An Unexpected Thanksgiving Lesson

After only nine months of life as a new family, we buckled our six-, eight-, and almost nine-year-olds into the backseat of our two-door Honda Accord and traveled an entire day from central Minnesota to southern Illinois for our first Thanksgiving together. Settling in with snack buckets, water bottles, tiny toys, and each other, they rode (mostly) happily for hours.

A few days later, in a large room of a cousin’s heating and cooling warehouse, 30-40 of us feasted on all the traditional yumminess: turkey, dressing, and pies—the works—made only the way those Illinois farm moms know how. During our visit, our kids got to run through open spaces, visit ostriches, and be pampered by a host of loving Christian people.

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Yet on our way home, when we asked them what they most enjoyed of our Thanksgiving time, they responded, “Playing with Christopher’s toys.”

What? They didn’t mention the food? (They were often caught secreting a stash under pillows or in pockets, or stuffing their bellies so full they would throw up.) They didn’t recall those six-foot-plus-tall birds that puffed up huge when threatened? Nope. And, they didn’t say a thing about the rural setting, which also surprised us since two of the three had lived their early years in a similar environment. It wasn’t too surprising they didn’t say the people since there were none their age to play with. But Christopher was 17-months-old, and they liked his toys the best of everything they had experienced the past few days.

As they tried to explain their answer I began to realize, playing with bright-colored, noise-making, light-flashing, toddler-sized objects, was a part of childhood they never experienced. That first Thanksgiving for them was not about the food or the people or the historical significance. It was about catching up and filling in some empty places. And you know, this never happened again. It was like that one time, for those few hours, was all they needed.

Now I wouldn’t say that all kids need time in life to play with bright, flashing, annoyingly noisy toys. I do believe, though, they need to learn cause-and-effect and experience other brain-developing milestones that toys can often stimulate. I remember our adoption agent telling us we may need to spend time rocking our kids (which we did) or bottle-feeding them (which we didn’t) in order to make up for the lack of development such activities provide.

So, if your kids seem to take interest in activities more suited for younger children, don’t worry. They probably need to do so and their interest will probably be short-lived.

But what about us moms? What areas of development are we lacking? When do our responses reveal we’re not as mature as we thought? Where do we need to give ourselves grace to go back so we can fill in the empty places?

Are you like me where the two-year-old tantrums re-emerged and you realize you never fully learned to share or to be okay with not getting your way? How about the adolescent pity-party tendencies? Or the foot-stomping when things get stuck and don’t move along as smoothly as you’d like. Yep, that was certainly me. Still is at times.

I think it’s okay—even necessary—to allow ourselves to go back and relearn some lessons we “should have” mastered by now. Aren’t you glad our heavenly Father is patient with us? I think He’d rather we be intentional about growth than have us ignore our weaknesses and deny our need to revisit some lessons. We can’t fake maturity around Him; so we might as well quit trying to kid ourselves.

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What if we got really honest, embraced our lack, opened our spirits to learn, and started pushing bright buttons and enjoying the simple tunes our hearts need to hear?

Like . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always.
Philippians 4:4

Be anxious for nothing.
Philippians 4:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

In everything give thanks.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

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