Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle Choice

Thanksgiving Lifestyle

A beautiful table setting
 All the homey lifestyle magazines, blogs and websites are cranking out holiday posts, links and pages now at an alarming rate—trying to get you geared up for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

There is no lack of ideas circulating!  Take your pick of themed holiday meals:  recipes for the most extravagant / easy-going / traditional / non-traditional / vegetarian / fat-free / preservative-free / free-range / brined / gluten-free / politically-correct / inexpensive . . .

And decorating ideas for the interior and exterior of your home using pinecones, garland, clippings from your own trees, acorns, gourds, pumpkins of every size/color/shape.    Don’t pass over the patterns for hand-made gifts and crafts and place-name holders and napkin rings and hostess gifts and guest favors and . . .

All of this (of course!) is meant to inspire you, so that you in turn can inspire your family and all your guests to a higher consciousness of holiday spirit.    Before it even starts, most of us are ready to pass out on the couch and eat leftovers!

Pulled in thirty-thousand different directions at once, rushing  here and there—all the while feeling out-of-sorts because somehow even though this is all good stuff to do, most of us don’t have the time or money or patience!    

Please join us in giving thanks!
And certainly since I am SUCH an awesome cook and have a slew of really good (five star) Thanksgiving recipes, I crank out a list of recipes you “simply must try.”    And with the holiday decorating tricks up my sleeve, I could load you up with those, too.  

But I’m not going to do that, dear Friend!   Nope!

You probably already have a really long To Do List staring you in the face.  You don’t need another project from me!    But I do have something you need and want (although you may not yet realize you want this—but trust me—you do!).

Instead I’m going to share something else with you that will remind you of the motivation for that big Thanksgiving feast—and hopefully put you in mind of the reason for the coming CHRISTmas season.

What is this awesome-ness that will make your holidays 
more full, rich, delightful and meaningful? 

Nothing more than some TRUE inspiration.   The spirit of thanksgiving …. a few quotes from my all-time favorite book and a couple of brief comments.  

Here’s a quote/passage that bears consideration:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful.”
Colossians 3:15

Go ahead and read that again.   Try saying it out loud.   Pause at that comma and those periods. 

You’ve been called to peace.   THEN be thankful.  

And you probably are thankful, aren’t you?   

When dear hubby opens the door or the neighbor kid snow-blows 10-inches from the driveway.  

The colors are so inviting!
And you’re thankful because hubby has a job—maybe even a really good job!—and the children are healthy and how great is it to have electricity and drinking a cup of cappuccino in front of the fireplace and that Gutenberg invented the moveable font printing press and food to eat and family safely arrived through the bad snowstorm.   Yeah!  God really IS good!

You can probably name 25 more things for which you’re thankful.

You’ve probably even been thankful when a muddy-from-head-to-toe preschooler smiled sweetly, offered a hand-picked bouquet of flowers, and lisped “I love you Momma.” Or when you saw a worn-out soldier walk through an airport newly home from a tour of duty and his young wife and several small children rushed joyfully to hug him a welcome home.   Or when the wrapping paper revealed the most-wanted gift of all time.  

Thankfulness bubbles up, smiles break out, and appreciation flows from a heart truly touched.

“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”   
Colossians 4:2

Do you WATCH for opportunities to give thanks?   Are you thankful when it rains on your picnic?   When your son smashes and totals your car?   When you’re staring at the ceiling feeling like you’re going to throw up?  

Are you thankful when the car gets a flat-tire on a frigid winter afternoon and you realize your gloves are laying on the counter back home along with your cellphone?    When your new job requires you to move hundreds of miles from family and home-so-dear?   

That's cranberries & grapefruit - total deliciousness!
Are you thankful when you wake up at 3 a.m. for the third night in a row and anxious thoughts pop into your head and the clock keeps track of every minute of wakefulness?    When your baby has a poopy diaper that schmushes up the back of her onesie?   When the dog meets a skunk and brings home memories of the lovely exchange?


Do you think during those rainy days “Thank you so much, God, for sending me this challenge and giving me a chance to show how much I trust in you.   And, Lord, thank you for reminding me how much you love me.”

Nowhere in all of Scripture are we told that things are going to be easy for us, like an “easy” button the office supply company commercials!   In fact, it’s just the opposite!

So, look at those situations again.   The skunk-fragrant dog?  The smashed car?   A new job far from loved ones?   A flat tire?   These are opportunities to sing God’s praises.   Really!  

Of course, our sinful nature resists seeing that God is—indeed—in control and knows exactly what is best for us at this moment in time.  

That darling baby in the poopy diaper—she sees you as the center of her little universe“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  (Colossians 3:24b)   

Relocating for that new job so far away from friends, perhaps there is a co-worker whose life will be touched by your willingness to speak about Jesus—and at Eternity you will hear Jesus say “Well done, good & faithful servant.”  

Those 3 a.m. wake-ups may turn out to be the perfect time to open your Bible and hear what God has to say to you for the day ahead.  Like the words of Psalm 77:12:  “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”   

The flat tire on a cold winter eve—maybe God wants you to slow down?  I KNOW God has a plan—because He tells us so in the Old Testament:    in the book written by the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 29, verse 11-13):

“For I know the plans I have for you;
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future. 
Then you will call upon me
and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Count the number of promises in there!   That’s amazing—that He will do all that for us!

And in the New Testament the apostle Paul writes:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Colossians 4:6

Can we dig in now?
We live IN the world, but we should be different FROM the rest of the occupants here.   Our response—in good times and in bad should be the same.   Trust God.   Praise God.  Thank God.   Believe God.   Turn to God.   Seek God.  Walk with God.  

And when unbelievers or newbie Christians or young believers see you convey thankfulness in all situations (instead of anger, spite, animosity, fear or worry), they will may pause and ask what it is that makes you different from the rest of the world.    And there—you have an opportunity to share the Gospel with a new friend or your own children!

The response during good and bad times is the same: 

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord.”  
Colossians 3:23

The way you live out the Gospel in your life—being thankful in all situations—will win more souls for the Lord.    It isn’t always easy, especially at first.  

"He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast."
 Proverbs 15:15 KJV

Thanksgiving 2009
Yep.  Bad stuff happens.   Give thanks anyway!   At all times.  In all places.   In every circumstance.

You are a redeemed child of God.   Jesus died for you.   He took away every sin you’ve ever committed (past, present, future).  

Give thanks no matter what’s going on in your world.   You do—after all—have the greatest reason of all to live continually in a state of thanksgiving.  Day in.  Day out.  For the rest of your life.  

You have a peace that no one can take away—no matter what’s going on around you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

While you’re looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family & friends, stop for a moment and remember.   Remember those loved ones far from home—keep in touch and say thank you!

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 
 Proverbs 31

Most of us have no trouble saying “thank you” as we’re standing at the door of a friend’s home after an evening of food, fun, and fellowship.   It’s almost like we don’t want the evening to end, so we say “thanks again” and the host or hostess blithely accepts our gratitude.   This may even happen a few times as we head down the front steps to the car in the driveway.   We turn back and wave, and shout another “thanks for a great evening!”   

When we finally get into the car, the warm feelings of a wonderful evening wrap us in warmth and good feelings.   We even say to our spouse, “we really should do this more often.”  The children in the backseats regret leaving their little buddies (and the toys!), “I had fun tonight!”  

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in him,…and overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:6-7

And so it goes.

How about saying thank you to the special people in your life who are away from family and friends during the holiday season?   It’s easy to forget that there ARE people who aren’t able to fly or drive home for a three- or four-day weekend from college or jobs.

Me Uncle Bill & Aunt Donna, Indpls, Sept 2010
I remember my years in the Air Force (lo these many years ago!) with much fondness, but holidays were pretty much horrible.  There’s nothing like living in a dormitory, when many have gone home or to friends’ homes for the long-weekends or holidays.  Thankfully my first year I was stationed for tech school near my favorite aunt and uncle at Thanksgiving, so I was able to spend it with them.   Aunt Donna pulled me under her wing (we’re both much older now!), and I had a great time helping her.   

“A kind-hearted woman gains respect…” 
Proverbs 11:6

However, the next two years, I was at my permanent duty station of Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska.   Too far from home in northern Wisconsin to make the almost-700 mile trip (one way) for the weekend.   Two years of being stuck in the dorm eating at the chow hall for Thanksgiving—ewww!  Granted the chow hall cooks tried to make us a great Thanksgiving feast, but turkeys roasted for hundreds of people, carved, then kept warm in serving trays over hot water—hmmm?—just isn’t as tasty as what a loving mother or an excellent aunt can do in their little home kitchens!  Nope!   Nothing tasted right—just hopelessly blah.  

And what really made me miserable was knowing my five younger brothers were getting to have a piled-up-high mound of Ma’s good mashed spuds, overflowing with her tasty gravy, puddling next to the stuffing and oozing under the slices of dark meat turkey!   Oh dear.  I was miserable both years eating my lukewarm turkey, icky spuds from a box and gravy that could’ve been made from concrete blocks.  Ugh.

So, think of the people you know who may be away 
from family and friends for Thanksgiving.    

Today's idea for thankfulness 
Put together a C.A.R.E. package and 
lighten up their holidays!   
Include a hand-written thank you note 
or letter of encouragement.  

Who Is a Likely Candidate?   Perhaps your church has missionaries stationed in another country where food-stuffs are difficult to obtain.   Or missionaries’ children are state-side while parents are overseas, and the student will be left to get-by in the dorm because it is too far to fly to be with the rest of the family.   Maybe you know of college students who are unable to get home for a short weekend with the family.  

Especially remember military members serving far from family—at great personal sacrifice in situations that are unbelievably spartan.    Our son recently left Afghanistan with some of the worst living conditions an American citizen can imagine for personal hygiene and privacy and safety.    It takes very little to make a soldier or marine thankful.    

A couple weeks prior to any holiday, host a Care Package Gathering with friends from church or the neighborhood.   If sending to a service member overseas, better plan this at least a month in advance so it gets there prior to the holiday (if possible).   Mail, even when “Express” or “Priority” doesn’t receive the same quick handling it gets here in the states.   

Packing a Care Package:   Obtain a large “priority mail” flat rate (make sure it says FLAT RATE) box from the Post Office, one for each package being mailed.   Print out the address label.   Any packages going overseas will need a Customs Declaration form, too.  

What to Send:   Ask each guest to bring something that will make a soldier or student happy.   It might be good to ask the youth’s mom or dad for specific suggestions, too.    Here are some general ideas of welcomed package items:    snacks, chips, crackers, jerky, gum, hard candy, candy bars, fruit snacks, pop-tarts, sunscreen, hand-wipes, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, family pictures, sports team stuff, games, puzzles, etc. 

My son’s favorite package was themed around “summer fun” for his Half-Birthday (August) when it was really hot in Afghanistan.    He really liked the John Wayne movies and the two bottles of Dr. Pepper (they don’t have any over there).   I included a package of cheap squirt guns for him and his buddies to “play” with and some other silly-kid things on clearance in the “summer” aisle at Wal-Mart. He loved it!    

Special Care:   Make sure anything spill-able is put into a clean zip-lock (just the right size) just in case it would accidentally get opened.  

Mailing the Package:   When you take your box(es) to the Post Office, remind the teller that your package is going to an active duty soldier in a war zone—you get a cheaper rate!!    Packages MUST be sent to a specific soldier, the military will NOT deliver to “Any US Army Soldier” or other non-specific addressee.   

As you’re filling out the Customs Declaration form, err on the side of keeping your description more “general” to avoid the box being stolen or vandalized.   Sorry to say, that does happen from time to time!    If the box is undeliverable to your soldier, you can mark the little box on the form to have it returned to you…but if you mark the box to have it left there…then they will divide it between the other soldiers there instead.

“A generous woman will prosper; 
she who refreshes others will herself be refreshed.”
Proverbs 11:25
 (modified to fit the womanly aspect of our discussion)

Our next post . . . 
Home-made Thankfulness for the Home

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanks Giving: A Series as You Prepare for Thanksgiving

Setting the Scene:  Beauty for Your Home

We can’t ignore the message of Autumn.   Tree colors blaze magnificently across the country-side.   Changing weather patterns bring cooler temps and rain.   Daylight hours shrink.   Chilly temps book-end our mornings and evenings.    And just like that, Autumn nudges the home-maker to action.

No longer jumping in the pool or sitting under the shaded pergola to cool off, there’s a bit of urgency about our evenings now.   Our chores now focus on putting the garden and yard to bed for the winter.  Home and cars need winterizing treatments.   Leaves need raking, flower beds need mulching, spring bulbs need planting.   

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Not giving up easily, we host one last outdoor event under the hastening evening of the autumn sky.  Our friends join us around the cozy fire-ring in the backyard, we toast marshmallows and toes, embers glow and sparks float into the blue-purple night.    Faces glow, smiles are shared, and fingers tingle from the chill that nips the air.    Even, there—did you see it?—your breath!

And so we retreat indoors knowing that icy-cold winter winds are not far off.

Sweaters, turtlenecks, and long pants emerge from summer hibernation; slippers toddle out from the back of the closet; thick brown socks warm your toes.    Comfortably attired, we think about making our homes inviting and pleasant for our family and for friends who visit.    But this particular home-maker and her husband are on a debt-retirement kick, and she knows that every penny counts.   There are feasts and festivities and gift-giving coming up later this month and next.   

Yet her heart yearns to make her home beautiful and welcoming.   She’s seen the beautiful photos in the home-decorating magazines and websites.   How can she transform her sweet little home into a welcoming abode with charming accessories and simple comforts that make holiday guests feel special?   How can she do this without breaking the budget?

The Christian home-maker will first look to God’s Word for direction, and these encouraging verses from the Old Testament provide the framework for the home-maker’s motivation and a lively pep-talk to get the work off to a God-pleasing start:  

“She…works with eager hands…bringing her food from afar…. 
She sets about her work vigorously ….  
She sees that her trading is profitable…. 
When it snows she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  
She makes coverings for her bed.”
Proverbs 31, selected verses
from the NIV translation

The scrutinizing eyes of the home-keeper notice everything.   She gives every room a scrutinizing review.   

What’s working? 
What’s not?  
What little thing will make this room say “Hello!  Glad you’re here!  Sit down!  Stay awhile!”  

She makes a plan and sets to work to transform her home with a few accessories here and there.  Here are a few tried-n-true suggestions from the Old Wife Who Knows A Few Things.

Add Visual Warmth

As the cooler temps arrive, add visual warmth with these easy-to-do tips:

(1)    Place candles on the counter and table-top in the kitchen and dining room, and on the side tables and coffee tables in the living room.
(2)    LIGHT the candles each evening—don’t just wait for guests.   The flickering glow will add delight for the eye and warmth to the room for your family, too! 
(3)    If you have a fireplace, lay in a supply of wood.   Polish the poker, ash bucket and shovel.
(4)    Tuck seed pods, mini pumpkins, bittersweet vines, berry twigs or grape vines along shelves.  

Re-arrange Your Old Stuff

If you collect small things, take a look and see if anything fits the season:

(1)   Salt & pepper shakers in deep autumn colors or themes
(2)   Bells (copper cowbells look interesting with a sprig of bittersweet!)
(3)   Plates with birds or turkeys or geese….or go for the Harvest Colors theme
(4)   Yellow, orange or green vases sporting a sprig of bittersweet or tiny cattails

Incorporate “Nature”

If you have access to garden materials (ask neighbors or friends who have large yards, too) for any of the following:

(1)    Seed pods (milkweed pods, for example) or seed heads like purple coneflower or rose-hips add a beautiful dimension to dried flower arrangements.
(2)    Cat-tails can be heavily sprayed with hair-spray, then added to a deep vase with other fall stalks from the garden.
(3)    Grapevines and flower vines that would go into the compost, can be artfully arranged, made into swags to hang in the porch or over a doorway.   A bit of wire to twist things together, a long piece of ribbon from the sewing room, and maybe a silk flower to finish it off.
(4)    Collect acorns or hickory nuts and fill a clear vase (then add the cat-tails!).
(5)    Autumn leaves collected during a walk make a beautiful addition to shelves or tabletops.  Make them last longer by smashing their stems and hydrating with Glycerin (Rose Water) from the pharmacy.   These leaves will last for years if you’re careful when you store them.   
(6)    Add squashes and gourds and baby pumpkins to the centerpiece.  
(7)    A few sprigs of bittersweet vine and berries liven up the bookshelves or mantelpiece.
(8)    Pile pinecones and leaves in a wooden bowl for a simple centerpiece.
(9)    Pomegranates and oranges make a beautiful, colorful statement lined up on the kitchen counter.
(10)Prune evergreens from your yard, and add a bough or two along the windowsills.   Add a battery-operated candle for a warm-welcome to all who drive or walk past your home.

Speaking of getting out in nature:   Take hikes in the woods while the canopy above is golden-orange—you’ll feel like a queen!   Bring along your camera.   Then lie down beneath a golden-orange maple or a burning bush with flaming red leaves and take a slew of pictures.    Download the pictures to your computer and use as your desktop OR print out, frame and display the autumn glory around your home.   Overlay with scripture passages which remind you of God’s magnificence.  

Make a “Corner-Copia”

Watch for sales of pumpkins, squashes, gourds and other fall crops that can be used in your centerpiece for Thanksgiving.   These things generally can sit on your counter for months without going bad.   Look around your kitchen for a spot where you can make an autumn-to-winter cornucopia arrangement.    An unused corner of the counter works perfectly.  Wipe each fruit with clean rag, add a spot of oil to give it a shiny overcoat and polish over the whole surface.    Look at those highlights!   So pretty!!

Add tomatoes, apples, carrots, and any other fruits and vegetables from your grocery shopping!   Let the children arrange and re-arrange.

"Sweet is the hour that brings us home, where all will spring to meet us;
where hands are striving, as we come to be the first to greet us.
~ Eliza Cook

Cuddly Accessories

Encourage folks to sit-a-spell instead of each going off to his or her own space:

(1)    Hang afghans and other snuggly warm blankets to the backs of the couch, chairs, and rockers in your living and family rooms.
(2)    Some accessories may migrate from room-to-room, too.   A creamy, white afghan or a blue blanket from the bedroom may join you in the living room during January when you have your snowman stuff out.   
(3)    Add a stack of magazines or favorite books to the nearby coffee table.   
(4)    Clear off a side table and dump out a puzzle for the family to enjoy re-piecing.   Look for seasonal puzzles at second-hand shops, and add another dimension to your decorating genius-quotient!

When shopping for couch blankets and pillows for your home, look for colors that will work for more than one season.  

(1)    Gold will be pretty in both autumn and winter.
(2)    Red will work through the holidays and be nice clear until February’s love-fest.   
(3)    Greens will carry over from holiday-cheer, can be put away for awhile and brought back out in spring and on into summer.   
(4)    Blues and whites complement many winter scenes in January to early February with snowmen and villages.

"The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have,
instead of what you don't have."
~ Woody Allen

Your Assignment . . .

With a small note-pad & pencil in hand, wander through your home, give each room a good looking-at, make a list of any little things you can do which involve NO cost and those which would be LOW cost.  

Give your linen closet and storage boxes a once-over, too.  You’ll be surprised what you may find lurking in a tucked-away spot.   

Check in the dark corners of the kitchen cabinets and the buffet.   What are those quirky knick-knacks from Gramma doing in a box in the attic?  

LOOK at things and ask yourself:  How can I re-purpose this item for holiday decorating—without spending a dime?

Sing to the Lord of Harvest, sing songs of love and praise.
With joyful hearts and voices your alleluias raise.
By Him the rolling seasons in fruitful order move;
Sing to the Lord of harvest a joyous song of love.

Christian Worship, hymn 614
Text:  John S.B. Monsell, 1811-1875
Tune:  Johann Steurlein, 1546-1613

Stay tuned for my next post:   While you’re looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family & friends, remember those who are far from home—check out some ideas to keep in touch and say thank you!