I WILL ENTER THESE GATES WITH . . .
by Kim Wright
If you’ve ever been around the church community during the Thanksgiving season then you know that Psalm 100:4 invites us to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” This is the month of Thanksgiving, the time of year when everyone focuses on giving thanks. So this month, of all months, it should be easy to be thankful—right?
If I can be transparent for a minute, there have been (many) times when I was simply glad to be entering his gates without having snatched one of my kids bald-headed! About the only thing I was thankful for was that I was not on rotation to watch the kiddos during church that Sunday. The thing I prayed as I sat in church was that I didn’t slap the next person who told me to “cherish these times because they go by in a flash” as I sat there in my disheveled hair from wrestling my littles into their Sunday best with boogers and throw up on mine. Thankful? Who could be thankful?
The pressure to perform perfectly because it’s the season of Thanksgiving can make for a recipe of disaster with a side order of guilt. Does anybody else’s kids sense the moments you REALLY need them to behave themselves and instead they show off their behinds? (Figuratively and literally.) What can parents do during this month of Thanksgiving when the last thing you may feel is thankfulness? Here are some suggestions that have helped me survive through my years of parenting . . .
Trade your turkey platter for a more proportioned plate. Depending on the ages and stages of your kids you may not be able to do every single tradition your parents and your in-laws did or want you to do every year. One year I was laboring with our second child (black Friday shopping is an excellent way to induce labor!) so we stayed home and had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner with just our little family.
Hang in there! Seasons truly do only last for a time. I promise that your kids won’t always need a nap when you’re due at Aunt Betsy’s house. You won’t always have 552 stops to make in a single day. Your kids will make it through the season of ear infections and grumpiness from teething, tantrums, and potty training.
Acknowledge how you’re feeling. It is exhausting to pretend otherwise. Bluffing our way through gets us by for a bit but in the end it makes us bitter. Often we don’t want to feel grumpy and ungrateful. We don’t want to be the negative Nelly everyone avoids. But you can’t adjust what you don’t acknowledge.
Notice small things to be thankful for. This was huge for me during a particularly gloomy Thanksgiving season. Sometimes the last thing you feel like doing is the first line of defense for feeling better. I committed to write down three things I was thankful for every day for thirty days. Some days it looked liked this: 1. I got out of bed. 2. Everybody lived. 3. Ice cream. But as the month went on, I began to notice other things like the redbird by the feeder, the way the air smelled of fall, and the way the kids were playing and not fighting . . . at least for that minute. Small things. My circumstances remained the same but my heavy heart began to lift and feel lighter.
Know you are not alone. Social media can connect us but boy can it isolate us as well as we scroll through Pinterest perfect posts that look like Norman Rockwell paintings. Pictures of families gathered around the table with cherub-like children gazing at the feast before them with hearts for eyes make those of us who’ve burned the turkey more than once and sent kids to their rooms without any dinner feel like we are the only one. You are not. Reach out to someone and I guarantee you you’ll find similar stories. (If not, ask me. I have plenty of imperfect ones I can share!)
Feed your faith. Even if it’s just a handful of verses every day or reading a devotion on an app on your phone, stay connected to the vine (God’s Word). Find a church you can call home (you are always welcome to join our family) and get plugged in. Pray honest prayers about how you are feeling and ask the Lord to change your heart.
Untangle the web of shoulds and should nots. There is more guilt in saying that you should or shouldn’t feel a certain way, that you should or shouldn’t do certain things because of the season it is. Just stop. Through the years we’ve added to or taken away from doing or not doing certain traditions. Some we brought back and others we realized nobody really liked anyhow. Don’t do something simply because you always have. Try different things that suit where your family dynamics are right now.
Love on yourself a little. We are so quick to offer grace to others but not to ourselves. At the end of the day, when you’ve done your imperfect best, go to bed in peace knowing that when you wake up in the morning new mercies await you because God loves you that much! (See Lamentations 3:22, 23.)
And maybe, just maybe, you will enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, disheveled hair, boogers, and all!