Thursday, November 24, 2011

(Not) Afraid to be Thankful

Today I’m a little sad about saying goodbye to the wonderful “thankful” lists that have appeared on facebook during recent weeks.  I’ve loved reading about how my friends’ lives have been blessed in ways both big and small, and it’s been fun to join in with a few of my own posts.  Acknowledging the touches of God’s hand in my life has been a rich discipline, though perhaps for a slightly unexpected reason.  
To tell the truth, practicing gratitude this season has been the cure for a strange little ailment I’ve come to know as facebook angst.
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It all started with a picture of my friend’s most recent culinary creation.  Pineapple mango salsa for her kids’ after school snack.  Homemade.  And (of course), organic.
My initial reaction was benign enough:  “How cool is it that she made salsa from scratch?  Bet it’s yummy.”  
Later, though, my admiration slid into envy:  “Wish I had time and energy to make something like that.”  
After that, self-doubt:  “I should be feeding my kids healthy after-school snacks instead of this store-bought cookie dough we just ate.”
And ultimately, recrimination:  “If I were a halfway decent mom, I’d be making homemade organic salsa too, not these lame-excuse-for-a-snack-break-and-bake-cookies we just ate.”  

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This, my friends, is classic facebook angst.  It also occurs in face-to-face encounters with our friends and acquaintances.  And if you're experienced it--regardless of whether it was via cyberspace or the real world, you know:  it ain’t fun.
It all starts when I compare my life with someone else’s (or, in the case of facebook, a whole lot of someone else’s, all of whom are pretty amazing).  I may not even realize I’m thinking this way, but when their lives look so great, so well-lived, I begin wondering why I don’t have similar things to talk about.   Then, sometimes, I get a little scared.  Maybe I’ve somehow overlooked the journey God has for me.  Perhaps I’ve missed the boat, ignored a turn signal a few miles back.  Before I know it, I’ve gone from contented to fear-full in a split-second.   
Most significantly, though, I’ve let myself get distracted from something really important:  God’s call to live the life that He gave me, to walk the path that looks a little (or a lot) different than the roads He has my friends traveling.  
In reading my friends’ thankful lists, I’ve sensed God inviting me to “sink in” to the life He’s given me.  To remember and trust that He has plans for me.   That He began a good work in me.  That He will be faithful to complete it.  That, for His name’s sake, He is leading me in a path of righteousness.  
This season, I’m learning to rest in the truth that God is making the path of my crazy life straight.  Sometimes I’m going to recognize how He is working, and sometimes I’m not.  Sometimes the path will shimmer, and sometimes it will be nothing short of gnarly. 
And that path is uniquely designed for me. It includes a hard-working, loyal husband who knows how to make me laugh; kids who are both delightful and challenging; summers free with my family; school-nights spent grading essays after everyone’s in bed; pre-dawn workouts that leave me craving an afternoon nap; cereal for breakfast instead of scrambled eggs and homemade biscuits; a less-than-perfectly coifed house.   
And, yes, cookies made from store-bought dough.  We all love ‘em.  In fact, my family wouldn’t eat homemade pineapple mango salsa if their lives depended on it.  I can be thankful for that, too.

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