Our house is one of those that is always open – I love to have people in, but I don't really ENTERTAIN. I'm the type of hostess who says, “Yeah, there's stuff in the fridge...help yourself!”
But each Thanksgiving I try to do things with a little more class. A few years ago, I was hosting the traditional turkey dinner for Fred and me, our 7 kids + 2 significant-others, my parents, and my sister Allison's family of 5. Eighteen people if I'm doing the math correctly, so I made two turkeys and oodles of sides. We had some serious food going on!
Allison (that's my biological sis among the 7 Sisters) is the classy entertainer in our family, and she very generously asked what she could do to help. I assigned her various dishes to bring (her world-famous stuffing is a must, of course....and have I mentioned her Pear-Cranberry Pie with a crust so good it makes you strive to be a better person?). She offered table linens, early arrival to help with the cooking, but I assured her that I had it all covered.
At the last minute, I talked to Kym (another one of the 7 Sisters....See? We really DO have a great community!) whose family of 6 was in limbo. A sick mother-in-law and out of town travel confusion had left them uncertain about the best place to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Come to our house,” I said. “The more the merrier!” I assured her I had enough food for an army. So now our numbers were at 24, but my mountain of mashed potatoes was more than sufficient for the challenge.
Unfortunately, I forgot one thing. After most of my family had arrived, I realized that I didn't have enough silverware. Or dishes. (Gravy doesn't really serve well on paper plates.) My mother laughed at me. Hostess-extraordinaire-Allison looked horrified. And Fred offered to go find a store and buy new stuff.
I had a better solution. I grabbed my phone and called Kym's cell just as they were pulling out of their driveway. “So, Kym, this is a little awkward....remember how I invited you guys to join us for Thanksgiving dinner? Well, I kind of need you to bring your own plates and silverware. Or plan to eat with your fingers directly from the serving platters. Whichever you prefer.” She managed to stop laughing long enough to answer that they would, indeed, go back in the house and get plates and silverware, and when they arrived we all had a splendid time.
Will I win a Martha Stewart Living award for that Thanksgiving dinner? Not hardly! But will I always remember it with a grateful smile? You bet! The table was all the more beautiful for the presence of mismatched plates and borrowed silverware, because that was a table made by community.
What imperfections in your holiday plans might really be openings for God's grace to show?
Becoming consistently aware of God's fingerprints in my life has been a special area of discipline for the last few years.
Here are a few things I've come to be truly thankful for in recent years, when in the past I would have overlooked them.
"Coincidental Meetings" with people in stores, in waiting rooms, in parking lots.
After I run into someone unexpectedly, I figure I have just been reminded to pray for that person. Maybe God's using me to lift someone up who doesn't have anyone praying for him/her right now. I wouldn't have thought of that person otherwise, so I'm thankful for the nudge.
Bargains at the store.
I used to think of myself as a careful, diligent bargain-shopper with a little bit of "tightwad" thrown in there. I buy my clothes at thrift stores whenever possible. I plan dinners based on the sale items at my local market. I bulk-shop at cheap stores for staple goods. But now I realize that everything about our finances is dependent on God. He gives us wealth, He gives us the ability to steward it, and He gives us generous hearts to share it with others. I needed sweaters for this winter season. I found 4 perfect-quality, well-made name-brand sweaters at a thrift store Monday and paid a total of $16 for them. I was happy about the low price, but I was happier to be reminded of how well my Dad takes care of all my needs, and how lavishly He showers love on me.
My 88-year-old mother-in-law always says that she only prays two things: "Thank You, dear Lord," and "Give us good health," because if you have your health you can handle all the other difficulties life throws at you. There is some wisdom in that (somewhat oversimplified!) statement. There comes a time for all of us when our earthly bodies will no longer allow us to do the things we long to do. Until that time comes, I want to be very intentional in thanking God that my feet hit the floor and I was able to stand, tackling another day with the physical strength He's given me.
What often-overlooked things can you give thanks for?
Do you, or does someone you love, suffer with chronic illness? Lisa's devotional "God Meets Me Here" will encourage and equip you to keep seeking Him in the sick times.
I have lots for which to give thanks, but my mind keeps coming back to the I Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, for you.” This is a difficult command, but as I look back on my life, I can see the good that has come out of some trying circumstances.
While I can’t give God thanks FOR my divorce, I can look back and see that much good has come from it. I have seen God work when I was too distraught to even pray coherently. I have had my church and homeschool communities rally around and hold me up. I have seen growth in my children, despite their grief. I was able to continue homeschooling due to generous alimony from my ex-husband, who has continued to partner with me in raising our children. I grew so much from the experience, as painful as it was. I have been able to take what I learned and share with others going through similar circumstances, which is a great blessing to me. (The longer version of what I learned is available in the eBookstore for free - Carry Each Other’s Burdens)
Everyone goes through difficulty at some point in their lives. Between us, the 7 Sisters have dealt with medical issues (including chronic illness), step-families, adoption, mental health issues, financial difficulties, death of a family member, miscarriage, and a host of other difficulties. These problems are REAL and often devastating. They take a toll on everyone involved. What have we learned? God is good! He is faithful! He has a plan for each of us - and it’s a good one! We need each other, because that is one of the ways that God cares for us.
Of course, I’m thankful for all the usual things - family, friends, church, home, provisions. While it’s easy to forget to voice thanks for these things, it’s not hard to be thankful for them. Voicing thanks in the midst of trials is a lot harder, but just as important.
How about you? Can you give thanks for that learning issue that you are dealing with in your homeschool? Can you be thankful in the midst of grief or hardship? Can you at least be grateful that God will draw you closer to HImself in the midst of what is happening? Or, like me, can you at least look back and thank God for what you learned?
It all started with drama camp 4 years ago. (I won’t take the time to explain exactly what drama camp is or how amazing it is, that would take an entire post, which maybe I’ll write someday).
The play that year was called, “A Weekend in Calcutta,” and it told the story of Mother Theresa and the impact she had in our world. That drama camp literally changed my life. Mother Theresa had a phrase that she based all of her amazing work off of and it was the mantra we learned that drama camp week, “You can’t always do great things, just do small things with great love. The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”
Small things, great love. That’s what Mother Theresa did and seeing her story through the glasses of that saying was awe-inspiring.
That next year I met this pretty awesome girl. Her name is Stephanie. She has the biggest heart
for orphans that you will ever see. Specifically, her love is for the orphans of India. She shared with me all that she had seen on her many trips to India and just how hard God pressed upon her heart to love for those orphans (so hard in fact, that her family has adopted to boys from India). As I learned more and more about these precious children in India that live a hopeless life with no one to love them, no one to even tell them that Christ loves them, my heart burst open wide with love and care. I cannot even describe to you how connected I felt to every child in India, and I have never been there even once.
I fully believe that the orphans of India were placed in a special place in my heart by God, the love I have for those children is too great to be from a human alone. In 11th grade I wrote my ten-page paper on the orphan crisis (because trust me, it is a major crisis) of India. I recently wrote a paper for my college nursing class on nursing in India and it reminded me of the ten-pager I had written in high school. I went back to that paper and read it again for the first time in over a year. Again I was brought back to how much I want to help those children.
My heart is very much in and Indian orphanage. I know, I know, I’ve never been to an Indian orphanage, how can my heart be there? The answer? Because God put it there.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I must go to India. I do not know how, and honestly part of me doesn’t even want to. It will be hard. Hard to get there, hard to eat there (I cannot stand spicy food), hard to find where to go. It will be terrifying and heart-wrenching, but I don’t know how to NOT go. This is my little special mission, to show at least one orphan there that there is a God who loved them so very much that he sent his son to die for THEM. I need to show at least one child that even though no one around them cares enough to give them the time of day, I pray for them every night.
Try out one of Sabrina's powerful and delightful drama scripts FREE: Christmas Carol Wars is a great start for exploring script reading as a language arts/reading genre OR for your own drama production.
Once upon a time, in a homeschool Drama Camp, not so far away, a group of students, their director (Sabrina Justison) and a surprising little drama entitled "By Thanksgiving", changed the way I pray. Really, they did!
I felt I had come a long way in my prayer life over the previous 5 years, but that night I took a leap. "By Thanksgiving" challenged the creator, the cast and the audience, myself included, to have more faith in our prayers and our God.
Do you ever find your prayers are full of hopes and wishes but fall a little short on the faith that they will be answered? "By Thanksgiving" suggested that we should begin our prayers with Thanksgiving. (Must be good advice, right. After all, Paul told us pretty much the same thing. You know the one about giving thanks in all circumstances...)
It goes something like this:
- Dear Lord, Thank you that the weather has been so very mild these last 3 weeks while our heater has been broken!
- Dear God, Thank you that my time on crutches is temporary.
- Dear God, Thank you for showing me that I need to lose "a few" pounds and get some of my upper body strength back before you heal my knee.
Hope you get the gist of it. You thank God for the good part of your situation and you thank Him in advance, with faith, for what He will do. This second part is a little trickier.
My dear friend Karen and her family are fighting a tremendous war. Her son, Joseph, is nearing 2 years of battling Ewing's Sarcoma, an aggressive cancer. While the past 2 years have been overwhelming and full of huge obstacles, Karen, Joseph and their entire family remain thankful for the tremendous outpouring of love and support from our community and around the world. My prayer for them goes something like this...
Dear Lord, Thank you so much for all the great work you are doing in Joseph and his family. We eagerly await the day that You heal him completely and thank you that You are God and that you are large and in charge of everything - even Cancer. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen!
What are your prayers of Thanksgiving in ALL circumstances?
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; (John Donne)
As a single mom, being part of a community (i.e. the body of Christ) is very important. There are things that I can’t do by myself and I need to rely on others to help. Recently, I experienced a humbling, but inspiring, example of this. Three men from my church came and did some of the handyman jobs that were piling up around my house. These are the kinds of jobs that very few people will come and do, even if you have unlimited funds to pay them.
What a blessing to have my garage door fixed, the old rug out of my family room and taken to the dump, the ceiling in my bedroom repaired, and other similar jobs. I do many of these jobs myself, but there are some jobs that are beyond my ability or would require tools I don’t yet own. Even with the tools and ability, I wouldn’t have time to do all of them.
There have been other times when my friends from my homeschool community have helped me survive and thrive. Help with carpooling, allowing my children to spend the night when I need to get away, or helping me get the car in for repair when my older children aren’t around to help are blessings to me. (Ever tried taking the car for repair by yourself? It really doesn’t work. )
None of us can do everything. We all need community to help us thrive. In addition to the physical help, we all need the support and prayers of our friends. How have you been blessed by your