by Joanie Butman
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I’m relishing the fact that I no longer have to prepare that laborious and exhausting meal. I’m not a huge fan of turkey, and I find Thanksgiving dinner one of the most challenging meals to serve, and even harder to clean up. Getting and keeping everything hot at the same time is no easy feat. My strategy: plenty of good, hot gravy. Pour hot gravy over anything, and it will taste good. It’s a moot issue now though as I traded up a few years ago, and host Christmas instead.
Over the years there’s been much debate over the stuffing and how it’s prepared. There were many years when we prepared two different kinds to appease everyone. If you search for recipes, you will be inundated with possibilities. Most families have their own secret techniques for creating the perfect (or not so perfect) stuffing.
Coincidentally, I was talking with someone recently who described herself as a ‘stuffer.’ Instinctively, I knew exactly what she meant because who doesn’t ‘stuff’’ unpleasant things beneath the surface as an avoidance technique? However, anyone with this proclivity can attest to the fact that too much of that kind of stuffing will give you more agita than overindulging on the Thanksgiving kind.
It’s gotta go somewhere. It’s similar to wearing Spanx. You can compress your belly fat, but it will pop up elsewhere. So it’s just a choice of where you want it to surface – preferably someplace easily camouflaged like your knees under a long skirt. And if you stay in Spanx long enough, you feel like you’re slowly suffocating.
In much the same way, whatever issues we stuff inside can be just as smothering. Camouflaging them works for only so long. They will eventually accumulate, building resentments until there’s spontaneous combustion over a seemingly unrelated matter. Based on many holiday stories I’ve heard, it’s not an uncommon event at the Thanksgiving table because every family has their own recipe for dysfunction, and there’s always plenty of stuffing going on during family gatherings – probably has been for years.
The most important warning as to the danger of too much stuffing is that it prevents you from appreciating the many blessings of life. Think about it. If you eat too much stuffing, you’re too full to appreciate the rest of the meal. Even worse, you'll miss out on the best part - dessert! Similarly, gratitude is a difficult attitude to adopt if you are simmering over unresolved issues. A good therapist can help, but the most effective treatment I’ve discovered for a stuffing malady is Jesus. He can heal anything we choose to surrender and miraculously transform our rancid stuffing into an unexpectedly sweet dessert. Only He “can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victory.” He is the ultimate alchemist. Keep in mind, it’s not enough to just get rid of unhealthy stuffing, you have to fill the void with something else so it doesn’t try to reestablish residency. For me that something is gratitude.
Choose to let an attitude of gratitude reign not only on Thanksgiving but everyday because, as Paul exhorts “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:18) Sounds easy, but he’s including our suffering.
Expressing gratitude for good things comes effortlessly. Being grateful amidst pain is a deliberate decision. Charles Stanley explains, “On those occasions, it will be a sacrifice of praise because thanking Him will be the last thing you feel like doing. I know it’s not easy, but I can assure you that it’s the best option. If you focus on the Lord with a heart of gratitude, your anxiety and fretting will be replaced with trust, and you’ll experience Christ’s peace and joy, which are beyond all human understanding.”
So what’s my Thanksgiving message? That the only stuffing you ever want to choose is the kind that goes into a turkey, and even then, only in moderation. May you all choose to fill your plates with a hefty serving of gratitude today and every day.
I will leave you with one last thought to ponder this week...