This time of year always has me hopeful. I am not sure what it is, if it’s the story of Christmas, the childlike enamorment with giving gifts to others, or white twinkly lights. I think… More
Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!
My pantry is stocked, the menu is set, and the house is mostly clean. This year we’re having Thanksgiving here in Nashville, as my parents had an appointment in town this week. There’s baking to be done and a Turkey Trot to prep for Thursday morning.
I wrote last week a bit about rushing Christmas but I do enjoy Thanksgiving as well. For several years my parents traveled to the beach during this week for a festival, and to escape the colder weather of east Tennessee. Between schedules, vacation time allowances, and the short travel window, I often opted not to join them. So it often meant I was solo for Thanksgiving. Honestly I didn’t much mind as I love to cook, and this is the Super Bowl of cooking in my mind. I had offers from friends and coworkers to join them and their families for the holiday, which I always appreciated, but never took them up on. Partly because I’m a bit of an introvert (shocking I know) but I also didn’t want to interfere on their family time.
Recently I was thinking on this as I prepped my lists and put up my decorations. Singles often find themselves alone on holidays for many of the same reasons I had-travel costs, vacation time allotment, schedules. But sometimes family is just hard for some singles, or they don’t have family in the definition we often attribute. In that perspective it’s hard to give thanks, it’s hard to sit at home and dwell in that constant quiet of single life. It’s difficult to see the family aspect come out in every commercial, show and conversation being had.
So if you know of some singles-whether they be at church, work, friend circles-check on them and find out if they are spending Thanksgiving solo. See if they’d like to join you, your family, or start a new tradition as a single and host your own for those who may not have somewhere to go or who don’t want to cook! You may get turned down, but press in a bit without being pushy. Be a bit vulnerable with your hospitality, even when it’s not perfect. Even when it gets a bit messy explaining the family relations as a backstory.
It doesn’t take a buffet, an immaculate home, or well-behaved family. It takes opening your heart and your door to someone and giving thanks for that opportunity. It’s giving thanks for perspective and a seat-filled at the table, where so many conversations and life are done. It’s choosing a moment of uncomfortable for a season of thanks and giving. Maybe you’ll have a new tradition for your family for years to come.
So I put up my Christmas tree yesterday. Yep, Veterans’ Day…November 11th, and the Christmas tree is up. I have seen alot of ill-will and shade thrown this year about the Christmas décor and music coming too early.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. I have done multiple years of thankfulness projects right here on this blog. Thanksgiving morning I have a tradition, and this year I’ll be running a 5K to add to it. Me and Macy’s parade are bffs and I watch it all while I begin prep work.
But there’s something about the spirit of Christmas that I want to pull in close. The hope. The joy. The peace. Especially this year. I yearned for that sense of awe in a year that has seen change and hurt and worry sweep across everyone’s hearts and lives. I want to wrap up in the holidays this year. Last year I said no to so much to slow it down and create space for my heart. This year I wanted to usher it in fully and be known and to know the season deeply. To rejoice and be filled with gladness.
I may be wrong but I feel as if the world is groaning for the holiday season, for the Christmas season. The anticipation of drawing into the birth of Christ, to remember the thrill of Hope, our weary world rejoicing at Him coming to be with us. I have this sense of pulling in close to His with-ness and seeing the hope abounding. To celebrating His desire to be with us, and our response of awe and wonder. Our coming to give Him the gifts that can never match the Gift of Him.
So I have my tree up on November 11th, and the filling of a heart drawing into the Christmas season knowing His with-ness is reason to rejoice. A reason to push the season a little earlier and usher in joy, peace, and Christ Himself a bit closer to this world-weary heart.
For the most part I love social media. I think it’s a great avenue to connect, learn and grow….along with sharing pictures with friends. I have made friends just from online communities that I spend time with IRL, and I have found ways to decorate and cook as well. Recently though, I was having a bit of a chaotic mind and heart that I was frankly compartmentalizing and distracting with social media.
For the first few days of November I took a fast from it all. My head and my heart craved the quietness, the space, the stillness. It was nine days of finding a heart that needed to breathe, a mind needing to settle. Honestly I needed to learn to pare down and shut down, to listen more to my self and the call to my heart from God.
If I am honest with you all, it was difficult the first couple of days when it got quiet. I’d want to go to the phone for distraction, but as the days grew on I realized my dependency on noise to fill the quiet was not healthy. For me, it’s become a noise-filled culture that my head and my heart really can’t quite come to terms with living in 24/7. Even more so, as I have spent time in prayer and reading and just being still I have come to find it’s allowed me time to reflect on the seasons I have been in over the last few years and hear more from God on the one I am finding myself in.
As I was reading the last bit of my study of Esther this morning, I couldn’t help but realize that we’ve subbed out reflection and stillness, in remembering God in our midst and at our defense for quick snippets of Scripture and posted prayer requests for the masses. (I am just as guilty y’all) We quickly jump to the very next thing without sitting in the moment of God’s provision, His timing, His beauty. We can celebrate God’s great strength and faithfulness in our circumstances, but how good are we at marking them for remembrance in our own hearts and lives? How well are we doing at tuning our minds and hearts to see His providing, His rescue and His defense in our lives every single day? I’m really good at knowing what’s going on in my HOA group online, but not so much about God’s working in my heart if I’m not careful.
As I read deeper about Purim, first marked in those pages of Esther, I found that often we forget the faithfulness of the God we love and serve. We move on to the next project, next task, next circumstance without celebrating the goodness of a God Who intervenes, who wants all things to turn out for good in us, who asks for our attention and who absolutely deserves all our devotion.
For me, it’s about tuning out more of the noise and tuning my head and my heart to stillness and quiet, to reflection and celebration of God’s unwavering faithfulness in my lives of others. That means fasts from social media, choosing time alone, and recognizing the ways in which He provides daily.
Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything
with prayer and supplication,
let your requests be known to God.
If you’ve been around Christianity for any length of time, you’ve heard this verse handed out when you say you are worried about something. It’s often given as a platitude by a well-meaning pastor or friend to easily point you to peace of mind. But I have to be honest with you that I haven’t really taken to that verse.
You see I’m quite the anxious person. I worry inwardly alot and have for years. About some of the most ridiculous things, about people, situations, words, you name it. I have worried about it. Let me be even more real with you all, that kind of worry all the time will eat you up. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Recently I grabbed a copy of Max Lucado’s new book Anxious for Nothing on a whim. I have only read one other book from Lucado, and it’s a small Christmas book I received for free once. As I tiptoed into the book with a skeptic’s eye on the very verse I have grown to really be irritated with, I was surprised to find that I had been looking at it with the wrong heart and the wrong perspective.
In my anxiousness I had chosen to identify with the chaos of the world instead of the sovereignty of God. I was running to tension, control and calamity instead of peace, security, and surety in Him.
As much as I didn’t this to be a book review, I have to contend that Max Lucado’s book on the verse against anxiety is one that caused me to re-examine the whole Scripture and context of Paul’s words to the Philippians. Lucado walks through the various areas Paul points out in the key verse but also lays the ground work around it, and our hearts that are so easily prone to anxiety-whether by our own doing or undoing. He also provides practical avenues of applying the words of Paul to our lives day in and day out.
Overall it caused me solely to realize that the chaos of anxiety is born out of a fallen world, and born within a fallen person…me. But I get to choose whether I abide in that chaos or the calm of the sovereign Lord each and every day. Not to be Pollyanna-ish about it, but the acknowledgement of choosing it daily is often the first step towards being anxious for nothing.
I remember few Halloween costumes growing up as a kid. There’s only one photo of me in one (hi second kid over here), and it was taken by the school during lunch. One of the ones I remember vividly though is of Barbie. If you are a child of the 80s and early 90s you’ll remember our costumes didn’t exactly resemble the ones of today. By that I mean it was a plastic mask and essentially a painted trash bag you slipped over your school clothes. The trash bag often was painted to give you the idea of a costume. But it was a trash bag and a flimsy plastic mask held on by a string that inevitably broke 5 minutes into the night.
What brought this to mind was not the fact that today is Halloween, but what I was reading in Ephesians 6. As Paul starts to conclude his letter we see nestled in the very last paragraphs his instructions on arming ourselves for daily battle as believers. He lists out exactly what we should be arming ourselves with, and that it should be the full armor of God. We cannot go into battle with just a helmet and shoes, or a shield and a belt. He is pointing to the very real need to have a complete armor to face the things which wage against us daily.
Many of us, if we grew up in the church, have heard of the full armor of God. We might even remember flannel-graphs being pulled out and we dress up a figured with the items. But as I read the garments for battle I kept thinking of that stinkin’ Barbie costume. The image kept coming to mind as I tried again and again to focus in on what Paul was saying.
Then I went back a verse to see these words anew:
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.
(v. 10, CSB)
You see I too often try to strap on all my battle gear and armor without taking into account that it’s of my own making. That I am essentially putting on that trash bag and plastic mask for battle daily rather than leaning into the strength of the Lord. I am taking plastic facades of my own weakness to fight against principalities and powers that know exactly what will take me down, and yet I seem to be fine with that. I choose my own lack of strength instead of allowing myself to be strengthened by the Lord and given His strength. I put on trash bags instead of righteousness, flimsy strings instead of salvation.
So when Paul’s words struck anew about fashioning each day with the full armor of God it’s not in my strength (or true lack thereof) but in the Lord’s that I put it on. Not in my former self, that was all too dependent upon me to take care of things, but in my new clothes those of a new self…one that recognizes the need for the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit and all the rest for each day. Not more than today but just the armor of today specifically for battle. My armor looks to be more prepared and strengthened in what it should be rather than that Barbie costume I tried to hide behind.
Time is a precious commodity to us all. We believe we can control it but in fact we have absolutely zero control over time in general-it moves whether we want it to or not. I see posts of friends’ kids with the caption “time slow down” and the inevitable countdown to Christmas clocks as well. So you see we want both, we want it to slow down and to speed up.
Along with our talent and our treasure (money y’all), time is ours to give as my pastor likes to point out. We each are given the same, but with our differing treasures and unique talents we can choose how to spend out of our time bank so to speak.
I have to say for me personally, I will choose the least productive and effective way to spend my time when I have a deadline on my writing (I currently have two). Or if I’m honest anytime I find that I could be working on my book. I will scroll through Netflix to find something to binge or go wander through thrift stores instead of buckling down to do the work. I admit that to y’all simply because I know we can’t all have holy moments of spending our time 24 hours a day, seven days a week devoted to focused spending of it. But I do feel that our culture has gotten to a place of more time wasted than ever before, and I am a contributor over here.
So when we read Paul’s words in Ephesians to “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live–not as unwise people but as wise–making the most of the time, because the days are evil,” (CSB) we find that how we spend our time is much more important than we like to believe. The days will lie to us, telling us we have more time when we don’t really know that it’s the case. In the NKJV version along with several others, Paul exhorts us to “redeem the time” and I find that a challenge. We get to choose how to invest our greatest commodity, the value of our time, and make the very most of it living as wise individuals in that knowledge.
And yet, do we?
I know I don’t often do that…she says after watching three straight episodes of Stranger Things season 2. Instead I will waste time, spend it fruitlessly and frivolously as if I have control over how much is in my account to give. How and where we spend our time also reflects our hearts’ focus and desire, what we are valuing over everything else. Because when we spend time on things of no value or no worth, we are telling everything else to everyone else is less meaningful, that we value this so much more over that.
That realization gave me pause as I read Paul’s words once more to the Ephesians as he laid out living a life in Christ and our consistency in our lives in the walk with Him. Because I can spend it wisely or foolishly, but I’ll never get it back.
So how do I redeem my time? How are you making the most of the time you are given?
A couple of years ago I wrote this piece on Abounding in Thanksgiving and I cannot help but nestle back into it again. In case you missed it the first go-round. Check it out.