Thanksgiving Redeemed

It took me two whole days to shake the funk of Thanksgiving. That’s unusual for me. Normally, my natural optimism combines with coffee to right my rose-colored glasses within a few hours of their falling askew.

But this funk? It had tentacles. It dug in. It held fast.

After another walk through the woods, a good night’s sleep (well, as good as I’m going to get with a six-month-old who’s growing teeth) and some heart-to-hearts with God, I decided this particular mood was resting heavy on me so I would learn something.

The lesson is: I don’t want to let another holiday slip by without me being intentional about celebrating it for the right reasons – both for myself and my children. I don’t want our family memories to include only presents and fireplaces and good food. I want memories with meaning.

Enter Ann Voskamp’s brand new Jesse Tree Advent devotional. It popped up yesterday in my Google reader, and I was overcome with grace.

We haven’t done a Jesse Tree until now. But I think this devotional and a few paper ornaments and a small tree and a lot of prayer will do a world of good to soothe the ache in my soul and keep the Christmas season honest this year.

What about you? If you’ve done a Jesse Tree in the past, do you have any tips or suggestions? Or do you have other Christmas traditions in your family that point to Jesus?

When Thanksgiving Isn't

I woke up this morning with a heavy heart.

I know that’s not the sort of thing you’re supposed to admit the day after Thanksgiving.

But in this case, Thanksgiving is to blame for my melancholy.

I had such high hopes for yesterday. For years now, our family holidays have tended toward the cultural and superficial. Nothing wrong with that. I love to cook a Thanksgiving meal, and family time while opening presents on Christmas morning is a warm memory.

Problem is, those events skin the surface of the real reason we are celebrating. These holidays (literally, holy days) are about much more than food and gifts. They are about God and our relationship to Him. They give us a chance to stop and remember and worship. The routine act of eating transforms into an humble act of thanks. The gifts exchanged are but a tiny echo of the Great Gift lavished on us.

In the midst of the cultural celebration, it’s easy for those deep truths to get lost – especially for those of us who have many wonderful family traditions. There’s nothing wrong with the way the day has always been spent. It’s just that I want it to be something more.

So yesterday, we said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” But the family hike in the woods I wanted to do, the one that would be the beginning of countless thoughtful family hikes in the woods on Thanksgiving, never happened. First the baby fell asleep. Then the turkey had to be put in he oven. Then the baby woke up. Then the baby was hungry. Then the guests arrived. And so I found myself crunching through the frosty air by myself at 4:00 PM yesterday, a journey separate from the one my husband took with our older kids a few hours earlier.

And my heart was glad to be outside and thankful for this great gift called life. But honestly? I was also discouraged.

Because by the time the walk was over and I went back inside to warm up, the game of Monopoly was still going on. Dinner was ready and yet the table wasn’t set, so we rushed to pick up the game pieces so we could eat. A prayer was said, but it was rushed because the kids were restless. And then two of the kids didn’t want to eat, having contented their bellies with the appetizers of crackers and cheese, and Teyla wouldn’t sit in her chair and someone started to talk politics and I left the table in the middle of dessert to bathe the baby so I wouldn't say what I’m thinking and suddenly

the day was over.

And we didn’t thank God for hardly anything. We didn’t focus on the many, many gifts we’ve been given.

It was just a day, a day of food and fun. A day of stress and distractions. Not a day of mindful gratitude.

Just an ordinary American Thanksgiving.

And I hate it.

I wanted something more.

Winter has its Pleasures

Four days ago, we broke records for heat. I wore flip-flops to Bible study and threw open all the windows in the house to catch the warm breeze.

Today, I woke up to snow.

Flakes so big, they veil the view.

Thick blankets of white cling to every branch

every leaf

every pumpkin and squash atop a bale of hay futilely trying to insist it's still fall.

Connor and Teyla are in their cozy fleece pajamas at 1:00 PM.

I made homemade sausage for breakfast and two hours later, the smell of crispy pork and dried sage perfume the air.

I'm on my second cup of coffee.

(I want a third.)

The baby is refusing to nap, preferring instead to play and drool and look adorable wearing fuzzy slippers for this very first time.

Winter is not without its pleasures.


Corey’s eyes met mine across a messy kitchen Sunday afternoon and I pointed to my heart and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice tinged with alarm.

“I feel churned,” I replied.

It’s an odd word to use to describe one’s condition.

But it’s the most fitting word I can find.

Lately, my heart rides the white water. I am pushed and pulled, slammed this way and that. Sometimes, it’s exhilarating. Sometimes, it’s frightening.

I trust my rafting guide. But he’s not known for taking the safe route, you know?

This past weekend, Corey and I attended the kick-off event for Orphan Sunday. It was an amazing evening, worship-fueled and laced with incredible stories of people loving crazy. I walked away brimming with hope after meeting so many determined to make a difference in the lives of orphans around the world. They have passion and a plan. Stories of adoptions, orphanages, food and water, love. These is the Church determined to not stand by while 18.5 million children fade into the background.

But then I got home from Colorado and read stories from friends in the trenches. Friends like Laura who writes about a girl who picks up a stone to defend herself, a child who has to grow old early, because she is an orphan. I wonder about all the children alone tonight, searching the skies, wondering if rescue is even something they dare believe in. I look into the soul of my own husband and see the scars.

The problem is so huge. It is beyond comprehension. The numbers stagger. And each numeral represents a story, a face, a name, an everlasting splendor.

You feel the churn with me, right?

I don’t know where this journey will take me. I am sitting in the raft, waiting for the green light to do my part. I have learned the importance of waiting on my rafting guide to give me the signal to act. Ultimately, this is His journey. I am only along for the ride.

In the meantime, I pray for the churning to change me.

Did your family or your church do something to mark Orphan Sunday yesterday? I'd love to hear about it. Tell me your story in the comments, or link back to a post you've written. I'll even make sure it gets back to my friends at the Christian Alliance for Orphans, the organization behind Orphan Sunday. I know they will be encouraged to hear how God moved yesterday.


Denial: stuffing my almost six-month-old, 20-pound baby into his 3-6 month pajamas because I don’t want him to move up in clothing size.





Irony: when my heart is so filled with words, I can’t write.

Frustrating: (see irony)

Peace: Laying in the dark atop a colorful pink quilt, with a sleeping baby sighing on my chest and a freshly-washed toddler curled under my arm.

Grace: my life, every day.