It’s hard to imagine that Thanksgiving week is here already. It seems the world around us has moved on to Christmas as the catalogs crowd my mailbox, the Christmas music plays everywhere, the stores and halls are decked out in all their festive decor, and my life is filled with rehearsals for our Christmas musical at church. I love Christmas!
But, I think it’s important to take time to pause and give thanks before the season overtakes or overwhelms us. Perhaps that practice of gratitude will help sustain us and teach us how to keep our focus on the joy and beauty of Christ to be found in these holiday seasons as we move forward into December.
Developing a heart of gratitude is a habit we must cultivate, a path we can choose to take. It requires us to be intentional. Sometimes it surprises us to find that it is not just the big things, but often the little details of life that capture our gratitude. In my own life when I don’t stop and take notice of the things and people for which I’m thankful, I miss those sacred grace moments God is pouring out to bless me. I miss the abundance. I miss the slowing down and taking in the treasures and the memories.
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So this Thanksgiving holiday week I encourage you to take some time, reflect on events, details, people and circumstances of each day and write down at least three things for which you are grateful. Sometimes it’s even harder to do during the holidays. I began this practice years ago after reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts book and the Lord used it to prepare me for one of the most difficult seasons we ever faced as a family. Through the practice my perspective was transformed forever.
Often we find ourselves so consumed with the busyness of the holiday feasts that our souls come up empty.
It can be easy to have a heart of gratitude when life is going smoothly. But, what about the seasons of struggle, those hard places, the conflicts, those painful times when the path leads us into deep valleys?
Consider praying, “Father, help me see the beauty of Jesus in these moments, too. Help me find the heart of gratitude and joy even when it is buried deep.” You may be surprised to find that joy and blessing can be found in your search for God in the deep, hard places where you couldn’t see Him before.
This Thanksgiving will be quiet for us. My children are not able to be with us, but will be home for Christmas. My sister is visiting her children and my mom is 91 and rarely knows who I am as her Alzheimer’s disease has progressed. Mom was a wonderful cook and quite the hostess in her day. I remember many fabulous Thanksgiving feasts in our home growing up and then my sister took over the tradition. Those years hold precious memories in my heart.
Mom made a home for us. A home that was so much more than the threshold we crossed, but a place where we felt loved. She filled that home with creative homemaking which always included delicious meals, fresh flowers from her garden, kindness, generosity, words of encouragement and wisdom that I cherish. I am so aware that not everyone had this blessing. Our home wasn't perfect, but I am deeply grateful for my mother and father who provided a home where I was nourished as a child growing up.
This week my husband Ken and I visited mom at the Thanksgiving dinner for the residents at the retirement/nursing home where she now lives. Mom needs 24/7 nursing care as she falls often, could easily wander off and get lost and has had pneumonia three times in the last year. Yet, despite her illness mom makes a gracious impact on this place. As we entered, several of the nurses who care for her came to tell me how she was very busy this morning instructing them as they all prepared for the feast. She showed them how to smooth out the table cloths and was quite taken with the beautiful napkins, ever the gracious hostess! It's clear she is loved in this place. That is who she is, and it shines even through her disease and blesses everyone in her midst.
As we visited and ate our dinner together, she smiled and grabbed my hand and I wondered. There seemed to be a glimmer of recognition in her eyes, as if she knew me. Perhaps it was the longing of my heart and imagination or was it a gift from the Father? It doesn’t really matter, I am thankful for those small moments with the woman who has so generously given life and love to my family. Her life and values have shaped me and left a legacy for which I am forever grateful.
After mom was diagnosed, I wanted to be sure we had her recipes and so I asked her to teach me how to cook her famous cornbread dressing and spinach madeleine. I knew in time those recipes in her head would be gone. I will be making her delicious dishes during the holiday in her honor, for even though she no longer knows me, I am still her daughter and the love and gracious hospitality she gave to our family has shaped us all.
My girls carry on her Thanksgiving feast traditions in their own celebrations. This week my youngest called me from NYC wanting the spinach madeleine recipe to make for her friends! It is a recipe quite famous in the Baton Rouge area that has made its way to Georgia, and the Carolina's as my oldest daughter has shared Thanksgiving with her husband's family. This yummy dish will even travel on the plane to Philedelphia with my sister this week! I'll include the recipe below in case you want to try it out.
I am asking the Father to give me His eyes to see His purpose, behold His beauty and give me a heart that is grateful for the time of quiet this holiday that is unusual for us. We must choose to look for the gifts He has provided in those unexpected ways or circumstances. As I reflect, I realize that my fall season has been very full with voice students, ministry and teaching the Word in Restore Bible studies, travel and caring for my mom and family. It seems that the Lord has orchestrated a time of needed rest for my body and soul that I would not normally choose for myself. For that, I can choose gratitude.
I realize that many of you reading this will experience a Thanksgiving full of activity, cooking, travel, relatives, family and feasting.
In the midst of preparing the food for your holiday feast, consider how you can tend to a feast of thankfulness for your soul.
You’ll never regret the time you spend cultivating a habit of gratitude and praise. Wouldn’t that be a great legacy to leave behind one day! The meaning of our lives doesn't come from how fast we race, how stressed out we are or how perfect we make our holidays. It comes from God and how much He loves us. We can choose to take the slow path and acknowledge that life is a gift...a gift to be given away
Colossians 3:16-17 (NIV) Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So go ahead, make those gratitude lists each day. You may find that it is a holy habit you want to continue throughout Christmas and into the New Year to keep your heart focused on the blessings in your life, instead of the struggles. Enjoy the feast of turkey and all the trimmings, soak in the laughter, the conversations, the crisp air and vibrant colors of autumn, and then take some quiet moments to reflect. For the wonders of our great God are everywhere. Choose to invest some time building a heart of gratitude, for ultimately it is a path that will lead you to great joy and abundance.
In Louisiana we are finally beginning to see beautiful colors in late November. They are often not as brilliant here as they are in other parts of the world because of our mild climate, but this year the trees are really showing off. The cypress trees are a gorgeous burnt rust and the Pistachio tree in my driveway is brilliantly shimmering gold and orange as I drive down our street. I love all things fall – pumpkins, apple cider, falling leaves and the brilliant golds, oranges and reds the Lord paints in our world. It’s a season for which I am grateful. As I write, my pumpkin spice candle is burning and filling the room with the scent of autumn. Throughout the year, I collect some of my favorite pictures of fall. The colors remind me of the beauty our great God has put on display for us in His creation. They are a visual feast for the eyes. Enjoy the gallery of autumn images and pathways below. They are lined in vibrant colors. As you view them, ask the Father to give your eyes the capacity to see the beauty and wonder in the path where He is leading you in this season of your life. You may find it in unexpected places.
Father, thank you that You are interested in every detail of my life and character. Keep my eyes and my heart focused on You. Help me to slow down, take in the moments, the memories, the joy and the pain in a way that I am filled with gratitude
for You are with me through it all.
Help me not to miss the wonders and beauty You bless me with each day. Give me the courage to follow the path in the direction you are leading me and the strength to dig deeply into the treasure of You in every situation.
Thank you that Your heart is to use any difficulties that I face as an opportunity to see You at work in my life. Thank you that You enrich my life through each problem and situation when I let You use them to expose my need, my sin, or my pride. Thank you that through the difficult seasons You have humbled me and perfected my faith.
You use each circumstance to ultimately bring me to a place
of greater abundance and a deeper understanding of the depth of Your love.
Thank you for the promises, the truth and the treasure found in Your Word. Keep my heart tender and full of compassion for those in need. Fill my heart so that it overflows
with gratitude for the beauty and grace you have poured into my life.
Father, by your grace, give me Your eyes to see, Your ears to hear,
and a mouth that speaks boldly the praises of my Savior.
For You alone are worthy of all the honor, glory and praise!
In Jesus Name,
Wishing you a feast for your soul this holiday,
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalm 34:1-3,8 ESV)
Please share what you are grateful for in the comment section below or on the social media page where you are reading our blog. We wish you a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!! May you find abundance in the path of gratitude!
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Spinach Madeleine (adapted from River Road Cookbook)
2 Packages frozen chopped spinach
4 TBL. butter
2 TBL. flour
2 TBL. chopped onion
1/2 cup vegetable liquor (drained from cooked spinach
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. celery salt
3/4 tsp. garlic salt or fresh chopped garlic
salt to taste
1 pkg. Mexican Velveeta mild cheese (use about 6-8 oz.)
1 tsp. Worcestire sauce
red pepper to taste or Toni's seasoning
(If you cannot find Mexican Velveeta cheese use regular Velveeta and add chopped jalapeño peppers)
Cook spinach according to directions on package. Drain and reserve liquor. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add flour, stirring until blended and smooth but not brown. Add onion and cook until soft but not brown. Add liquid slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. cook until smooth and thick; continue stirring. Add seasonings and cheese which has been cut into small pieces. Stir until melted. Combine with cooked spinach. This may be served immediately or put into casserole and topped with butter bread or cracker crumbs. The flavor is improved if the latter is done and kept in fridge overnight. Serves about 8. Freezes well. Enjoy!
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