The last 48 hours has been a stream of constant planning, cooking, cleaning, and enjoying. Thanksgivings have been a mixed bag over the years of either hosting or being hosted. A few years ago, one celebration involved a buffet that included two turkeys, chaos and an overstuffed house. Since then, Dennis and I worked through what we wanted for our holiday:
1. To be in community with at least one other Christian--that no matter what, we want to include another member of our "spiritual family" or "church home" in some way. I wish there was a Thanksgiving church service, but any informal fellowship is better than none. At the heart of the holiday, is the experience of koininia.
2. Thanksgiving for us means expressing our gratitude to God which also means for us, worshiping Him because He is the center of our lives. He holds me together--sometimes, with "Crazy Glue" I think.
3. Know our limits. If time allows, yes, have a Thanksgiving blow out. But if we don't have the time, energy or means, it's okay to accept an invitation elsewhere and bring a dish. Potlucks are a beautiful thing. They are much harder to coordinate than most people realize.
4. If we decide to host, invite people from other countries. Don't expect that they will like the food (it is really different from what they might be used to). Don't expect that they won't, either. Prepare the meal to the full extent of your ability, and just be satisfied in that. I cooked for two days, just for the joy of sharing my culture and childhood memories. Ask them to bring a dish to share and taste it, inquire about the ingredients and preparation. Food is a vast source of cultural information as well as fun.
5. If we accept an invitation, bring something unexpected. The Thanksgiving menu is pretty much the same everywhere, so a surprise of some sort is a nice addition. I like bringing a light salad with mixed greens, pears, dried cranberries and my own vinegiarette, for example. Or a chocolate something or other.
6. If there are no invitations or inviting others (which is incredibly rare for us) because of no time or not knowing anyone (also very rare but it had happened at least twice in the last 21 years), be content. That means no pity parties. Sometimes, we just need a break to be reminded of God's perfect love for us and that is enough.
7. Do something other than eat. I told some international friends that Thanksgiving is one of the more boring holidays. Americans tend to do little else other than eat, watch a football game (men) or sit around and talk about Black Friday (women) or clean up (kids--at least in my family--washing dishes took hours in the kitchen because of our shenanigans). In college, I visited my friend's house in my hometown after our dinner and hers were over and played pinochle in her family's annual tournement (she had 14 brothers and sisters). Hands down, the best Thanksgiving experience I had up to that point.
8. When I cooked my first Thanksgiving in our own home for company, I was 29 years old. I worked at home for my own business and made my own schedule. I shouldn't have been as massively stressed but I was. It was about being driven by perfectionism and people pleasing. I had post-its all over the kitchen for days, and written down schedules and deadlines. It was an amazing dinner. I got lots of compliments but for some reason, I wasn't really all that thankful. Yesterday, I pretty much made the same menu without needing to use post-its and a schedule--some things worked without a hitch, somethings didn't pan out as they should have (no luck with the Shitake mushroom gravy), but you know, it didn't matter. I could execute the perfect turkey dinner but without love, it profits me nothing.