I love Thanksgiving. There is something so pure and refreshing about it. It's an understated holiday; no boy-band-performed, synthesized carols extolling it blare over mall PA systems in October, with the exception of grocery chains and food products, there are few advertising campaigns beating viewers over the heads, and it's centered around food. What could be better than a holiday focused on food?
Oh, yeah. It's also about giving thanks for God's bounty.
Growing up, I was fascinated with Hymn of Thanksgiving in the Lutheran liturgy. Besides having a tune that leaves you humming it well into Tuesday, it is simple, yet eloquent: Thank the Lord and sing his praise... He recalls his promises and leads His people forth in joy, with shouts of thanksgiving...
This year has certainly taught me how to better give thanks. I would like to believe that I have taken very little for granted in my life, but the truth is, it is so easy to overlook so much. This year has made me increasingly aware of how wonderful my life truly is because I've been trying to focus on the happy and fantastic, rather than the depressing and sad. While I couldn't possibly list every blessing of my life here, succinctly, I wanted to at least attempt to write my hymn of thanksgiving:
For my family. For my mom and dad who let me be a gawky, nerdy kid with a book and never once made me feel self-conscious, and who instead, raised me into an independent, gawky, nerdy adult with a book.. For my sisters who, this year, are also my maids of (dis)honor, and who never, ever let me forget how much better my life is when they're around. For my soon-to-be inlaws who have been so kind and welcoming, even though distance separates us.
I am thankful for John, who (without sounding incredibly hyperbolic) is the flipside of my heart. For our first first botched date (because it's a funny story) and for our second first date (because it's nothing short miraculous). For his optimism and humor that keeps me going. (And for his heart-stopping, good looks. Because that doesn't hurt, either.)
I'm thankful for my friends. For my coworkers who are among some of most diligent people in the world. For my college friends and all of our fantastic memories. For my bridesmaids-- I can't imagine not sharing this year with them.
I am thankful for my students who make my hair grey (what little I haven't yet pulled out), but who also make me laugh with happiness, smile with joy, and cry (but not in front of them) with anger and frustration.There is no higher satisfaction I've found yet, then sharing in one of their accomplishments-- whether it's passing English when they never have before, getting into college, or simply using, unprompted, a vocabulary word correctly. They embody resilience and steadfastness in the face of challenge and obstacles. So many of them have endured what others can only imagine, and yet they persevere. That doesn't mean they don't stumble or fail (sometimes continually and intentionally), but they remind me how important it is to be someone that picks others up.
I am thankful for my home church that has surrounded John and me with love and prayers.
For laughter and those who make me laugh until my poorly developed abs are quaking with misuse and tears are running down my cheeks.
I'm thankful for anyone who has asked after John, or sent him an email, a letter, a card, or care package. For anyone who has looked the other way when I've been teary or a downright crybaby.
For Twilight because it reminds me of what I don't want to write.
For flannel pjs, pretty stationary, cold nights, good books, and the most comfortable pillow in the world.
I'm thankful for ridiculous trends that keep me completely confused. For huge tires with spinners on itty bitty, four-door sedans. For neon lipstick and high heels with so many spikes, they look like implements of the Spanish Inquisition. For backwards hats and singers with stupid, stupid names.
And I'm thankful for the old standbys that make me happy when times are tough-- craptastic TLC reality TV, Lisa Frank stickers, LOLcats, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and books.
I'm thankful for the Post Office because they ferry loads of letters and packages between Maryland and Afghanistan. For the free Priority boxes, and for post-people who don't stop me when I take six or seven boxes at a time. For the ever-changing selection of first-class stamps.
I am thankful for every possible mutation of social media and messaging services. With so many people that I love so far away from me, I cannot imagine how much sadder my life would be without instant communication.
For suitcases, and packing and unpacking. For countdowns and count-ups. For calendars and pens to mark off days with. For sick days and personal days. For hotel reservations and plane tickets. For time that ticks away at the same rate, regardless of how it feels.
For my sad excuse for a car because it hasn't fallen (completely) apart yet. C'mon, baby. Just eight more months...
For kind gestures and generous deeds. For strangers who hold doors open and pick up dropped scarves. For happy cashiers and little old ladies who I always end up standing behind in line. For motorists who wave others into merging lanes.
For miracles and surprises. And for the promise of tomorrow.