In Everything? Give Thanks?

In everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This time of year, especially the week of Thanksgiving, we see the first part of this verse tossed around. It’s on plates, napkins, chalkboard walls, plaques. It was probably on church bulletins Sunday and will be statuses come Thursday.

But I have to be honest that Sunday I really didn’t want to give thanks in my situation. As I sat waiting for the police to take an accident report (I’m fine, Betty’s scratched up) I was not giving thanks thinking it was God’s will for my life. I was frustrated and irritated at the hassle of someone not paying attention and side-swiping me. In the extended wait time for the cops (who never showed) I didn’t give thanks for that time in my car in the middle of a busy thoroughfare near my neighborhood. Thankfulness was not entering my mind as I steamed over plans for my afternoon that were now thrown out the window.

Real honesty here that I was just pissed. Pissed that now I have to get my car fixed, pay a deductible and deal with insurance claims for the next few weeks. It’s life I know, but I was not having it and most definitely was not giving thanks through it. I stress baked and fumed for a good part of the night. Then suddenly this verse floated into my head. So I pushed it aside and distracted myself with a book I’d gotten. I dove into another world to find some semblance of salvaging my afternoon, my evening, my day.

This same verse from 1 Thessalonians 5 popped back up yesterday morning in my mind. It was a gentle reminder that I hadn’t taken stock of giving thanks in my circumstances. That I was intentionally living outside of the will of Christ because I was vehemently choosing to be unthankful in my circumstance. I didn’t want to be thankful it wasn’t worse. I didn’t want to be thankful that there weren’t injuries. I wanted to pitch a fit and be stubborn in my irritation.

Guess what though…you don’t get to live in that attitude or perspective. Because it’s not in the will of Christ. No, instead we give thanks in every circumstance, not comparing that we are better than the next person in it or that we aren’t like them. We give thanks that He saw fit to place us here in this moment, that we have a God who hears when we’re frustrated, broken, angry. Thankful hearts recalling seasons of joy and pulling them into our now. Thankful minds choosing an attitude of thanks in all things rather than an attitude of disdain.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

You are fresh and new, like warm laundry out of the dryer. Yes, that’s how I see you…full of warmth and goodness. Your predecessor had a rough time with me, we didn’t mesh all that well and it was evident from the outset. Try as I might, we really just never got on with one another. I was happy to part ways just 30+ hours ago.

But you, oh you 2016 I am happy to greet you-with smiles, high-fives, hugs and cheer. I welcomed you with loving arms to embrace fully and completely. No more will the years be marked with dates of the past but with stones of the present.

For you 2016 I tried to set expectations, assumptions made on what you would be like before I even knew you. Aren’t we like that though as humans? We make judgements, crafting our own expectations in a way to control the outcomes, others. You are different though. You exploded with joy and gratitude in my life already. You are bright and you are big. You are also in the small, in the comforts and in the quiet.

For you 2016 I wanted to gift a renewed spirit, but I think instead I am finding a complete different one within me. One that has long since gone forgotten, ignored and flat-out disrespected. You don’t want that refurbished me, no you want a new creation in me. One that holds excitement, joy and gratitude. One that isn’t defined by what isn’t, but by all that simply is. No one likes a regifted item, so why would you want me with all those resolutions and failed fixes?

For you are worthy of more 2016…but no expectations or assumptions are attached. You just simply are present and here. I won’t try to make you into something you are not, nor attempt to mold you into something of my own desires. Nope, you simply are what you are for the next 364 days. I welcome that and you. And yes, as you can see I still have the tree from Christmas up today when so many others have come down. But I am not rushing this year…I am taking time to relish in the beauty and simplicity of time. The quiet of presence and awareness is what is drawing me to leave it up just a few more hours. To be still and know…

You are new 2016 and it is my sincere desire to relish you each and every day fully present and aware, a heart full of gratitude and joy. I will fail on days-probably more often than not, but I know there’s always a new day just around the corner awaiting me with delight. You have gifted me 366 days this year, an extra to enjoy fully and presently. I will savor each of them for what they are-gifts. Here’s to not binding you up for storage but giving you away each and every day.

With unending gratefulness and joy,

S2

Abounding

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you right? Candy. Soda. Television. All good things but ultimately too much can give you diabetes, weight gain, slovenliness and lethargic tendencies.

I know I tend to overindulge sometimes…binge-watching a certain television drama, white chocolate candy corn M&Ms or social media. All good things in themselves, but there are times (to the point of sickness with the M&Ms) where I harm with the abundance of indulging.

Not so though when it comes to our faith in Christ. As I dig into Paul’s letter to Colosse, nestled among his exhortations to them to stand firm against the Gnostics I find him encouraging them (and us) to continue to walk in Him and abound in that faith with thanksgiving. If you blink you miss it there tucked into the end of verse 7.

“Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (NKJV)

Oh goodness those few words have gripped me today…Abounding in it. With thanksgiving. What an image, of being rooted in Him as this is already established and the use of past tense means it has happened already as believers. I am rooted. You are secured to Him. We are built up and established, as this is ongoing-a growth process. These verbs speak of present tense which means continual and not something we’ve already obtained as we walk this journey in Him.

But then we get to abounding. We get to this word of plentiful abundance, existing in great quantities of faith. It is ongoing too. It is present and it is future. It is an assurance that it’s accomplished in Him and through in us, by His great love. That we are full of faith in Him-a faith secure and rooted-that we overflow with thanksgiving at the thought of it.

DSCN2154Abounding has a derivative in Latin that means a surge or wave-like. The image I see when looking at abounding in faith with thanksgiving now is the surge of faith, waves being ever present and continual on a beach. This visual of waves both coming in and going out, but always present and flowing, existing in abundance. That’s what our faith is. It’s what it should be, in every season and every moment. When we are rooted, building up our faith in Him we find there’s always a surge of faith available.

I don’t know about you but the simple phrase of “abounding in it with thanksgiving” brings about a truth spoken deep within this believer to see who He is and what faith in Him in the journey can bring a person. It’s a welling, a filling, a continual abundance of faith in testing, trials, joys and celebrations. It’s abundance with thanksgiving, for we know it’s not from us nor was it created by us, but it’s in Him. A faith that overflows.

Rainy Day Cooking

It’s a rainy day here in Nashville. Not really cold but just meh.

For some reason I love days like this…they are inspiring to me, giving way to creativity. Sundays are also usually my “cooking days” as I have come to affectionately call them. This allows me the afternoon to put together meals and prepare for the week ahead, while also testing out some recipes in case they don’t quite work out.

Which is what happened to Saturday night’s meal, didn’t quite work out in a time crunch.

So I thought I’d share a little of what goes on in my kitchen on Sundays, but especially on rainy ones. It usually ends with a sink full of dishes as the dishwasher whirs, stuffed full of pans and pots as well. Today is a bit quieter than normal as it’s a short prep week with a large feast coming Thursday that I shopped for yesterday.

The Crock Pot is ticking away full of fresh veggies and beef as I threw together a Beef Stew for a day like today. Rainy days just call for it, you know? I thought about sharing the recipe but it’s a family one that I hold dear so instead you just get a photo of 30 minutes in to a six hour process.

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So while that is busy simmering away, I wanted something delightful and that screams of this time of year. So I made this Brown Sugar Glazed Pumpkin Coffee Cake. My whole house smells insanely delicious as the cake finishes baking.

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Someone at work asked if it was made of crack because it was so addictive the first time I made it a couple of weeks ago. Since I talk about baking, and how that’s part of #wifematerial I thought I’d share this nugget just in time for Thanksgiving week. Even if you don’t bake, this cake is simple to put together!

Ingredients (aka what you need to run out and buy right now!)

Cake Mix:
⅓ cups Water
1 can Pureed Pumpkin (15 Oz)
2 whole Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 box Yellow Cake Mix (18 Ounce Box)
1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Crumble Topping:
1/2  cups Brown Sugar
½ cups Flour
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

Glaze:
1/2 cups Brown Sugar
¼ cups Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ cups Heavy Whipping Cream

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350, and grease up a 9 x 13 pan. I use cooking spray, you can use butter if you’d like.

IMG_6612In a mixing bowl mix together (what else would you do in a mixing bowl, huh?) the water, pumpkin, eggs, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined. Add the cake mix and baking soda and mix until just combined. It should look something like that to the left.

It should be a consistency somewhere between a cake batter and a brownie batter for those of you who bake on the reg.

You’ll want to dump that into the already greased pan. You can use either a glass or cake pan, whichever you prefer. It won’t be staying in there long after it comes outta the oven. IMG_6613

MELT YOUR BUTTER! Grab those four tablespoons of it (I use light stick butter) and get it melted.

Next up is the delicious crumb topping. In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and melted butter. Use your fingers to sprinkle over the top of the cake. It’s nice to work with your hands. It should look similar to what is over to the right.

Throw that goodness into the oven for 25-30 minutes. I keep it on the middle rack for close to 29 minutes in my oven. I check it only once and when it starts to brown in the middle I whip it out and test a toothpick in it. Make sure it comes out clean when you do. You want this done, but not too brown on top.

So while that’s a’baking away and your home is filling with the amazing scent of this yummy cake, you need to whip up the glaze. It takes about eight minutes to do but don’t neglect this part. Trust me.

IMG_6615For the glaze, combine the other 1/2 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir until all sugar is dissolved. It’ll look like that to the left there. I just stirred it, but you can also use a whisk. No biggie either way. Just make sure that sugar is dissolved.

Once that cake finishes, pull it out and use a toothpick to poke holes all in that beautiful cake. When you’ve had your fun and you feel there’s plenty of holes in that pretty cake, slowly drizzle the glaze over it. Cover every inch of that cake.

Now you can either serve it up right there and then, or have some self restraint and give it away to guests, neighbors, coworkers, friends…or eat it all yourself. No judgement here. None whatsoever. You be you.


So what are some Thanksgiving week recipes you just must make? What about on rainy days? Is there something that just completes the day for you to have?

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

I hope you all have a fantastic day filled with giving thanks, eating food, and sharing time with those who fill your bucket! Today I just want to share this verse with you and may it go beyond today for you as it is for me.

Photo courtesy of pinterest.
Photo courtesy of pinterest.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:1-2, ESV