Thanksgiving is a bittersweet time of year for me. For the first 24 years of my life, I always spent Thanksgiving with the extended family on my mother's side. It is a time of belonging, sharing hearts in conversation, eating the best Thanksgiving meals ever prepared, and topping it all off by playing football with the cousins. Since I am one of the two members of my extended family living West of Indiana, and due to the logistics of flying home for a short weekend in the middle of a busy season at work and school, I have not made it back to the family Thanksgiving for several years now.
I woke up this Thanksgiving morning struggling to feel thankful. All I could think about was how for yet another year, I can't be back with my family for this special time. Realizing that ingratitude is often a matter of perspective, I tried to think again about my circumstances and made an important discovery. I am thankful for friends who become like family. Sometimes our most valuable treasures are right in front of us yet we overlook them in our search for what we think we need. I am trying to learn to appreciate the gifts that are already present in my life. My friend Susan invited me to join her family and some friends over Thanksgiving dinner for the third consecutive year. Although I do not see the rest of her family outside of this event, it occurred to me that they have become my Thanksgiving family. This made me look forward to seeing them and helped me to appreciate the significance of our time together and of enduring friendships.
I recently visited Minnesota where I once lived for five years. While visiting friends there I realized that I used to think of friends as family more than I do now. As I thought about how to caption the photos I posted to Facebook, I realized that it seemed natural to refer to the people in them as family. Not wanting to confuse those who don't know my Minnesota friends I had to think creatively about how to describe these relationships. I want to love people in a way that makes them seem like family to me in all the best senses of the word. Developing loving relationships is a way of cultivating family and some of our richest moments in life come when we look around and realize that the circle of people we call family is expanding to include the faithful friends who have graced our lives.