Annual Thanksgiving Reflections

I don’t know if I say it every year or not but Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.  Part of that is because Thanksgiving represents the beginning of a four or five week holiday season, and I do love the holidays …  But even on its own, Thanksgiving is just awesome.  Yes, I do eat about half of the turkey completely on my own (the chef’s right), and yes, it is the only day of the year I am even allowed in the kitchen for cooking purposes, but the real delight I get out of Thanksgiving is the fact that it is (1) A uniquely American holiday, and (2) A thoroughly Judeo-Christian holiday. 

This great country instituted the holiday, and this great country’s heritage possessed all of the classic reasons for a national thanksgiving …  The story is in and of itself fantastic.  It thrills me that my five year old and three year old know the story as they do as well.  I hope all future generations will grab hold of the richness of America’s genesis.  If we continually teach the story of the Pilgrims, the adversity of the Mayflower, the uniqueness of their intent in coming to the new world, and the unprecedented (and exceptional) nature of how our country was borne, I have no doubt that future generations will also appreciate the remarkable concept of Thanksgiving.  No nation in the history of God’s green earth has been more blessed than ours has.  To not celebrate Thanksgiving would be appalling.  I won’t take these reflections down the historical and patriotic path I am tempted to right now, but I believe that the story of America is perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to be thankful we will ever have available in our lives (and if I may, I will add that the story of America is not just a compelling reason for Americans to be thankful, but for all of the world to be thankful as well; but I digress).

Thanksgiving is also a religious holiday.  This is nothing to shy away from.  I suppose I can respect people who find it in them to be thankful to no one in particular, and especially to those who are grateful to two extremely old molecules that began a random chain of mathematical combustions to create their life of dignity, meaning, purpose, and joy, but I admit, I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I am grateful to the very personal and knowable God who created me, who revealed Himself to me, and who redeemed me.  I am grateful that the life I have and the joy I experience each and every day are the gifts of a loving and gracious God.  For this author, there is no Thanksgiving without the one to whom thanks is owed.

As I type, my five-year old boy is helping his mother set the dining room table (yes, it is only 6:30 in the morning), my three-year old princess sleeps peacefully (in my bed), and my five-month old baby is also still sleeping (which his mother is thankful for as well).  I don’t know how people experience more “thanksgiving” than through their children.  These three are the joy of my life, and I don’t know where to begin in expressing my gratitude for them.  I take for granted the fact that all three are healthy, and I shouldn’t do that.  But what I do not take for granted is that they are being taught ever so early what it means to love Jesus, to treat other people with decency and kindness, and to live life to its fullest.  Kindergarten has been an absolute miracle-worker for Mitchell, and I would be remiss to not include Mariners Christian School in my annual reflections.  Sadie is about the sweetest little girl you have ever seen at her pre-school (St. Andrews Pre-School, part of the church we are members of), and if her love for art continues she may very well have a future as a modern artist (heck, her pictures already look the exact same as most of those guys).  Graham has been a bundle of love since coming into our home last June, which is sort of a lie, but he is sleeping through the night now, and he spends every waking moment laughing and smiling and cackling, which is perhaps the cutest thing you have ever seen.  I am overflowing with blessings in my kids, and thanksgiving abounds.

I would have to take back everything I said about the kids if it were not for their mother and my wife who has taken it on herself to raise them with reckless abandon.  She is passionate, involved, creative, industrious, and overall just plain remarkable.  Her husband travels a lot for business and leaves her with these little bundles of joy on her own sometimes, and yet every time I return the house is still standing, the kids have not been arrested, and either has she.  It would be difficult for me to imagine a woman being a more devoted mother than Joleen, and for that I am so so so thankful.  But Joleen is a lot more than just the kids’ mother …  She has been willing to live with me for over nine years now (by the time I write this letter next year we will have celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary), and that alone is reason to celebrate the kind of thanksgiving that looks more like puzzlement.  She cares deeply for my well-being, extends far more effort than any spouse should ever have to in order for me to feel loved, to feel supported, and to have peace.  I do not know how God worked it out for two people like me and Joleen to end up together, but she and I were absolutely meant to be together.  Happy Thanksgiving.

I wrote yesterday in a client email how grateful I am to work with the clients I work with.  I am celebrating another year of unbelievable growth in my business, and I am humbled by the way God has blessed me in my work.  Some people get mad when I write about what a great life my career is, so I will not pour it on too thick this year.  I will just say that when God led me to this business, He was doing it because He loved me.  And every single day I go to work ready to “bite the ass off a bear” …  (It is a figure of speech that need not offend you – those who know what I mean, know what I mean).

I personally feel that I have experienced a great deal of personal growth this year, which means perhaps I have gotten to my own 10-yard line and merely have 90 yards to go now instead of the 95 I had last year.  I have much to do, much to work on, many areas to grow in …  But I am so thankful that God has given me a tremendous spirit of contentment in my life.  Joleen and I went away last weekend and were talking about the plethora of adversities that we have faced in our lives.  We could write a book.  But I am being 100% honest when I say that I can not think of one single time in my life – one “sustained period” of time – where I did not feel extremely content and joyful.  That capacity for the enjoyment of life is not something I achieved; it is something that was given to me.  I confess that I wish I had more peace than I do – daily peace – daily tranquility – deeper serenity.  But all things happen in their due time.  What I do have is a deep contentment in life, and therein lies a whole bunch of Thanksgiving.

Joleen and I have gotten more and more involved in our local church fellowship this year, including a small group of five other couples that are close to us in age and stage of life.  These are ten of the neatest people you could hope to meet, and we owe thanksgiving for who they are in our lives.

And while I do not have the social calendar I once did, I do have some of the most meaningful and special friendships in my life a guy should be allowed to have.  Aaron, Eric, Darin, Tom, Brian, Luis, Mark, Mike, Andrew, Jason, Grant, and so many others I neglect to mention (mostly to protect them) – these guys are top-shelf, incredible friends.  Thanksgiving – you bet.

The itemized Thanksgiving letter is probably a chore for people to read, so I will begin to wrap it up.  I doubt people need to know that I am thankful for books, for CNBC, for Rancho Mirage, for The Ritz, for CP, for Castellis, for blue skies, for hot tubs, for flat screens, for the Lakers, for the Trojans, for Lane Kiffin, for matinee baseball games, for golfing with my older brother, for the dark meat of a turkey, for the Acton Institute, for Newport Beach, for Bobby Vans on Park Avenue, for watching a football game with my younger brother, for a well-struck 8-iron on a par three, for The Office, and for my iPad.  I doubt people care.  But yes, my life is filled with joy in both small things and big things.  I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving – filled with the gratitude we owe to God, the joy of family and friends, and the simple delight that turkey and football and pumpkin pie are prone to create.  Happy Thanksgiving indeed …