November 25, 2016
Growing up my winter holidays were first thanksgiving, followed by Halloween, Remembrance Day, and then Christmas. It wasn’t until 1997 that I celebrated my first American thanksgiving, stuffing the turkey between the oft-ignored Veterans Day and Christmas. In the beginning I took it as an act of mercy: a long weekend to prepare for finals. I’ve only recently been able to appreciate it as a preparation for Christmas.
While I’m not as outwardly demonstrative as my friends who post a daily gratitude each day of November, I do enjoy the daily devotional of being grateful for individual, specific things. It’s another form of the walking to school practice my friend Jessi taught me wherein she prayed her entire walk to campus and tried to only list the “thank the”s and not ask for a single thing. However we do it, whether it be social media, paper chains, feathers on the turkey, a cornucopia, a prayer of thanks in our hearts, or whatever else, devoting the month before Christmas to gratitude helps to prepare us for Christmas.
The gratitude practice prepares us for Christ in both a metaphoric and literal sense. Often as we count our blessings we recall from whom all blessings come, and additionally we are more inclined to kindness and charity to each other, seeing the good in them and being grateful for their roles in our lives. As we show more love to them and serve them more we again come closer to Christ.
I do still celebrate thanksgiving, albeit on a smaller scale, in October, and I lament that American thanksgiving is either encroached upon by Christmas or makes the Christmas holiday feel rushed, but after 19 years I’ve come to settle into the step-wise preparation for Christ that begins with gratitude before turning to service.
November 11, 2016
I was clever enough in my formative years to know that I usually knew the correct answer. I was not clever enough to know that there could be more than one right answer. And I absolutely did not allow myself the cognitive space to decide for myself. I knew what I had been taught: good girls said/acted/thought this and that was that.
With personality differences within my household I began to tease out opinions from fact, but it was in the early stages of intellectual independence at best. That beginning has come back to be helpful now, as I’m able to differentiate a personality quirk from doctrine or culture, but as for my personal development it was wholly inadequate.
Thus I found myself in my mid twenties saying things I had been taught to say and only barely beginning the process of thinking how I felt. Usually the reflection didn’t even happen until after some push back from someone who challenged my assertions. I’m so grateful for that. It stung every time I realized I had said something I hadn’t studied and couldn’t stand behind, but it provided the push I needed to be real with myself. It still stings when I think back on those things; it takes a lot of compassion to forgive yourself of prior stupidity.
For all those times I was ridiculously wrong, painfully tone deaf, or outright insensitive I’m sorry. And because of that I hope that many of the ridiculously wrong, painfully tone deaf, or outright insensitive things I hear others say are equally premature statements. We are learning and growing, our opinions evolving over time.
So let me be clear about how I really feel. I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I’m still learning but I hope that every time I am wrong in the future it is because I erred too much on the side of compassion. I have so far to go, but I’m trying to think before I speak. Other people’s talking points are no good for me.