This is the month I always think of as being spent at table. Easter is a sunrise empty tomb, a blanket of lilies. Christmas finds altars everywhere, trembling on frosty starlit hillsides, woven in the notes of soaring anthems, whispered in prayers by the fire. But this Thanksgiving month’s first images for me always center around preparing and sharing food, a ring of faces around plenty.
But if I am satisfied with belovedness, filled with the enough-ness of that daily portion, and if I’m going to live thankful as the last leaves skitter away and the earth settles, I have to consider what else I’m feeding this month, besides this family. What am I feeding? How can all I consume nourish gratitude? Perhaps even more important, what empty calories am I taking in that leave me empty of what would give life?
This is a season of gathering for me, gathering the recipes and craft ideas and handmade gift plans to carry my family through the celebrations to come over the next couple of months. I pride myself on resisting the messages blaring from every advertisement that my worth, my contentment, and the happiness of my children swings from the string of a price tag. I know in my bones that new and shiny are not the answer when I feel that gnawing emptiness.
And yet. . . I can shatter peace and quiet celebration with a whirlwind of too much flour and floss and paper and glue as surely as with shopping bags and spending money we don’t have. Both approaches resist the idea of enough. Both paths tell me the lie that more is better, that it is my job to fill and fill and over fill.
Because perhaps then I’ll measure up. To the friends, to the parents of my kids’ friends, to all the faceless, anonymous Others we’re so often performing for. And I’ll top this false confection with a dollop of self-righteousness, that all this excess is homemade and not purchased at the mall.
If I’m going to choose another way, if I’m going to carefully consider what I’ll feed and fatten during these weeks of preparation, I have to take a deep breath. I have to come back to that simple question: what is enough? It is not about good or bad, for special, celebratory menus and presents made with love in the fingers are not bad. But how much of them are enough? What number of moments of joy will let them be illuminated, each like crystal beads on a string, singular and precious, rather than the cheap glint of crammed and crumpled tinsel? What line, carefully drawn, will prepare nourishment and prevent gluttony? Will I feed my insecurities and misgivings, or will I feed my soul?
As with many spiritual issues, the questions to ask are refreshingly practical.
- How much consumption of new ideas in enough? How much pinning? How many tear sheets? Can we keep a finger on our creative pulse to check when we are crossing from inspiration to overwhelm?
- How many new recipes are enough? Or can dishes from past years, familiar and homey, bless with their very same-ness?
- How many gifts are enough? Would some time of service or a donation to charity extend blessing more than another thing, handmade or purchased?
- How many parties and events are enough? Are enough quiet evenings and simple food in place to give a pause that refreshes?
- Can we curb the celebrations we plan to make room for spontaneous moments of worship and grace? Can we leave space to receive these gifts?
I’ll be baking and making here, certainly. But I’m asking these questions, knowing my weakness, but knowing too the deeper longing I have for what will satisfy, for me, and for the loved ones for whom I make this home.
Two dear women I admire are using this month’s focus on gratitude to consider in very practical ways what their families eat, to challenge themselves to carefully regulate their spending to have more to give away to those less fortunate at the end of the month. This is another compelling way to consider “enough.” I’d also like to thank my blogger friend Aimee, whose “less is more” post on Facebook yesterday got my wheels turning.