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Putting the thanks back in Thanksgiving

How a classic kids movie helped me adjust my holiday attitude.

Alicia A. Neumann

“What have I got to be thankful for?” That’s the quote that stuck in my head after I watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving the other day. I’ve seen it countless times, but this time around it struck me differently. I realized that instead of giving thanks, lately I’ve been acting more like the Peanuts gang did in that classic special.

Focusing on self-induced drama

It starts with Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, complaining. “Why should I give thanks on Thanksgiving?” she says. “What have I got to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us.”

It’s true, holidays are a lot of work—even more so now that my husband and I have four kids under the age of 8. There are travel logistics (sometimes we have three family gatherings to attend on the same day!), food to prepare, and the always exhausting process of getting the kids ready and out the door. Sometimes I’d rather sit at home and sulk, like Sally!

Next, there’s Charlie Brown’s friend Peppermint Patty, who has very unrealistic expectations. When Charlie Brown serves her popcorn and toast for Thanksgiving dinner, she fumes: “Where’s the turkey, Chuck? Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie?”

It’s pretty comical to think a young kid could cook a meal like that, right? Yet my expectations are just as ridiculous. Like when we attend holiday parties, I want my kids to play independently while I relax and have meaningful conversations with other adults. In reality, the kids need me to exact some sort of justice or fix an “owie” or listen to their dramatic stories. I’m usually lucky if I get to exchange a few hurried words with the people I meet on the way to the bathroom with the kids (again)!

Finally, there’s good ol’ Charlie Brown, who’s constantly worried. His friends have invited themselves to his house for a Thanksgiving party, even though he won’t be home. Will they be mad if he cancels their plans? Will everyone have a good time? I can totally relate to that poor, frazzled boy. After social events, I find myself fretting. Sometimes the precious moments I got to spend with my favorite people are marred by my constant analyzing and ruminating about what happened. Good grief!

Seeing our God-given gifts

So how can I ditch these bad habits? Thankfully, God, in his infinite wisdom, has placed some great examples right in front of me. My children have no problem thanking God in their prayers for the things in their lives, both big and small: “Dear God, thank you for letting me find my whistle. Thank you for giving me a mommy and daddy. Thank you for making pumpkins. Thank you for helping me learn to tie my shoes. Amen.”

Their simple, innocent prayers remind me to quit focusing on my self-induced drama and instead fix my eyes on what God has given me: four amazing, healthy kids and a wonderful husband; plenty of delicious food to cook; and many opportunities to celebrate with loved ones. And the list goes on . . .

But the most important thing God has given me is full forgiveness of all my sins. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I am guaranteed a spot forever in heaven.

Thanks be to God! Keeping that amazing grace front and center this holiday season is the only thing that will stop my sinful grumbling and replace it with contentment, happiness, and peace.

Author: Alicia A. Neumann
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019

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