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Thanksgiving

Devotional Faith Thanksgiving

Why We Can All Have A No-Excuse Thanksgiving

November 27, 2015

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The chaos carries itself throughout the room, giggles and laughter reverberating off of the walls. Five cousins ages four and under reunited for a week of fun, games, treats, together, and memories. Their excitement is contagious. And loud.

And yet over the commotion I hear my grandfather’s voice, proud and glad. “Look what we started.” He says to his wife. His smile speaks of generations, four of them in this room, and I can only imagine what they’ve witnessed throughout those years.

We have much to be thankful for this season.

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And yet–thankful can be a tricky thing to chase down.

But something holy transpires within us when we turn from thinking of thanksgiving as a response, and instead see it as command. Something we were created for, and called to. Kind of like prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This puzzling command that begs the question, how are we always to be bowed in prayer?

A habit of prayer is a noble thing; an instinctual reaction to take all that is on our hearts and lay it at the feet of Jesus. But habit can also become tainted by monotony and thoughtlessness. A habit of prayer can so easily cross the line into a list of worries, or a game of bargaining, or a constant reminder to ourselves of our own dissatisfaction.

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Yet this command–Pray without ceasing–it is bookended by instruction. Its prelude and epilogue paint for us a complete picture, and it is a portrait of grace.

Before it, Rejoice always.

And after, Give thanks in all circumstances.

This is the pulse of Pray Always.

Only then, when fear overwhelms, can we give thanks to the One who steadies our soul.

And when our need seems so great and we cannot foresee provision, we thank Him for today’s bread. For manna in the wilderness. For clothing the grass of the field, and feeding the birds of the air. For meeting our need yesterday, and the day before that, and waiting for us in our every tomorrow.

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When uncertainty clouds our way, and our first thought is to ask for direction, let us push it aside, just for a moment, and first rejoice. Giving thanks to the One who levels the ground before us and establishes our steps.

When war and terror flood the headlines, let our first response be that of thanksgiving to the One who, “keeps him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) May our instinct be to praise Him for, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear, what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Let fear always give way to praise, because we have not one thing to fear.

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This season was made for thanks, and we have our work cut out for us. In a world filled with threats against our peace, may we be ever diligent and intentional to give thanks always. Before and after. Through and through.

When around every turn we encounter circumstances bent on derailing our thanks and unsettling our spirit, let us be the first to exclaim, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7)

After all, how can we not resound with thanksgiving to the One who, “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

O soul, in every circumstance, your excuses are found wanting. Empty. Insufficient to stand against all of His bountiful dealings. So take heart. Give praise. Say thanks. Because you have no excuse not to.

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Faith Family Thanksgiving Uncategorized

How the Big and Difficult Things of Life Remind Us to Give Thanks for the Little and Precious Things

November 27, 2014

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The Building Anticipation of 51 Weeks

 

Thanksgiving week is my favorite week of the year.

Not just for pumpkin pie and after-dinner food comas, but for Settlers of Catan. Cooking competitions. Turkey crafts. Late night laughter. Reading books. Hiking trails. Transforming the kitchen into a homemade soft pretzel factory. Redeeming what society has sadly deemed as “Black Friday”, by waking up to blasting loud Christmas music, and savoring a slow morning. Too much coffee. Homemade bagels. Watching cousins play.  Watching my grandma and grandpa play word games together each morning with their coffee.

Our Thanksgiving week is packed full of traditions and the quirkiness of my family, all while protecting the slow-pace of vacation by stretching the holiday to a whole week’s length. We anticipate these seven days for 51 weeks every single year.

 

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A Restful Design

 

The weeks leading up to this vacation move slowly, with the inevitable stress of traveling with young kids hanging over me; lists needing to be written, bags needing to be packed, meals needing to be planned. But once we walk through the door of the large house my parents rent each year to hold us all, the stress dissipates and my soul settles.

Vacation should always be like coming home. Even in a foreign place. Rest is home for our souls.

After all, God worked hard for six days, and then rested. His last day of work was spent creating us. And then the Sabbath; which was our first day. He worked, and then ended with rest; while we began with rest, so we could then work.

Rest is His blessed design for our spirits. We need it desperately. And oh how I was feeling this need.

 

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And We All Fall Down…

 

The week before our vacation I had a strange and foreboding feeling. I began praying that we would all feel well for our week of “Turkey Palooza” festivities. We have had a relatively clean history of health over the years for these vacations, and I had a sneaking suspicion that our “good luck” of health was up.

Sunday night when we all arrived at the vacation house, my little niece was sick with an upset stomach. We figured it was from the long hours of travel that day, and within a couple of hours she was back to her beautiful spunky self.

But then Tuesday evening, 2 days into our vacation, my sister and I both began feeling a bit ill.

I went upstairs to lie down, and found my husband holding our 1-year-old son. Grayson had walked in to check on Ellis and found he had gotten sick in bed.

In rapid succession, my sister, myself, and both of our boys became violently ill. My husband was a saint as he ran from room to room, and restroom to restroom, to assist and comfort each of us through the night.

 

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A Close Call ~ Avoiding the Hospital

 

Fortunately the bug seemed to only last about 12 hours. Unfortunately, any illness that causes me to vomit is extremely dangerous with my Addison’s disease. That last time I was this ill, two days before Christmas in 2011, the stress of the illness sent me into my first “Addison Crisis”, landing me a stay in the hospital.

And so two evenings ago, as I managed to swallow extra medication between each trip to the bathroom, praying it would stay down long enough to help, we knew we might need to head to the hospital at any moment.

I cringed, moaned, and whimpered for hours on that couch, my husband holding my hand and praying with me. But somehow by the grace of God we all made it to morning, and the bug had mostly passed its first round of victims.

The following couple of days, the bug continued to makes its rounds, sparing only my husband and mom (so far…). It definitely threatened disappointment in our “Turkey Palooza” week this year. It caused a divide as a few people at a time were quarantined to upstairs, or sleeping the bug off. Only a handful of us who were feeling well enough could enjoy some of our favorite traditional meals. It could have been a very big disappointment.

 

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How Life’s Ugly Disappointments Teach Us a Lesson in Thanksgiving

 

Yet even a big, difficult thing like this can act as a reminder of the smaller, precious blessings and moments we are given, and lead us to give thanks for these gifts. Small as these gifts may seem, they are the ingredients for a life full of gratitude. In fact, it is often the difficult things of life which force us to slow down, stop, and begin grasping for the good in life that must be sought after.

These are the things of watching my Grandparents, who have now been married 62 years, sit side by side holding hands all day long, completely in love and enjoying each other’s company.

 

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Or an afternoon hike with my siblings, savoring the sun sitting above a stone ridge guiding us up the trail.

And laying down with my boy, who has been particularly exhausted, emotional, and difficult this week; and taking in the smell of his golden blonde curls. Moments spent holding him tight and sneaking a smile out of him; reading him stories and simply enjoying his presence. And watching him kiss his grandma.

 

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Or hearing his stories just dripping with excitement after Daddy takes him fishing. Or watch his boyish excitement as he explores the ruins of an old stone mansion with us.

A grateful life is built of moments like hearing that our one-year-old laid in his grandpa’s lap for an entire hour, and seeing my dad’s smile as he tells us this. And watching my niece twirl with joy in her pink TuTu.

And staying up late one night, still a bit queasy, but my belly hurting more from laughter than sickness as I sit around a table playing board games with my family.

 

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The Gifts Which Must Be Sought Out

 

These are the moments that sickness can not steal. And life is full of these moments. When the difficult things of life threaten to overwhelm and steal our joy, our one defense is gratitude; and gratitude takes a whole lot of work.

Of course it’s simple to list a couple of things we are thankful for on Thanksgiving. Family. Food. A warm house.

But what about the snow falling eloquently over the lake? Or the impossibly bright red cardinal that hops across the railing of the porch, looking for the bread my mom left out for him. Or my beautiful little niece yelling for my son, “Come on Zeke! Come play!” These things must be sought after in order to be accepted as a gift.

 

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It is these little blessings {Which in reality are not little at all} that, when searched for, hunted down, and given thanks for, outweigh the big hurts, the big disappointments, the big heartaches that can sometimes accompany our holidays.

These are the gifts of God, if only we make a habit of pursuing them.

And that is what it takes to live a life of gratitude, undaunted by fears, failures, and hopelessness. It takes seeing {really seeing} that God is a Gift Giver, lavishing His extravagant gifts on us every. single. moment.

 

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“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

{Who does not change. He is always the Giver.}