The GIVING part of Thanksgiving

His tiny toddler fingers hug the glass bowl as I hand it to him. He 
looks down at the chocolate cereal and then up at me, smiling like he has a secret. He jump-skips into the living room for his morning cartoon, not dropping even one chocolate bunny morsel on the way.

I grin too as I turn down the plastic bag in the cereal box and then tuck one cardboard flap into another. After cleaning up a few dishes, I walk in to check on him, drying my hands with a towel. 

“Mama sit,” he says while tapping on the purple couch cushion next to him. Wanting to do just about anything else, I sit down for an episode of Blaze and the Monster Machines. Amazingly, I haven’t seen this one.

As we sit together, he turns his eyes away from the program to my face, still all smiles. He grabs a fist-full of chocolate bunnies and holds them up to my bottom lip. He hands me mouthful after mouthful while grinning the whole time, happy to share and watch me chew the yummy cereal.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes my little two-year-old blonde boy is selfish and screams and is everything that is pre-school–high–octane–Lord-help-me–emotion, but in this morning moment as the sun shines in, making angled rectangles on our carpet, he is a holder of deep truth as he gives and gives again, smiling the whole time.

Those who refresh others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

Those who give receive (Luke 6:38).

The first shall be last (Matthew 20:16).  

And the only thing better than eating chocolate cereal might just be giving chocolate cereal to someone else.

The backwards and upside down nature of these sayings from my Christian tradition fit what I have found to be true in my own life. The out-of-balance math all adds up somehow.

What if instead of Christmas wish lists this year (yes, it’s coming soon), we brainstormed giving lists? What if we put others first? What if instead of ruminating on how that other person should change, we took a step back and brainstormed ways to love him or her? What if instead of grumbling about everything that has been going wrong in our lives, we zoomed up and realized how very much is still–and will always be–deeply right?

Yesterday I went to see Doctor Strange, the new Marvel movie out in theaters.  I loved it.  The special effects–which usually aren’t my thing–had me saying again and again, “How am I seeing this, and how did they create this?”  

In the end, the main character, who has been dominated by his ego and pride, hears the words that change everything, “This is not about you.”  So, w
hat if instead of focusing on consuming, we honed in on giving and helping this year for Thanksgiving?  What if we looked at our families and didn’t focus on our differences, political or otherwise, and instead focused on how we might help each other, grabbing a dishtowel to pitch in and actively give thanks?  

We might be surprised by the deliciousness of sharing all the chocolate bunny goodness of this life, stopped short by 
living into the love that was what we’d been searching for the whole time.  Funny thing about Love, it’s always here–even when it feels so far away–waiting for us to tap into the joy of passing it around, somehow never exhausting the Source as it boomerangs back to us again and again as we try to give it away.  And for that, today and all year long, we say thanks. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you 
and your family and friends.  

Today’s Thanks:
– Cooking deviled eggs
– Free Christmas wrapping at the bookstore
– Another Bagels and Joe location in Lincoln
– New Prayer Room at church 
– Cookies shared, baked by a culinary student, yum
– New pencil-patterned LuLaRae leggings from a reader 🙂
Your turn. . . 

Announcement!  Another Gratitude Gal 30-day Gratitude Challenge is in the works for the new year.  If you know someone who is interested in buffing up his or her gratitude muscles, pass the word!  I am excited for us to spread the gratitude spirit of today into 2017 together. #gratitudeparty  

Peace Be With Us

Usually when I start a blog post I have a title, some idea of what I might write.  Today I’m just starting in the white box, no title yet.  I haven’t felt like writing in awhile, and even now I don’t totally trust my keystrokes.
Words have hurt lately. 
While all of the election stuff swirls, all the other “stuff” of life just keeps on a goin’ in the background.  So many of us, for so many reasons, had a rough week this last one.  A friend from college, Becky Cooper-Thumann, wrote on her blog that she felt Facebook whiplash.
She also wrote about picking up a shovel and digging in, reminding me and others that getting to work is part of what we do after the fray of the election cycle.  I agree.  I just texted with a friend who’s into exercise and nutrition.  She’s gonna help me get moving.  I also volunteered to be a TeamMates mentor this week.  I had been obstinate about saying no this opportunity, even though I have the time and felt called to it.  So I’m using my sad and trying to churn it into butter somehow, hoping to connect with one of the kiddos in our school who could use an adult who cares.  So I’m doing something, trying to pick up my shovel, I guess . . .  
But I’m also a word girl, so I’m trying to put words on what this all means, trying to find gratitude, when I frankly feel disheartened.
In our word-rich, scroll through society it’s easy to forget that sometimes the wisest people don’t say much at all.  So in this time in our history that feels topsy-turvy, I want to seek out the quiet ones, ask their advice and wisdom, and I want to get a little quieter myself.
The quietness helps us to choose hope even when it feels hard, even when it comes at our own expense.  Throughout this election, so many of us have shown our strong desire to be right.  The more I look and reflect on all of this, I think the only way we can get it “right” is in the collective.  The answers are somehow spread out and among us.  Community is the answer, with each of us bringing our unique gift to the table and thanking the others for bringing the part that we could not bring.  That body was broken, and now we are its pieces.  
We are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
And without each contribution, the picture is incomplete.
We need each other.
And not because we are right, but because we are all here, holy from the get-go.
We all come from something. 
We all want something.  
What if we are all, if we’re honest, a little scared?  
What if we quit scrolling the world with a value judgement frame, what if we didn’t look at situations and other people asking if we should click the “like” button? 
What if we really looked at each other, and did the hard work of saying thanks?  
We need all of us in real conversations in real time face-to-face.  Writing online is easy.  The real stuff is messier, without a backspace button.  We’ve just got to try our best in the moment and actually listen, and then breathe, and then try to kindly use the voice we’ve been given.
Recently I wanted to understand why someone in my community was doing something.  After asking a friend–not the man in question–I was wisely reminded, “I don’t know, ask him.”  So I did.  I stopped in for a quick ten minutes on the way home from work, and just asked him.  It was a little weird at first, but quickly the conversation became passionate and enlightening and real, and I got to see a person in my community with a new perspective and understand why he was doing this thing that was out of the ordinary.  It was a real conversation with a  real human in real time.  The asking, instead of just knowing, felt holy.
I want to practice this “I don’t know, ask him,” mentality and spend less time assuming I know or talking to everyone except the actual person.
And I wonder even as I type this, if all of these sentences are just my new twisted way of wanting to be right, of wanting to somehow rise above the fray and have the last word. 
But at the end of this week, I don’t know if anyone is having a victory march (except the KKK, which is terrible and disturbing, and I can’t even), but I feel like we’re all trying to figure out where we are and what this all means and how we can talk to one another better and if our voice still matters.
I want my voice to matter.
A teacher friend has a sign in her classroom that says, “I can practice being right, or I can practice being kind.”
I want my voice to help the kindness grow.
So this week I have a goal of saying thanks to other people a lot more.  To notice.  To slow down.  To actually say the words and write the notes.  Even when I don’t feel thankful, the act of mining for thanks puts things in perspective.  It reminds me that I am not creating all of this.  I am not in charge.  
And today, I’m thankful for that.
I’m thankful that I am having a very human experience, even when it is hard and beautiful in whiplash fashion.
I’m thankful for this week that has given me a perspective that I didn’t have before.
I’m thankful for a good friend who just stopped by to say hi for no good reason.  
I’m thankful for two deep conversations I had with important men in my life that would not have happened without this election.  
I am thankful for the ones who came before, giving me the right to vote.
I am thankful this week for the veterans, and families of veterans, whose sacrifice I live into each day.
I am thankful for this little glint of sunshine that somehow warmed me up on my car ride today, for my daughter who sees my hurt.  She grabbed my chin during church this morning and said, “Why aren’t you smiling?  Chin up momma.” 
I’m thankful for the elderly and kind woman in the pew in front of us who turned and really looked into my eyes as she said with fierceness, “Peace be with you.”
Yes, peace be with you.
And also with you.