However you see it, the holiday season either creeps or crash lands upon us. And so it begins ... as many begin planning dinner a sad tradition ensues along with the arguments that come with it. The dreaded conversation has to be had. You know the one: where are we having dinner this year, who is coming, who is not, who is fighting, who is not speaking, whose turn is it, can we do both sets of grandparents in one day, it’s my parents’ turn out-of-town, no it’s my parents’ turn to come here, how can we avoid making anybody angry, are we leaving anybody out, what about all the little kids, who is bringing what, who is on a diet, who is gluten-free, sugar-free, or flavor free, who does organic only, who is allergic to pumpkin, turkey, ham, or sweet potatoes, who has gone vegan this year? What? There’s a difference in vegan and vegetarian? Who do we please or offend? Bah Humbug already? Sorry folks, we’re just getting started; we aren’t past Thanksgiving yet or even half of the Hallmark Christmas movies!
Ha! Thanksgiving. What a name to call a dinner that is so hectic and where there’s no thanks in getting ready for it either! After the “conversation” the fearless or the fearful head for a grocery store that’s a NASCAR race in the parking lot that continues inside while steering a cart around all of the extra aisle displays, people, and carts. I once crashed into an extra display of pickles. Why pickles? And why would they need an extra display of pickles? Was there a pickle shortage that year? Is it a regular at most Thanksgiving tables? All I know was that I was “clean up on aisle seven” that year.
While trying to maintain one’s composure, there are people who invariably park in the middle of the aisle while they’re checking ingredients or recipes or a list as long as their leg. By now after I dove for the last bag of brown sugar, I’m ready to crash into said carts until I think, “maybe this poor soul has a relative allergic to something so cut her some slack and just nudge her cart. Oops! Excuse me, I did not see you or your GIGANTIC cart blocking the lane. So sorry!” Now I apologize but have to add, while on any other day I think the big carts(that look like a race car coincidentally) for 4 kids that parents squeeze 8 into, are cute but why do this to your kids? Why bring them to the Haunted House and the horror of a grocery store before the big dinner? Are you getting them prepared for the relatives? If so, fight on! I’m just jealous and want to squeeze in the race car and ride around too. (Yikes ... mental picture!)
After enduring it all to the point of tears and possible assault, the list has been completed! Now there’s a race to the finish lines which are longer than the Brooklyn Bridge and there’s not a smile to be found. People are checking lists, gathering coupons, checking cell phones or on them. You know I’m speaking the truth since there’s always some guy talking or laughing so loudly on his phone you hear every word or there’s the lady who tries to unload her cart and sharing more info than you want to hear. “Yes, my lousy ex is coming to get the kids with his new wife—and I do mean new since everything on her has been replaced and her lips have so much filler they wouldn’t fit on my turkey platter.” All this while trying to steady her phone between chin and shoulder—I personally think this should be a new Olympic sport since it takes some talent. But, since she has only one hand available, it takes twice as long to unload her cart and her bitterness. “Deep breath, deep breath. Go to your happy place,”I tell myself. Happy place now ruined by the teenager loading 50 items into one flimsy plastic bag while joking with his co-workers about something on YouTube, “Dude, it was so funny, Dude.” I so want to say, “Dude, I’m going to knock you in the head with this ham if you don’t shut up, Dude!” I’m sure God is so pleased with me but even He must shake His head.
Maybe like last year, I honestly was behind a lady with a coupon that wasn’t acceptable until the next day. She was not backing down for that $1 off of a liter of soda. The poor cashier kept telling her that the sale began tomorrow. She wasn’t having it and asked for the manager. I have now left my happy place ... again. The manager tells her that they will honor her coupon tomorrow at which time she honestly argued, “Well, technically it’s tomorrow in Australia.” Hand to God, she said that!
WHAT?! The people behind me were ready to riot! I offered her the dollar but no, she was not paying full price! This was a matter of principle now! So, a man with very large muscles and a thick New York accent (which I’ve always loved, by the way) came pushing his way from the back of the line of frustrated shoppers. Who was brave enough to say a word? He was polite, said excuse me ma’am and into the face of coupon lady did he go. I wanted to sing the theme song from “Rocky”! He proceeded to tell her how rude she was for holding up an entire line over a liter of soda and said we will all pay you full price to get your blankety-blank-blank-blank out of line. Those of us in line were scurrying for the change since few carry cash these days. Now we’re huddled together coming up with the cash for a liter of soda. “Okay, we got it!” I handed the cash to our brave foreman like the baton in a relay race and then our mob gave her the death stare. Once again, I so wanted to tell her where to go ... I mean to Australia where her coupon could be honored, of course!
Finally, she relents but had she said no, I’m convinced she would’ve ended up shoved into a cart and out of the store with all of us pushing and screaming a war cry and calling for a mafia hit! That’s how ridiculous people get this time of year! One woman with one coupon sent several adults into orbit. If she had one more coupon, I would’ve left my cart, had a complete meltdown, cancelled dinner, and walked out in a puddle of tears. Now, I’m all for coupons and use them WHEN they're acceptable. Nonetheless, I do have to give that lady props for creativity when she said it was tomorrow in Australia!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told that story because it was so outlandish and I couldn’t believe that I was there to see it all unfold. I can think of someone else who must be grieved to see what unfolds year after year, line after line, cart after over-stuffed cart, and careless person after careless person. Had that lady been upset because she needed that coupon to have something to eat, people would have reacted differently. However, in my experience, people in desperation are rarely rude either. Where and when did it all go so wrong? Where did I go so wrong on one grocery trip? When did we lose our perspective in order to fulfill what now feels like obligations? When did a simple dinner become as complex as getting the United Nations to gather and agree on a policy?
We used to “gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” as the song proudly declared. Now, the gathering part is difficult enough and, as for the Lord, I don’t think He is even on the guest list at most tables. If He is, it’s usually for a quick prayer or the traditional “go around the table and say what you’re thankful for” ... sigh, another obligation. Are we giving thanks? Are we giving? Are we thankful? Or are we watching the clock or cell phones or apple watches, to see how much longer we have to endure this so-called gathering?
My tone may seem abrupt but it saddens me every year. First, the historical dinner celebrating the harvest, after so many settlers died, is rarely if ever a thought or a story shared for the little ones. Then, here comes the season that celebrates the birth of our Savior which is not what it used to be nor is meant to be anymore. First, the decorations are out in September and Happy Holidays replaced Merry Christmas so nobody gets offended. Well, if anyone cares out there, I’m offended! I’m offended that greed and commerce hijacked a CHRISTIAN celebration and made it a chase to the black line at the end of the sales year. What was once simple and pure became the devil’s delight.He doesn’t get a dinner, he gets a buffet! He gets people to share the main course called debt, with delectable sides of stress, frustration, and bad moods so dessert gets to be families fighting, pouting, and dividing. Of course, most people are on some electronic device so they really don’t have to communicate anymore. They can have a text war or leave nasty, snarky, or cryptic passive-aggressive messages on all social media outlets. The kids aren’t hearing stories from grandparents since mommy and daddy want them quiet so “here’s your tablet.” Oh and hold dinner until we can get photos of the food and cute cupcakes found on Pinterest so we can show off our perfect Facebook family.
I realize I may sound like Mrs. Grinch, but I really want to be like the “Who’s down in Whoville” who didn’t care about stuff, just each other. What I’m most thankful for I could not begin to list. God is always good! Even in the storms of life, He is good because He IS THERE! I am thankful to be my age because I was able to experience the real joy of Thanksgiving when no one would dare put up Christmas decorations until each holiday was observed properly. I’m thankful for the years around my wonderful Grandma’s table. I’m even thankful for those memories when I was at the dreaded “kids table” (which was an old card table with a tablecloth put over it). As I recall at our gatherings, there was no stress, no hurry, no frustration, and no fancy foods. Things were simple but delicious and laughter was the best dish of all. The only thing I remember not liking was wearing my church clothes, cleaning up the kitchen, and doing dishes. Yes, there was a time when kids did chores and not for cash but for one reason, “because I said so.” That was reason enough for me when it was my dad. He has this one look that conveys his meaning without a word and it didn’t ruin my self-esteem nor did it scar me for life (previous soapbox in “Grit and Grace”)!
I’m thankful for the traditions my kids had growing up at gatherings at both sets of their grandparents. There was so much laughter, joy, and still the cleaning or the naps by the fireplace that followed. We played board games—not games on tablets—and we were highly competitive which made it loud but fun! Okay, in case my family reads this, I better tell the real truth: it was me who was highly competitive and I apologize (but my team still won the most)! Beyond that, football was always on the TV that Alexa didn’t turn on after a command. If we have to have Alexa, can she at least do the dishes? Why Alexa? People have that name not robot thingies!
The convenience of electronic devices and/or robot thingies is both a good and bad invention and it’s a soapbox for another time. However, I will say it certainly steals a great deal and maybe it gives us more time but are we using it wisely? Can you imagine what the Book of Proverbs would look like if Solomon decided to send, “Proverbs: The Re-Mix” in an email?
Speaking of Solomon, let me say this too—just as so much is written and spoken on generational curses, when do we hear something said on generational blessings? Think about it! Some families are blessed with musical ability, some have extreme intellectual and academic prowess, others possess a mind for business or a knack for creativity and even strengths in athletics and the list goes on. We will even comment, “That entire family is blessed to sing!” It’s not just DNA! Part of it is the family environment and parental interest passed on. The family business has been alive and well for ages starting with Jesus who said in Luke 2:49. ‘“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Even Jesus knew His work assignment! Why? He had the wisdom to discern what was most important at any given moment. He had the first business model which was, “Use Wisdom!” Generations that have been successful have done so because there is no progress without wisdom.
Wisdom is available to everyone and is not a hidden key only for the intelligent mind. Read about it in Proverbs chapters 7and 8 and see how God is described as using wisdom before creating the universe. Every attribute God has is HIS generational blessing to His children. God says, he who finds wisdom finds LIFE! (Proverbs 8:35.) The reason using wisdom is so important should be SO obvious to each and every one of us! Apart from wisdom, we are vulnerable to all the snares of the enemy which is HIS generational curse. His curse always leads to sin and its wages which are DEATH. (Romans 6:23.) Life and death—the wise choice is life but wisdom has to take action so it remains that way.
In any study of the scriptures, those who had entered into covenant received a generational blessing. Read Deuteronomy 28, think about Abraham and all the passages that include our posterity. God was not thinking of just us but the generations to come as well. When a family is raised in church, when home is a godly environment and the expectation is moral excellence, then (in most cases) the sons and daughters do likewise. As a result, the kingdom of God is established on the earth and His Word becomes more available with each generation. Our godly posterity is the REAL prosperity! “Seek first the kingdom of God and His RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). In essence, Jesus is telling us to use wisdom by seeking God first. Be in right-standing with Him. Do so for YOU and YOUR family and then God will take care of the rest! What a deal! We will be prosperous in ways that are more fulfilling than any diamond ring or new Rolls-Royce! I’d rather leave a legacy of an inspired life lived for the Lord than a drawer filled with some old jewelry. What really lives on is WHO really lives on!
These holidays, may we pray that we have a mindset that’s led by the wisdom of God which always will lead to LOVE! If a family member starts fussing, we can have the wisdom to lead by example and steer the conversation and actions back to love. Love is what began a family; two people fell in love and then had children who then found someone and fell in love and had children, and thereby, generations were established. In my personal family, my parents are thankfully living. They had three daughters who each had four, two, and three children respectively. These children are all adults now and have four children so my parents are Great-Grandparents. At my niece’s baby shower, we took a photo with my mom, my three sisters, the two daughters, and the one baby girl on the way. Four generations of women were represented in that photo ... imagine that! I look at that photo so often and think of my grandparents who came to America to flee the communist oppression of their country and the courage that it took to take such a voyage.
My mother’s parents both died when she was a child so she spent her childhood in an orphanage that looked like a beautiful boarding school; a home for children of veterans. Another soapbox moment—we should have no greater endeavor than to care for our veterans and their families who have left the greatest legacy. Freedom is costly and is also a generational blessing made available through great sacrifice. When immigrants pursued it rightfully, it led to countless generations like ours who were taught and therefore, developed a love of God, family, and country. That was the Askoff legacy and the Parsley legacy as well. My husband and I were well taught to respect God, your family and the families of others, and your country. It was not a deep philosophical truth as flimsy as a grocery bag, but it was the solid truth of God’s Holy Word that held the key to life and life more abundantly. We need that solid foundation on which to build and there’s just one. I can hear it from an old hymn, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” He is God and He never fails even if life doesn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting of the turkey dinner ... He always leads if we walk beside Him by faith.
Lastly, being a person with a curious nature, I recall always listening and watching the adults in our family and little ones will no doubt be watching you. What will they remember about you? What stories will they tell? What is your legacy? It doesn’t have to include a Nobel Prize to be great; it just has to include love most of all. Regardless of your achievements, what people will always remember is how you made them feel? When you walk away from someone are they better or worse, encouraged or deflated, angry or happy, a blessing or a burden, joyful or sad, head up or head down and most of all, loved or unloved? I know what I want my choices to be since they will describe my personal legacy.
That said, I have much work ahead but I know that I want people to say, “She was just like her Father ... the Heavenly one.”