The Solo Thanksgiving

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.

 

 

Begin Again

So here we are a week into 2017. How are those resolutions treating you? Or better yet, how are you treating them? I know all the statistics surrounding the people who keep their resolutions is staggering at best. It reminds us of failure and best laid plans.

Shoot, even I indulged in cheesecake yesterday and thought “well, here you are ya failure.” But then I remembered it’s my choice. I chose to grab that deliciousness (and it was delicious) with the same choice I made to get in good health this year. One doesn’t nullify the other but it can overshadow it if I let it.

I can allow the weight of one poor decision to counteract the good intentions and focus I had the other six days of the week. Or I can say that this was a choice today, that has no effect on what I accomplished the other six days this week and will have zero bearing on the next six days following.

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Recently I was listening to a friend speak about beginning again…something we all often like to do in January each year. We have come off the indulgences (and some over indulgences) of the holiday season that lasted well over six weeks. We have said “come January” more often than we would care to admit. In my friend’s sermon I couldn’t help but think about how we reserve January 1 as a do over day. We hit reset, wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

But what about April 18? Or July 24? Or October 1?

I think we put far too much emphasis on the date on the calendar than we do the intentions and purpose of our hearts and minds. We lump in so much, put alot of pressure on a new year, on January 1 to bring about some radical shift in our lives that when it’s a week later and we’ve not seen much we grow discouraged. Or when we slip up because we’ve lived for the last eight weeks, eight months, eight years, a lifetime a different way that we chalk it up to us being failures.

What if instead of letting one slip up damage the whole focus of your determination, preparation and focus, you allow it to give you another reset? What if instead of focusing on the location of where you find yourself on January 8th, you focus on the people you get to interact with, what you can learn from them, how you can bring brightness to their day?

Maybe you do need to begin again today. It’s a new day, full of new mercies. It’s full and waiting for you. Maybe it’s about not letting the date on the calendar or one poor choice dictate how your life is structured and lived out. You get the choice. You get the decision. You get to tell failure that it had it’s time, you have learned and you are utilizing that to move in the direction you feel led. That it’s not about where you are in location, job, relationship, hardship or joy but it’s about choosing to begin again with yourself.


You can listen to my friend’s sermon here. (And you should)

A Single New Year

December 30th…when the tension starts to rise a bit for the singles. We have navigated the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah, hopefully with some success and self-confidence in tact.

But y’all we are heading into New Year’s Eve. So many years I spent putting alot of pressure on this eve of a new year, thinking that it would be the culmination of hopes that I had all year long. Plans, dresses, dinners, and plenty of social activities. Some years I had plans months in advance, others found me with none. Absolutely zero plans. It felt like it was a reflection of my marital status…FAILURE.

So for quite a while I lived in that reality that I had to have plans, a date on New Year’s Eve. That this specific date-December 31st held some significance in how my life lived out the next year. It set the standard in my mind for quite a while.

But let me tell all my singles right now, on December 30th, that it’s a lie. NYE is just a reason for people to make life goals they’ll have forgotten by April and an excuse to indulge in excess one last time before the slate gets “wiped clean” so to speak. How you spend your NYE is not a reflection of your life in the last year, or in the one to come.

Don’t let a day define your life. Don’t let plans, or lack thereof, do it either. And most certainly DO NOT LET YOUR MARITAL STATUS AS SINGLE DEFINE YOUR YEAR! I think that’s hard for some people to accept and live with. I think they wrap up all of who they are in having someone, being with someone, whether a date or a girlfriend or a spouse, that’s how they define all of their life.

But it doesn’t have to define your’s. Whether you find yourself sitting at home watching the ball drop this December 31st, or in a large crowd of friends and family, know that your 2017 isn’t laid out in how you spend it or who you spend it with (or who you don’t).

Happy New Year readers!

The Manger

You know the song we sing around this time of year, “Away in a Manger”? Well that song has been on my mind for weeks now. Odd, I know. Of all the Christmas carols, hymns, songs to have, that one isn’t one that truly sticks out as a mind-grabber. But alas, here I am this morning humming it while I clean up breakfast and look at the tree partially lit up (half the lights at the top went out, it’s a thing I just don’t have the will to drag out new lights for).

The line “the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head” is what keeps popping into mind and I am having a hard time here with it. Here’s why…

I think we like to look at Christ as this babe in a feeding trough there in a stable-structure. We like to see Him as this babe that shepherds came to marvel and wise men sought to honor with gifts, but we keep Him there in this context throughout our lives.

jesus-in-the-mangerWe have this concept that Christ is infant-to wonder and lavish love upon, but we don’t like the reality that His Presence commands of our lives. We don’t like that when He came with us, our selves got a bit too uncomfortable, our lives got rocked by Emmanuel. God with us.

Because that meant we couldn’t point to His absence, His silence, as excuse. He physically laid out His life, relinquishing the glories of heaven and His right in order that we might be in relationship with Him. In a few months we’ll look to Him on the cross, but I think we often upgrade the image of Christ as a babe in order to downplay our need for Him.

When we put Christ only in the image of the manger, born in a stable as a helpless babe, it appeases our self to think He can’t do it all, He can’t be relied upon and maybe He needs our help instead of the other way around. We don’t greet Him with welcoming in our lives often, but instead stare in wonder at this humanness of God Incarnate instead.

In reading Luke’s account of Christ’s life, I love the honesty of Mary with Gabriel. Just yesterday  we talked about Zechariah’s response to him as he hears the news of an impending birth. Then just a few verses later, we see Mary greeted by this angel (y’all he wasn’t some little cherub all cute and fluffy, this was Gabriel, mighty angel come to bring the news). Same truth of a birth coming, only this one is the Savior of the world, God Himself. Mary’s initial response is one of confusion, not doubt. But how can she get pregnant as a virgin, unwed? She wasn’t doubting his news, she just couldn’t see the possibility of it with her.

But her response to Emmanuel coming to her, coming to us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Is that how we respond to Christ the King? Is that how we address Him even now, knowing His redemption of our souls was purposed through this very season we celebrate? Do we look to Him as the authority of our lives even in the context of the manger? Because y’all, He didn’t stay in the manger. He didn’t stay in the tomb. He reigns, rules and intercedes for us…

He’s not away in some manger, helpless and in need of us. It’s us that needs Him. We needed Him thousands of years ago, in that manger, to herald a new hope, to rejoice as our weary souls cried out for a Savior. We needed the new morning, new mercies, redemption and grace. There it all came, in the form a baby, heralded by an angel and under all authority given by God Himself, so that we may say “I am the Lord’s servant.”

A Single Thanksgiving

Over the last few years I have celebrated Thanksgiving without the family. There’s been one or two thrown in over the last decade where I spent it with my sister and her family, but for the most part it’s been solo…and that’s been okay for me. For several years I used that as an opportunity to serve in the local rescue mission-preparing the dining room and then serving the meals to the homeless. It is something I really enjoy doing, and hope many of you choose to spend your day doing as well (but go serve there in January, April and July too).

This year is different. The parental units have foregone their annual beach sojourn to be at home…and the kids are coming home. Yep, no solo Thanksgiving prep this year. I’ll get to assist the master chef herself (my mother) in prepping everything with her fancy new stove Santa just dropped off.

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So I thought about those years I spent solo at Thanksgiving and thought I’d share some tips for my fellow singletons (and their family and friends too) for this upcoming holiday.

  1. It’s okay if you want to do Thanksgiving solo. It’s okay if you have no plans and no family or friends around that you want to spend the day with. If you’d rather have T-Day your way…let me be the first one to tell you, that it’s okay.
  2. It’s okay to NOT want to spend Thanksgiving solo. If you are yearning for company, swing open those doors my friends and invite people to your place. Or share with others that you are spending it alone, and you might get an invite. For several years I got invited to friends and friends’ families’ homes for Thanksgiving. I had let them know I was going it solo and I do believe there was pity on their part. But that’s okay. You are fine if you want to go over (take a side or dessert, do NOT go empty-handed) and spend time engulfed in someone else’s world.
  3. Families and friends: please do not ask about the dating world to the singleton. This is the last thing we want brought up because breaking news, WE KNOW WE ARE SINGLE. The dinner table, or the couch in front of the tv with football on, is not the place we want to discuss why we are single at holiday time.
  4. Have an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, even in your singleton state. I have friends who are trying to balance multiple stops with kiddos and tense family situations on short notice…that’s their reality. Yours (and mine) is a single life that permits us to choose to check-in and check-out of the holiday spirit if we so choose…but we must be thankful for the current situation whether we are choosing it for ourselves or not.
  5. Families and friends: if you know of a singleton this holiday who might be spending it solo, offer up a seat at your table (or couch). They may not be able to get home on this short holiday weekend, or they may be without family, and really don’t want to impose by inviting themselves. Extend the gratitude, and fill them in on the fun you put in the dysfunction that is every single family in the world.
  6. Lastly, use this as an opportunity to revel in the delight that is this season of gratitude and thankfulness. No matter what your choice is or where you find yourself celebrating. You get to choose as a singleton and the choice is always thanksgiving.

 

My funny Valentines…

I went on a first date once on Valentine’s Day. Yes, that actually happens. It was in college and the guy had no clue that this particular Tuesday night was in fact Valentine’s Day. Every woman knows when Valentine’s Day is, so you can see why there may have been some curious excitement when he asked me to go out on that particular evening.

He didn’t make reservations anywhere, not thinking that it would be the busiest night out of the year for couples in restaurants. We waited for two and a half hours for a table. It was our first and last date for many reasons.


Sixth grade was the last year we did the shoeboxes on the desks for Valentine’s Day. I distinctly remember this fact because that was the year my mom told me that I didn’t have to give one to every single person in my homeroom or class. I also remember it because this was the year that they made the little attached boxes to the Valentine’s cards if you bought LifeSavers. That year, they had gummy LifeSavers available and I was overjoyed to share those with my friends and classmates. (I still have an affinity for gummy LifeSavers)

The reason I recall all of this is because even though my mom gave me the “everyone doesn’t have to get one” speech, which I appreciate in my childhood development now, I still felt I needed to give everyone some love that year. Everyone should know they matter and are appreciated, even the guy in homeroom who did nothing but aggravate me daily with his snarky comments on me reading books.


When I was in grad school I was seeing a guy for quite a while when Valentine’s Day rolled around. He thought dinner in and a movie was the ticket after a very long week of work and grad school. (We were both working full-time and in grad school, his was electrical engineering so he won on the harder courses) He made an amazing dinner complete with Cheddar Bay Biscuits (yes the Red Lobster recipe) which was a big deal because he was allergic to cheese, sad right? I made a chocolate cake that looked like a flower (#wifematerial even then). We settled in after dinner to watch a movie he rented. He kept going on about how it was a romantic one and thought it’d be perfect since we’d not seen it. It ended up being The Notebook.

Don’t get me wrong ladies, I do enjoy the movie however my grandmother had just been diagnosed with dementia so that whole story line was a bit too raw for me. I ended up sobbing for half of the movie.


My dad has the trifecta in February. With three women in his life, my momma,  myself and my sister, he was our Valentine for the better part of my life. (Still kinda is because I’m a daddy’s girl) Not only that but my lovely mom was born within a week of Hearts Day and their anniversary falls not far behind it. So he had the arduous task of going big each February. (Or one and done, as some would say)

But in the mix, he never forgot about my sister or me. If mom got a piece of jewelry, my sister and I got a little smaller piece that looked like it. If mom got the big honkin’ box of chocolates, we got the smaller version. Mom gets a big vase of roses? We got a flower each. My dad was pretty spot on, and still is, on modeling that bit of thoughtfulness in life for me and my sister. To know that men are capable, regardless of other problems or issues, of being thoughtful in ways we don’t give them credit for.


I share all these stories with you today because I have a bit of nostalgia when Valentine’s Day rolls around. I think back on the ways in which I have been shown love, kindness and appreciation. I also like to give it out. I know it shouldn’t take a specific date on the calendar to show it, but it does for us. While I attempt to show throughout the year how much I love and appreciate those around me, it’s always nice to see the world breathe love out at least on one day a year.

It reminds me that love surrounds us, encompasses us and we don’t much appreciate that in the every day. We take it for granted, we distort it, we manipulate it and we often abuse it. But today we can pause and live in it. It’s cheesiness, it’s ridiculousness, it’s amazingness, and it’s awe and wonder.

In the middle of dark times, when ugliness and evil abound we can pause and be reminded by red hearts, chocolates, flowers in bloom that love matters. Love is real. Love is present. Love is giving. Most of all, that we carry the capacity to love, to give it out and to receive it. I believe we should carry February 14 in us every day of the year, much like December 25.

But what do I know? I am filled with hope at the joy of love. I see it’s impact when we give it out and fully live into it.

Just Mary and Joseph

Over the last two weeks I have been drawn into the story of Mary and Joseph like I have never been before. It’s as if my eyes are seeing it afresh, with wonder, curiosity, and questions.

And oh I have questions.

I go back to Adam and Eve, to Sarah and Abraham, David and Bathsheba…I see these couples setting the stage, being open to God at work in pretty rough circumstances to lead to this couple we talk more about this month than the rest of the year combined. I see the fall, and the need for the birth pangs of Mary. I see sin enter and know that redemption must follow. I see a promise to give and His promise fulfilled. I see beauty out of pride and selfishness, love and joy out of disruption and death.

I am not sure why this year is different, why I am finding such delight in Mary and Joseph. In combing through their story together, and separately, to see the joy and peace in which they felt within.

They made themselves available to God, with some questions of course, but a faith that swept the doubts away. Humble hearts prepared Him room in theirs, and in this world. I think about how often I make room for His plans in my life and how I respond when I know His call is for me to do, to be, to act. (And we know our call, the siren of obedience that we shrug off more than we heed)

All I can dwell upon as I read and reflect, seeking to dig into the lives of Mary and Joseph at this particular point in their story is that they didn’t know they were THE Mary and Joseph. No, they were just Mary and Joseph.

I’m finding over and over that He births His plans out of the most unlikely situations. While I may be just Sara, He is THE God Most High, bringing about His glory through any means He chooses.