Make the most of where you are

by Mark McDonald

My extended family has rented a lodge each Thanksgiving for some 30 years, and we usually have 40 to 50 people sharing dinner together. That has changed this year. We are not gathering because of coronavirus restrictions. 

Some family members are deeply disappointed, while others are glad to have a break from the hectic nature of the holidays. One might say those are opposed views, but I have come to realize that those are actually complementary values. 

Our gathering was a large group of people, but it was in a lodge surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods. It offered time to be surrounded by people and time to get away from people. I have had many years where I spent most of my time in my room, writing and reflecting. During other years, I have sat in the family room most of the time to be with as many people as I could. In short, it offered me the choice to spend time where I needed to be. And, that reminded me what I was most thankful for.

Perhaps this year, the pandemic offers a challenge to find ways to do more of that every day, right where we are. When Moses got away, it was to visit with God on the mountaintop. That sounds like a short retreat to some place near me, like a cabin, hotel room or home. When Jesus got away, it was within walking distance, and usually for a short time. That sounds like going on a walk in the neighborhood. In both instances, they returned to their people with clarity and purpose. 

I have come to realize that I looked forward to our family Thanksgiving because I had choices available to me to spend time alone or with others. Now that I don’t have that same setting this Thanksgiving, I still have that choice, and it is not just limited to an annual holiday!

Each time I read about Moses, Jesus or others who took time away for themselves, I understand they did that to balance the time they spent with others. They didn’t just make that choice once a year or even once a week. They made that choice daily, to spend time with God and with others. In doing so, they found a balance that gave them a sense of purpose, clarity and direction. 

We all need time alone and time with others, but we each need a different balance to be renewed in our purpose. That gives us a real reason to be thankful.  

This Thanksgiving, as you face a holiday that may be very different from normal, I pray you will discover your gratitude by finding balance each and every day, no matter the circumstances. 

Mark McDonald
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