, I’ve claimed the following:

  • I am a writer. I write to create beauty and share love. And I will be joyful.
  • Building relationships is my life mission. And I will be joyful.
  • Objectification will play no part in my self-image or the way I view women. And I will be joyful.
  • I am God’s child. I’m inherently beautiful. And I will be joyful.
  • I’m given gifts designed for my personality, past, sense of humor, petty desires, every day. And I will be joyful.

Joy does not come naturally to me. I often forget that real joy comes from clinging to the mission so tightly that you have to let the rest of it go. Do you ever want to spend an hour complaining, a day in bed,  a weekend without socializing? Introvert time is necessary, but I know I’m hiding from my purpose, my identity, when I use my words and time selfishly.

Surrounded by these shades of white, though, I am pure.

I will claim my faults, desires, strengths, and this blog. I will write because it empowers my identity, and hopefully yours.

If you want to join me on this identity pursuit, this missional life, let’s do it together. What keeps you awake when you could be taking a nap? Who are you?

“We could, you know. We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—even of silence—by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.

I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.”

– Annie Dillard, Living Like Weasels