Thanksgiving. I have been known to affectionately refer to it as my favorite holiday. In my heart, it stands for a time set aside to be with family, to pause from the chaos of everyday life, to reflect upon blessings, and to contemplate and express heartfelt gratitude. An annual Sabbath, of sorts.
Yet this sentimentalism, this desire to slow down and express gratitude, has begun to seem old-fashioned and naive. No one has labeled it as such, but the rush and the crowds, the overfull bellies and the unrelenting advertisements send a clear message: My sentiments are old-fashioned, idealistic, unrealistic.
Our family of five is squeezed into a two-bedroom house, and space is at a premium. Likewise, time is at a premium; we have three sons, and we are both students. My husband is a computer programmer by day and a nursing student by night. He can be found in the evenings surrounded by stacks of textbooks, highlighters, notes, and the occasional cup of coffee-- taking advantage of whatever time and space he can find to study.
Recently as I reflected on his struggle-- watching him read and take notes in the living room with our oldest son playing video games in the background, or in the kitchen while the children ran about noisily, or sitting in our bed where he inevitably became fatigued-- I saw that a change needed to be made. He needed a dedicated space prepared for him to study, a permanent area to keep his books and notes, a place where he could count on quiet and solitude to undertake the serious business of preparing for his new, long-awaited career. That very evening I carved out that space for him.
This was important, yet our lives were so busy and cramped that we had not taken the time to prepare room.
The day after Thanksgiving officially launches us into the Christmas season, but already I hear the music. In the stores and on the radio, the songs play. Among them are songs I have grown up hearing, songs whose words I sang so often that their refrains began to fall from my lips automatically, mindlessly, devoid of meaning in my heart and mind.
But occasionally one of these old songs begins to play, and my heart really hears it-- hears the quiet refrains of joy, hope, and peace being whispered into the chaos.
This Thanksgiving morning, as music played in the background, nearly drowned out by the frenetic energy and despair I have sensed all around, there it was suddenly: joy!
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let Earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing...
It is devastatingly easy to be drawn into the whirlwind of the season without preparing room in my heart for what this season symbolizes-- without providing ample space and time for the hope, peace, joy, and love brought by a Savior.
Like the space my husband needed, it is important... yet my life is so busy and cramped that I neglect to take the time to prepare room.
And so rather than being drawn into the whirlwind, I feel myself being drawn into preparing room this season-- to reflection and contemplation, to the creation of space in my heart for the sacred and holy.