Wipe Out Worry at Thanksgiving
by Kathy Collard Miller
I wanted everything to be perfect to show my love and gratitude to the special people I’d invited for Thanksgiving. Both family and friends would arrive soon, but as the magic hour approached, I became more scattered, hurried, worried, and tense. As my guests arrived, I apologized that dust was still on the furniture, that the turkey wasn’t fully cooked yet, and the pumpkin pie was soggy in the middle. I’m sure I looked just as harried on the outside as I felt on the inside. Even though they said it didn’t matter, I wondered if they didn’t feel loved and I worried that my image was marred in their eyes.
At such a joyful time of year like Thanksgiving, isn’t it amazing and disconcerting that our gratitude can turn so quickly into worry because of holiday stress and high expectations? Gratitude is fueled by trusting in and relaxing in God’s gracious provisions. But worry is fueled by trust in ourselves—fearing we may not perform perfectly. How can we wipe out worry and have a grateful heart at this time of year?
Think for a moment what we’re communicating to our loved ones when we scurry around, barely have time to talk, are short-tempered, and inconsiderate. We think we’re making everything perfect for them, but we’re actually stealing from them what they really want: our presence and attention.
Being able to counteract this is based in our motives: what we are wanting to accomplish. Holidays are about blessing others, not making it about ourselves. I’m most stressed and worried when I think my house, celebrations, decorations, and the behavior of my children must be perfect. I’m worried about my image. The preparations become more important than people.
Mary and Martha were putting on a big Thanksgiving celebration. Well, it would have been a Thanksgiving meal if Jesus had come in our era. They’d invited many of Jesus’ friends and Jesus! You know the story in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus described Martha as “anxious and troubled about many things.” And that often describes us at holiday time. We’re so worried about everything being perfect, that we make other people uncomfortable.
Jesus wanted Martha to enjoy being at His feet alongside Mary. And here’s Jesus’ solution to this worry problem: “but one thing is necessary.” Could He have meant “one dish”? One basic food that would fill their stomachs sufficiently, and allow them to focus on filling their souls with the joy of hearing Jesus—instead of raving about Martha’s culinary arts? But Martha’s anger disrupts and interrupts Jesus speaking of His love.
Now, we might not want to limit our Thanksgiving meal to one dish, but would it hurt if we didn’t serve every family favorite? Or how about providing the family favorite recipe and ask someone to fix it and bring it along?
I usually start out my planning with a long list of food items and decorating ideas. In the past, as time grew short, I’d scurry more frantically, worried that if I didn’t complete everything on my list, everyone would know and my image would be shot.
How silly. When I realized that no one had seen my list and wouldn’t miss any item, I scratched off items as time wouldn’t permit fixing them. As a result, I could welcome my guests at the door calm and grateful that we could enjoy time together—instead of me continuing to frantically race around the kitchen. And guess what? They were thrilled with anything I had prepared because my focus was on trusting God for His provision of love and encouragement. Then their spirits were filled, not just their tummies.
That kind of relaxing trust in God is what I encourage my readers to seek in my newly re-released book Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries. It’s about trusting God for every area of life in every season of life.
Here are some hints for last minute preparations that will enable us to sit at the feet of our guests rather than missing the “best part.”
- Use oven (unheated!), clothes dryer, washing machine, and freezer for anything that needs to be stored in a hurry. Just don’t put the cat in the freezer!
- Another last minute storage space is under beds and other furniture, even couches and chairs—at least those with dust ruffles.
- Only vacuum where people walk.
- Put plastic and live plants in the shower. It hides dirt and makes for creative decorating.
- Use a feather duster and dust around things! There is no dirt under those things.
- Think plastic! Plastic dishes with a Thanksgiving scene and colors may be more enjoyable than your fancy dishes.
- Let everyone help you wash and dry the dishes after the meal. If this is hard, ask yourself: “Why? How is my image being tarnished by having help from others?” Working together is a great time of bonding and talking. It doesn’t say anything negative about you.
- Use micro-fiber cleaning cloths for wiping down bathroom counters, mirrors, and sinks. No soap is needed—no one will be eating on those surfaces.
- Keep duplicated cleaning supplies under bathroom counters so that you can use them at a moment’s notice.
It’s all about our attitude in trusting God enough to be grateful for whatever gets done. Knowing God’s unconditional love will bolster us with love and patience for others even if everything isn’t perfect. Our energy will be focused on others instead of things.
Kathy Collard Miller is the author of 49 books including the bestselling, God’s Vitamin “C” for the Spirit. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. She lives in Southern California and blogs.