A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am eager to find a way to intentionally focus our hearts and minds as we break bread and give thanks together. One of the ways we can do this is by proclaiming together a prayer of gratitude, both for who God is and for our many blessings.  Here is a prayer I’ve written for my family, and yours, to use this Thanksgiving. It is written as call and response and I encourage you to read it aloud at your table.  My hope is that it draws our eyes and hearts to the goodness of God and the beauty of His redemption. May this Thanksgiving prayer be a blessing to you and yours.  Leader: Let us gather here at this feast and acknowledge with thankfulness the Maker of this food and of our beings, body and soul.  All: It is right to give Him thanks and praise, for He formed our beings out of the dust and from that dust brings forth food to sustain our fragile bodies year after year.  Leader: As we look to you with thankfulness, we also look to those who have mirrored Your creative ability and prepared for us this meal. All: May we all in our own way continue to mirror You, oh Lord, as we go about the tasks you have prepared for us, today and every day. Leader: These delightful smells and tastes will satisfy our gnawing stomachs, may they also stir our hearts to remember and long for the Bread of Life.  All: As we savor this meal, may we long for you, our true Sustainer.  Leader: We reflect on your providence in our lives this year, each lifting up prayers of thankfulness for ways we’ve seen your grace and goodness displayed in our lives. May we give thanks and tell of your deeds together.  Going around the table, each person can now share what they are particularly thankful for this year.  Leader: Your goodness is evident to all around this table. But for some of us, there are aches in our hearts that even on this day, remind us this world is not our home. We thank you for sustaining us in these trials and for redeeming all things.  May we continue to labor on in the tasks you have given us knowing that we will reap a reward if we do not give up. Let…

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When You Spend Christmas Alone: Celebrating the Holidays Without Family

Shortly after my husband and I got married, the military whisked us away from where we grew up in the Midwest to the island of Hawaii. It was lovely. It was warm. It was very far from home. Between the military salary and the extreme cost of living in Hawaii, going home for Christmas that first year was simply out of the question.  Christmas for us had previously been defined by family. We went to the church where I grew up for the candlelight service then quickly drove over to Hubby’s aunt’s house for their family Christmas Eve party. Christmas morning was spent with my family as there were still little ones in the house who woke up before the crack of dawn to see if Santa came then we split the rest of the day bouncing back and forth between festivities with different family members. It varied slightly from year to year but one thing was consistent, family.  Suddenly, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we were the only family each other had to celebrate with.  It was quite daunting, looking at the holidays and trying to determine how to make it special. Should we invite friends over? If so, from church or from work? What traditions did we want to adopt? Was it silly if it was just the two of us? These were the questions that plagued our mind but, ultimately, we came up with a few ideas that have now stood the test of time.  Even if there are only two of you, you are still a family.  We realized that first Christmas that we were a family. A family isn’t created the day you welcome a child into your home, it starts the day you say, “I do.” When we recognized this, it brought a new element of joy to our celebrations. We weren’t two wanders away from family, we were our own household, deciding how we wanted to celebrate. Our celebrations will inevitably change if/when we have kids or if we get to spend the holidays nearer to family but, no matter what, we established that we have left our families of origin and created something entirely new and beautiful.  There are always people looking for a place.  Our first Thanksgiving, we were the people looking for a place to be. Our small group leaders invited us into their home (despite us only…

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15 Ways to Love Your Neighbor This Christmas

Traditionally, the season of preparing for Christmas has been a time of preparation. Much like the season of Lent, when we prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection, Advent has been associated with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (or charitable giving).  While many churches no longer recognize the fasting part of the preparation (in fact, many of us have replaced it with extra baking), the charitable portion of preparing for Christmas still has deep holds.  And it should have a deep hold in our hearts.  Just as Christ gave Himself to us, so we should give to one another. But to follow Christ’s example, we need to do more than simply write a check and give from a distance, we need to give of ourselves, our hearts. We need to love our neighbors. Christmas is a time when doors are opened a little wider and those around us need to see that the Baby in the manger truly does change lives.   Step into the lives of those around you and love.  Here are 15 actionable ways to love your neighbor this Christmas:  1. Blessing Bags Filling bags with simple food and hygiene supplies to keep in the car is a beautiful way to love those around you. Blessing bags provide a great and easy way to be prepared to give in love to those in need while you’re on the go. There’s a great overview of things to include here.  2. Deliver Cookies  Packages of cookies are a simple way to show love to your neighbors! As a child, I loved creating cookies from the book, The Sweetest Story Ever Told. It tells the story of a little girl who makes 5 cookies that tell the story of the birth of Christ. It is a fun, simple way to spread some Christmas cheer and share the message of Christ to those near you.  3. Host a Cookie Exchange   Opening up your home in hospitality is a powerful way to show love to those around you. A cookie exchange is a wonderful way to bring together the women in your neighborhood to share favorite recipes. I remember watching my mom host our neighbor ladies each year for a Christmas cookie exchange or tea. Aside from eating tasty treats, one of my favorite memories was her pulling out her copy of Max Lucado’s When God Came Near and reading a passage about the…

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3 Ways to Prepare Your Heart for a Christ-Centered Christmas + A Jesse Tree Giveaway!

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to enter to win the Jesse Tree gift set from Intentional Traditions! It is a beautiful way to prepare your heart for a Christ-centered Christmas! Soon, the preparation for Christmas will begin with the season of Advent. While Advent varies in length from year to year, traditionally beginning 4 Sundays before Christmas but practically it is often celebrated from December 1st up until the beginning of Christmas. Taking time to prepare your heart for the coming of Christ has been a practice of Christians for centuries. Passing on the faith and the story of God’s redemption of His people is something that we need to relive each and every year as we celebrate. While there are many ways we can remember our fallen state and the God’s faithfulness is working His beautiful plan from the beginning of time until the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem but it’s important to be intentional in setting up traditions in your home that help your heart focus on this truth. Preparing for Christmas through a retelling to your own heart of your fallen state and your Savior’s pursuing love is one way to keep your heart centered on the beautiful gift that we have the celebrate in a world that pulls and tugs to draw your heart away. Here are 3 ways to practice a Christ-centered Advent to prepare your heart for Christmas: 1. Incorporate a Jesse Tree into Your Family’s Countdown to Christmas I wasn’t very familiar with the concept of a Jesse Tree until about two years ago but I absolutely love it. The Jesse Tree named based on the prophecy from Isaiah 11 of the Messiah being born from the line of David, son of Jesse: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him – Isaiah 11:1-2, ESV It is a method of using ornaments to work through the story of redemption from the Fall of Mankind through the Birth of Christ on Christmas morning. This daily re-orienting yourself as part of the grand story of redemption is a beautiful way to center your heart. I personally love the grand narrative nature of this method because it helps me put my life into perspective. In this season of…

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A Letter To My Husband As Our Marriage Struggles Through Infertility

This post was originally published by Her View from Home.  This day, we never saw it coming, huh? Six years ago when we sat on my parents’ porch discussing our lives, we took for granted the control we had. We had a lot of dreams in place. In the beginning, we were shy about discussing them. Then one day, you let it slip that you always wanted an “Andrew Jr.” and I shyly suggested one of the nerdy, bookish names I’ve always loved and you pretended to like it, well, because you liked me. We quickly progressed to more intense conversations and then rings came. Everyone warned us. They told us to take pills and savor our time alone. Looking back, they were well-intentioned but for the most part, we ignored them. Today is the day we didn’t see coming. But yet, I think we have both seen it coming. For months now, I’ve cried over it like clockwork every 28 days. For all the foresight I had and the fears we had quietly admitted to, the doctor’s words hit me like a ton of bricks. And I’m still struggling to breathe. They tell you infertility’s not a me or you issue, it’s an us issue. I can only assume that’s something doctors who are completely ignorant of what this feels like have come up with to keep people feeling united because the truth is, it’s the most isolating thing in the world. Our dreams are shattered and neither of us quite has the wherewithal to start picking up pieces. What will that day look like? I’m not sure. Someone kept reminding me that this was for good but good continues to taste a lot like kale. I’ve never cared for kale. I hope and pray that someday, our dreams will be realized. That we will find our promised land and taste the sweetness of the milk and honey. Until that day, I pray for the strength to wake up each morning and love each other. Love, my dear husband. The only gift I have to give you today is my love. We dreamed of different gifts, of creating life and beauty together but today, we are left with simply love and the hope of one day creating a beautiful life that is very different than we ever dreamed. Until that day comes, in all of these icky, painful, in-betweens, can we…

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