Holiday

| NOEL

It’s been raining on and off here all morning, but I finally squeezed a short neighborhood walk in.  The air is a lukewarm 70 something and the breeze is gusting now and again.  Not but a moment after I finished uttering a quick prayer did the wind whip through and blow my hat off my head.

Suddenly, I stop and chase it quickly in the opposite direction.

I’ve just prayed, “Jesus please show me how you are working in this situation and please show me what you are working in my heart.”  Seems innocent…or not.

These are simple but powerful words and I shouldn’t be surprised that on their heels was a chaotic distraction.

The words to the Christmas song I play the most during the season say this:

Could’ve come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
With the power of Heaven in Your flame

[Chorus]
(But) You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

[Verse 2]
Oh You could’ve swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things that we’ve scarred

[Chorus]
(But) You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

[Bridge]
Ooh no, Your voice wasn’t in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden

At that moment the LORD passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.
God’s not in the chaos – He’s in the whisper.  And if you follow the chaos it will most likely lead you in the wrong direction.  God was already answering my simple but powerful prayers.
The situation I’ve been praying about is extremely chaotic – and once again God was reminding me… don’t get distracted just keep going.
As I put my hat back on and tightened it snugly around my pony tail I continued on my walk.  The street took a gentle turn and just around its corner I saw this sign in my neighbors yard.
IMG_4571
NOEL, the french word we borrow at Christmas time.  It means birth.  And as I pondered this as I headed home I listened to the whisper.
“I’m a God of process – everything begins with birth.”
Friend, I hope you can find something in this for yourself during the quiet pocket of space between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
What is God birthing inside of you?
– New Dreams
– New Goals
– New Plans
What does process look like for you in these areas?
God has been birthing something new in my heart for 2019 and I’m excited to share it with you, until then I’m praying that you can find Him in the quiet and hear His whisper for you.
The best is yet to come in 2019!
Melissa

 

 

Holiday, Spiritual Growth

| LOVE

loveblog

I find it nearly impossible to think about the word LOVE without John 3:16 popping into my mind.  “For God so loved the world that He gave…”  And being that it’s the week before Christmas and “gifting” is the “to do” I am trying to cross off my list, it seems on a daily basis, it reminded me of a gift I received last year.

I love my church and I love serving there.  And for the whole year of 2017 I had the opportunity to serve in a way that truly blessed me.  Weekly it required me to give up family time, stay up late, and walk with group of leaders as they threw themselves into a spiritual growth crucible of sorts, it was an honor to be able to serve in this program.  And at the end of the program as I delivered a “Thank you” note to the program coordinators I was surprised to receive a gift in return.

I volunteered to serve, having expected nothing in return, but what I received was an extravagant gift.  A gift card in an amount that was so high that I didn’t even know what to spend it on!  Well, at least at the onset.  Eventually, I was able to fund some needs and some wants for the following several months, it seemed like the gift that kept on giving.

It was a Jesus kind of gift.

I find it interesting that if you look up the human definition of the word “give” you’ll find it references the action of transferring something to someone.  But if you look at how God defines the word “give” He references the action of transferring someone to something.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…”

The world (the kosmos in Greek) is what God created – it’s the something.  His Son is what He gave – Jesus is the someone.

The wise men went looking for the someone – and show us how to respond in the best way we can as humans offering something…

Wise Men Seek the King

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east[a] and have come to worship Him.”[b]

When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.[c]

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”[d]

After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east![e] It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. 11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him.[f] Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.  Matthew 2:1-12 HCSB

It says…

They were overjoyed, they humbled themselves in worship, they offered their treasures, and returned differently.

And this is what happens to each of us who recognize the gift of Jesus and receive Him into our lives; joy, surrender, worship, generosity, transformation.

Jesus is what we needed to be in a right relationship with God – to receive the gift of eternal life that God always intended for us.  But if you keep unwrapping Him, you’ll find He’s also the gift you want as He fulfills His mission in your life; “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10b HCSB.

He’s like that gift card I received; extravagantly meeting my needs and my wants.

Jesus is God’s extravagant gift of LOVE to you.

On Christmas morning please remember Jesus is with you, He is Emmanuel “God with Us” and He is the best gift under your tree.  Merry Christmas friend.

Further Reading and Reflection:

If you’d like to read through the entire Christmas Story read Luke 1:5-56   Matthew 1:18-25  Luke 2:1-40   Matthew 2:1-12

Reflect on all the someone’s who God used to deliver His gift to us; Mary, Joseph, the angles, the shepherds, the wise men, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Caesar Augustus, Simeon, Anna… how is God using you to deliver Jesus to world around you?

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed taking this Advent journey with you.  Here’s a Christmas gift and a BIG “Thank You” for the moments we’ve shared, I hope you enjoy.

Happy Birthday, Jesus… I’m so glad it’s Christmas… All the tinsel and lights… And the presents are nice, But the real gift is You

Happy Birthday, Jesus… I’m so glad it’s Christmas… All the carols and bells…Make the holiday swell, And it’s all about You

Happy Birthday, Jesus… Jesus I love you

Advent Week Four reminds us that God is LOVE.

Holiday, Spiritual Growth

| JOY

joyblog

 

The list of Christmas activities and traditions that I enjoy each year keeps me entertained from Thanksgiving weekend until Christmas Day.  From decorating and baking, to reading through the Christmas story, to enjoying special moments with my family, these are all a part of what it means for me to experience Christmas.  But these are things to enjoy – they are not JOY itself.  And when I flip through my memories like a photo album there are very few moment where I can honestly say that I have experienced true JOY.

It was several years ago that I committed to take my first missions trip.  I was excited about the opportunity to use my gifts and talents in a new way.  And the adventure of it all was quite exhilarating as it had been years since I had traveled abroad.  I was ready to get away with God on the other side of the world.

The “work” we would be doing was teaching.  We would be the teaching team for a Women’s Leadership Conference.  The host ministry provided the venue, the main speaker, the call to action, and invited the attendees, we just needed to bring two days worth of teachings on a specific topic and some creative elements.  Humorously, all of this would be facilitated through translators.  The opportunity to encourage and equip these female leaders in a country where females are often marginalized was an honor.

The trip took 10 months of preparation for me from the time I submitted my application to when we boarded our 20 hour flight to the Eastern Hemisphere.  When I think back to all that I was a part of I can remember several ways that I experienced true JOY during this season.

The JOY of serving The LORD using the gifts and talents He has deposited within me.

The JOY of serving others in ways I had never experienced before.  And…

The JOY of sharing the “good news” with women who wanted to partner with me on my trip.

While I didn’t necessarily need to fund raise to pay for my trip, as a Team we were asked to sponsor some of the ladies who would be attending the conference we were teaching at.  Some of these ladies would be traveling for days to attend this conference – which could very well be the opportunity of a lifetime for them.  So, I rolled up my sleeves and put together a few events to raise money to contribute to these ladies expenses.

There was one event I recall in particular, it was hosted by a dear friend.  She had invited several neighbors, some of which had possibly never heard the “good news” of a Savior being born to save the world.  So, I shared briefly with them why I would be going on the trip and took the opportunity to share the Gospel with them as well.  I remember specifically referencing the JOY I felt at my point of salvation.

I was compelled to share my story so that they had the opportunity to experience true JOY. 

It was a chance to be like the angels in the Christmas story who shared the “good news” with the shepherds.  It’s up to the one’s who have a fuller view of God’s plan to share it with others.  It was the angel who said “I bring you good news of great JOY” because the angel was able to see God’s work, not the shepherds, all they could see was the angel.

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things[j] in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

JOY is what we experience when we can recognize God has extended His favor toward us, and JOY is what we feel when we share in His work in the world with others.

That’s why the angel pronounced “I bring you good news of great joy…” because the angel could see God extending His favor to mankind.  There needed to be a messenger who had the right vantage point of the situation.  But what about these shepherds… who received this incredible message, how did they benefit?

Well, they had to believe what they heard enough to investigate it, right?  And when they did they realized it was true.  Then they themselves became the messengers, just as the angels had been for them.  And so the spreading of the “good news” goes for millennia until at one point it reached our own ears.

This is how we spread JOY.  This is how we experience JOY.  This is the JOY of the season.

For Further Reading and Reflection:

Read John 15: 9-17

Reflect on the ways this passage teaches us how we experience JOY.

Pray about who you can share the “good news” of Christmas with this season.  Make a list of people who you can invite to church services or ways you can love others by serving them.

Commit to add true JOY to your holiday.

 

JOY  to the world, the LORD is come! Let earth receive her King!

Holiday, Spiritual Growth

| PEACE

peaceblog

By this time of year the air would be brisk and you’d find me scurrying from my car to the nearest entryway.  The parking lot would be full and the pews would be crowded as we all shed our coats and draped them over their wooden backs.  The marble steps leading to the altar would be flooded with a sea of red poinsettia and the gold ornamentation would seem just a little shinier.

The altar itself is architecturally peculiar.  I remember my younger self thought the ceiling resembled a vinyl record that had been melted only to the point of being warped. It’s wavy structure rested on a colonnade that wrapped around the base of the marble platform.  This centrality of the alter afforded the whole congregation a view as if they were seated front row.  The church itself is round and its domed roofline is a fixture in this suburban city’s skyline.

It was the church where my parents had married, yet it was as foreign to me as a distant country.

Between my pre-teen and early teenage years, I’d tag along to services there whenever, and with whomever I could.  From the very first steps into the sanctuary I was aware that I did not belong.  Holy water, that I didn’t know what to do with, filled the tiny marble baths mounted just inside the doorways, odd kneeling procedures as we found our seats, prayers I didn’t know, recitals I had never been taught, and communion I couldn’t take.  These were some of my earliest memories of church. Yet still I wanted to go, there was something calling me there, something I wanted.

“Peace be with you” said the priest, and the congregation responded “And also with you.”  And then my most favorite part of the service; where we all offered PEACE to one another.

PEACE that was what I was looking for, and this was the one place where I had felt its presence.

What is PEACE and how can we find it?

Is it the absence of conflict? Or the perfection of circumstances? Or is it something so much greater than our earthly perceptions?

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire would be registered.  This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to hime and was pregnant.  While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough – because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.  This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying;

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! Luke 2:1-14 HCSB

Do you think it was a peaceful situation for Mary and Joseph to find themselves navigating a “premarital” pregnancy?  Or was it a peaceful journey to be traveling near the time of her labor?  How about finally arriving at their destination and finding no place to lodge?

I can only image that these circumstances brought with them confusion, conflict, and chaos-not PEACE.

So what is PEACE anyway?  Well according to these angels PEACE is this…

 “a Savior who is Messiah has come and this is a sign to YOU”.  God has brought PEACE on earth.

The prophet Isaiah foretold;

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders.  He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6 HCSB

If you’re anything like me, you need to feel it, see it, or touch it, for it to be real to you.  Well, God said “hey, I am sending the Prince of Peace to you.”  And when the angels announced His birth they said “just as was promised He’s here and remember this is a sign to you.  God has brought PEACE to the earth.”

This is why I first felt PEACE in the church,  and why many years later, it was within the church where I experienced PEACE.  The church, not the building, the community of believers are the living, breathing, presence of Jesus on the earth.

And when the priest extends the offer “PEACE be with you” it is a reflection of God’s offering to us.  “Here’s my Son, I’m making PEACE with you.”

And when we respond, “And also with you” we are saying “YES, God this is your Son.” and it’s this heartfelt exchange that is the bridge to PEACE. When I am standing with God, in Christ, I experience PEACE.  This is why the apostle Paul urges us, the church, the community of Christians;

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.  Ephesians 4:1-3 HCSB

The church is the collective of those who have responded to this invitation of peace and share it with one another, it’s what binds us together.  I think that’s why my most favorite part of the service, was where we all offered PEACE to one another-it’s our common bond.  Because Jesus, the Prince of Peace, promised His first disciples and promises the same to us;

“Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.”  John 14:27 HCSB

This is how I know that my PEACE, the PEACE He offers me, is mine regardless of the conflict or less than perfect circumstances that intrude into my life…because these things belong to the world.  Let us not look for PEACE in the ways that world does, but receive the PEACE of God that was given to us at Christmas.

“Peace be with you friend.”

For further reading and reflections:

Read Matthew 10:34-36; 1 Peter 3:9-11; and Romans 12:17-21

Reflect on any conflict in your life, the difficult circumstances you might be facing and use these verses to help remind you, or help you understand, why these things threaten your PREACE, plan for ways you can be an agent of PEACE this holiday season.

Reflect on your gratitude for being at PEACE with God, through Christ, and the common bond of fellowship you experience in the community of believers He has provided for you, the church.

ADVENT is a season of anticipation that we can experience “Peace on earth, goodwill toward man.”  This can only occur if we embrace His PEACE.

 

Holiday, Spiritual Growth

| HOPE

hopeblog

By the time I was 10 my family life had been significantly altered.  My parents divorced. Not even a year later my father moved not just out of state, but out of the U.S.  I lived full time with my mother, so growing up I spent the better part of a decade flying back and forth for an annual, or sometimes when I was lucky, semi annual visit to see my father. These years were hard for me.  As far as personality and interests go I am much more alike with my father than my mother, and I enjoyed the time with him. But the time passed quickly and it seemed like the visits were never long enough.  With age and time the goodbye’s grew harder.  And as the years passed the one thing I needed at the end of each visit was to know just how long I would have to wait for the next.

It didn’t have to be a concrete plan, no airline tickets needed to be purchased, I just needed for the conversation about the timing of the next visit to take shape.  As long as I knew that yes, there were plans for a next visit, it would be the HOPE I needed to carry me through the waiting.

HOPE by definition is the desire we have for something we think could happen.

Thinking there were plans for a next visit fulfilled my desire to see my father, it was my HOPE.

Thousands of years ago, God gave the Israelites the promise that He would provide a King to deliver His people from bondage.  He didn’t tell them exactly when this would happen, but for the one’s who knew Him by His character of faithfulness, as one who keeps His promises, there was HOPE.

Believing God’s promises gives us HOPE.  But waiting for God to fulfill His promises is hard.  What I’ve learned in my adulthood is understanding how disappointment plays a role in cultivating HOPE.

Maybe you didn’t get the job, or the relationship didn’t work out, or the healing hasn’t come, or you’re still not pregnant, or your kids are making bad choices, or whatever the earthly woe is – do these disappointments shatter your HOPE?

Disappointment is real. It can also be very revealing.  Disappointment has a way of exposing the desires of our hearts. But when these desires are unmet and disappointment sets in my question to you is, do you quit or commit to wait just a little longer?

On my journey God has shown me that He wants to be my HOPE and He is there with me in the waiting.  In light of this I’ve come to ponder, do I really believe that God will fulfill His promises to me. The answer is revealed in my ability to wait and how I manage disappointments.

I wonder how many fulfilled visits to see my father it took for me to manage the disappointment of an airline delay, of which I am certain there was a least one.

The Israelites had been waiting for hundreds of years for their King, with several disappointments along the way.  Some had stopped waiting, stopped believing in God, and had settled for less than than what God was wanting to fulfill, but there was one teenage girl who was holding on to HOPE.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Hime the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man? The angel replied to her:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the hold One to be born will be called the Son of God.

And consider your relative Elizabeth – even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:26-37 HCSB

Why might Mary have held onto HOPE?

Did Mary know how many times God had already fulfilled promises that He had made? Did she know that God had delivered His people out of Egypt exactly at the time He had promised Abraham that He would?

My childhood HOPE wasn’t that my annual trips wouldn’t get cancelled, my HOPE was to see my father.  Travel delays were disappointments, not HOPES.

I confess over the years sometimes I’ve confused my disappointments with HOPE, I can imagine we all do this at some point.  But God is faithful to fulfill His promises, in His time, in His way.

This is one of the most difficult lessons I’ve needed to learn. These disappointments in hindsight I’ve grown to understand, served their purpose.  They revealed what my true desires are, and have shown me that these were not the appointments that would have fulfilled those desires.

Twenty years down the pike from all of this and I can report that I’ve enjoyed being less than a 30 minute drive from my father for the last 8 years.  Almost exactly the amount of time I had to endure in my childhood waiting to spend time with him. Over a long span of time God has proven Himself faithful to meet my desire. God fulfilled my desire to spend more time with my father. God fulfilled Elizabeth’s desire to have a child. You may have to wait, you may have many disappointments along the way, but be like Mary and have HOPE.

Keep your HOPE in the ONE who fulfills HIS promises, who knows your desires better than you do and believe... “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

For further reading and reflection:

Read Luke 1:38-80

Reflect on Mary’s response to God’s will for her life.

How does Mary’s response (sometimes referred to as hymn) reveal that her HOPE was to see God fulfill His promises to His people?

Where have you experienced disappointments that helped to reveal God’s will for your life?

How has His will led you, albeit a different way than maybe you anticipated, to your true desires?

How does this cultivate HOPE that He will fulfill His promises to you in the future?

 

 

ADVENT is a season of anticipation that we will experience Immanuel “God With Us” which can only happen if He is our HOPE.

 

Holiday, Spiritual Growth

BEFORE ADVENT | Make room…

This morning as I lay in bed with my coffee, savoring the quietness of our house I knew it was time to begin, I needed to make room.

There is a force that has set itself against this effort of making room.  It’s filled with endless demands on my time and attention; semester finals, basketball games, Christmas parties, Christmas present shopping, cooking, cleaning, and holiday chaos. It pushes its way into my calendar and wears at my soul.  It requires no making room.

The ‘making room’ is my act of worship.

There is a great reward to be had for those who ‘make room.’

I began reading Luke 1:1-17 HCSB… so that, we all may know the certainty of the things about which we have been instructed. (paraphrase) For those who ‘make room’ Jesus will appear this Christmas.

As I read on I was affirmed by the call on John the Baptist’s life, he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God…to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

John was sent to announce… “hey there, pay attention, it’s time, He’s coming, make room.” If you don’t make room – you’ll miss Him.

I shared what I had been processing with our family during our morning prayer circle, that we all needed to ‘make room’ as this is the first week of Advent. A season of anticipation. I reminded them that Jesus came as a baby, unable to shove and demand, certainly not forceful. And that there would be no place for Him, unless we all decided to ‘make room.’

I hope this encourages you to make room for Jesus this Christmas.  I’ll be posting for each week of Advent.

Week 1 | Hope

Week 2 | Peace

Week 3 | Joy

Week 4 | Love

Each week I’ll be sharing some personal reflections as well as a scripture reading and some prompts to help you connect at a deeper level to the true significance of Christmas.  Subscribe here to my blog to ensure you don’t miss any of these posts.

Merry Christmas!

Melissa

Family, Holiday

My favorite Thanksgiving…

It was straight out of a magazine and it felt like I had waited a lifetime to get that house.  The one in my mind all my friends and neighbors would swoon over.  I have to say, it was impressive for our neck of suburbia.  And even though I had hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, I had never been able to recreate that ‘Martha’ degree of perfection I had always desired.

The dining room was the pinnacle of my achievement.  Hand painted landscape murals graced every wall.  Custom sewn drapery with tassels and fringe.  Matching upholstered chairs of course, and a crystal chandelier that glittered with the slide of a dimer switch.  It would be an exquisite backdrop for all the fine food and place settings.

It took me days to prepare.  The generations old monogrammed silver had been polished, our wedding crystal had been placed just exactly to the right of the bread plates, fittingly according to my place setting guide-book, and the individual salt and pepper shakers had been filled to just beneath the brims.  It was what I had desired, a magazine worthy Thanksgiving table.

This year we would host the older generation of adults. No kids at the table.  I had kids at the time and cannot even recall where they were.  The older me judges.  But I do remember one specific sentimental detail of the night, a reading before the meal.  I had taken the time to print, on very ornate paper, a copy of the Thanksgiving Day Proclamation for each guest.  As it was read aloud, our hearts were touched.  We gave thanks to God for all that we had.  And quickly my table of perfection was a mess.

Or maybe my favorite Thanksgiving celebration was many years later.

We had traded our perfect suburban bubble to chase a dream. And the perfectionist in me had been shattered.  In her place was a thirty something home school mom who had embraced prudent, pure, and practical living.  We’d been in a rental for more than a year which I was thankful for, as it had supplied our every need – minus ascetics. We would finally be moving into a home of our own, a major milestone, the Saturday after Thanksgiving so I was knee-deep in boxes. It was not the ‘Martha’ Thanksgiving I had loved from my past and we had no family to celebrate with this particular year. It was a chance to have a different kind of Thanksgiving.

Althought I we couldn’t offer the china and crystal, what we could offer was an open home, and open hearts to share with others who might appreciate a good home cooked Thanksgiving meal.  I had been cooking and delivering dinner weekly for a local boys shelter – what can I say, I love with food.  This weekly task was an easy thing to do to lighten the load for what they called ‘house parents.’ And even though I didn’t know how it would all work out I invited all the boys and the ‘house dads’ to eat that Thanksgiving with us.

I no longer possessed that opulent dining room setting.  So in its place to accommodate all these guests would be a combination of folding tables and outdoor patio furniture pulled inside from the pool deck.  The younger me judged.

In order to hide the jigsaw of tables underneath I adorned them with plastic coated Thanksgiving themed table cloths, you know the wipe-able kind with the felted undercoat. I went all the way with my practical abandon, paper plates, cups, napkins, and even disposable baking pans to serve.

They only saw the food.

We held hands around the table and shared our family tradition of saying one thing we were each thankful for – I remember trying to hide the tears.  It was a good Thanksgiving.

Or maybe last year’s Thanksgiving was my favorite.

With 20 Thanksgivings under our belt, we’ve had our share of variety.  There was the Thanksgiving where we were invited to share with another family, but the host got sick so I defrosted chicken breast and the four of us made do.  The one’s where we’ve served meals to the needy, or ran a Turkey Trot, or made the five state drive to visit our extended family – so many memories. But last year, we finally had the chance to have ‘Friendsgiving’ and boy did I need it!

It had been an excruciatingly painful year and I needed my tank filled and a drama free zone.  We’d put together a list of other families who would be solo for the holiday and invited them all to share.  It was life-giving.  Good food, good conversation, and good attitudes.  We were all a safe haven for each other.  There was more laughter than I ever recall for a Thanksgiving celebration.  The wiser me approved.

They were all, each in their own way, my favorite Thanksgiving.