Thursday, December 19, 2013

A New Tradition
This past Thanksgiving, my family had an awakening of sorts.  The day started as it always does, with me up early in the kitchen working to prepare a special breakfast and ultimately dinner. Shortly after I begin cooking each holiday, my husband and kiddo smell something going on and they join me downstairs where the food is within reach.  We pray, we laugh, and we eat, and then I quickly return to my role as Thanksgiving Chef.  For the last seven years, with the exception of maybe one when we went out of town, I have carried out the traditions of my mother, and probably her mother, and prepared a feast.  It was a job I thought I loved...until I realized I didn't.  Over the last few years, I started noticing a pattern in my behavior each year.  As the morning progressed each Thanksgiving, this most recent one included, I began to get cranky and resentful of being the sole worker on a day that is relaxing for others.  Shortly following these feelings was guilt over not enjoying the sacrificial act of serving others.  "God, help me to love this and enjoy this day, and please forgive my sour attitude," has become a basic prayer over the last couple of years.  It didn't work.  No matter how much I prayed and tried to mold myself into a woman who loves to prepare a festive Thanksgiving feast for her loved ones, it just never happened.  Instead, I made everyone around me feel like they had to walk on pins and needles.  Worse, they were made to feel guilty for not doing more to help, and last year I even got flowers from my husband and son "in appreciation for all you do," as the card read.  I was moved and touched and then felt terrible for having made them feel like they had to reward me somehow for all my hard work.  This year I began to pray differently.  "God, show me why I act this way.  What causes me to behave so badly and how can I change it?"  What God revealed can be summed up in Isaiah 43:19 that says this: "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"  I didn't need to be molded into someone different; the need was a new tradition. 

Last month during Thanksgiving, I must have apologized to my husband several times after undoubtedly making him uncomfortable in his own skin.  My tendencies over the years have been to passively aggressively assault him with words as he relaxes with a fun game or parade on TV.  "What can I do to help?' he will often ask when he senses my frustration building, and to which I sarcastically retort, "nothing, I've got it.  Just sit there and enjoy your day." Though I act like I'm joking, the truth is, resentment is usually growing.  "God, what is this! Why can't I just be happy for him that he gets to enjoy his day!" I silently prayed around mid-day as I reminded myself of how hard he works. God's answer was convicting and revealing.  "What makes you think he's enjoying his day?  Aren't you doing everything to make sure he doesn't?," God replied, and with that I knew something needed to change.  Though I had prayed over the years for God to change me, my attitude, and my heart, I realized this past year that although I can definitely use the improvement, the change needed in this situation went deeper than that. Instead of me trying to conform myself and my family to a self-imposed tradition that wasn't even ours, we needed to develop our own way.  The NLT of Romans 12:2 says this: "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."  In other words, don't masquerade as something or someone you're not; be the new and unique person God created you to be and learn who that person is in the image of Christ.   

I don't want those I love most feeling awkward and uncomfortable in my presence on a holiday.  I don't want them to feel like they can't even come into the kitchen because I'm too stressed.  I don't want them to feel guilty for enjoying a day that they should absolutely enjoy, and I don't want to be the one woman tyrant show who gets frustrated and overwhelmed by planning a big feast.  Nobody wants to be around that and I don't even want to be around that!  It's not worth it, and what we realized as we sat down to eat and discuss it all this year is that the food and big display isn't what matters most.  It's us together that counts, and when I'm in the kitchen all day cooking and complaining about cooking, we're not together in a positive and constructive way.  As each of us talked through our thoughts and feelings that evening, we awoke to the liberating revelation that it's okay to be different and it's okay to be who we are.  I love a big Thanksgiving dinner, but I don't like to prepare them, and in fact, the preparation makes me behave terribly.  I'd rather order take out and be curled up on the couch next to my husband and son watching a parade, or, out to eat where I'm not responsible for the prep and clean.  As we tossed around different ideas for forming a new Thanksgiving tradition, we got to know each other on a deeper level and grew in excitement over the possibilities of maybe going camping one year for Thanksgiving, or going on a cruise, or driving up to San Francisco.  The list of ideas went on and we made a commitment to just be together and do something different every year.  It was an experience that involved us all in the decision making process, not just me.  We each got to give input about how we would like to spend our time and instead of me assigning roles and tasks to everyone, everyone got to choose their own roles, a liberty in which my eight year old especially took great pleasure.  In a bonding conversation over mashed potatoes and gravy, we individually regained a sense of self and worth, and collectively, a renewed sense of togetherness.  We each wrote out a list of adventures, threw them all in a cup, prayed over the journey, and then drew one out of the pile with eyes closed and hearts ready.  It was exciting, spontaneous, and it was us.  

No one but you can live your life, so if you're stuck in a situation that you don't like, change it. You alone are accountable for how your life goes, so if it's currently not going how you'd like, then take some steps to go in a different direction.  No one told me I had to do my holidays how they had always been done in my family.  I imposed that tradition on myself because it's all I had ever known and while many of the beautiful and talented women in my family are gifted at putting on extravagant spreads and delightful dinners, it's not something I actually enjoy doing.  And that's okay.  In fact, it's more than okay because God has fashioned us each uniquely and exquisitely and He wants us to be who we are in Him, not who we think we are in something else.  Is what you're doing bringing out the best or worst in you?  There comes a time in our lives when we need to get to know ourselves and walk in the awareness that we're completely free to just be.  Free to be you and free to be me.   

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! - 2 Corinthians 5:17

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