Give Thanks

DSC_0304We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving. But this week as I was looking for a verse to put on our kitchen chalkboard I stumbled onto the Psalm 118 the Thanksgiving Prayer. We use pieces of this prayer all the time, but in total it is really powerful, so I thought I would share it here with all of you in hopes that some part of it resonates with you as well.

DSC_0403Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
    he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.[b]
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up[c] to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Best of the year

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This season has been rough on me. It always is. So I’ve been quiet here, just trying to make it to the other side of this holiday season without a total meltdown. Can you relate?

But I’ve missed writing, and honestly I have so much to share I can’t wait for January to get back in a groove of writing. But for now, I have a moment of quiet so I wanted to reflect on this past year. I started my blog in the spring so it hasn’t even been a year, but it has been therapeutic and fun.

So here are my top 5 most popular posts in 2014.

How much is enough

Why it’s a big deal we went to camp a second time

The dreaded Christmas card picture

My kids took over the kitchen this summer

At the core of vulnerability is shame

when moms are weak

After reviewing them, I agree that “how much is enough” is a topic I want to explore much more in 2015. Let’s get after it.

Happy new year!

Here’s to a quieter, calmer, life-giving 2015!

The Dreaded Christmas Card Picture

We get compliments (an inordinate amount of compliments) every year on our Christmas card pictures. I’m pretty sure it’s not because of my stellar photography skills. They aren’t stellar. I think it’s that people just want to applaud the feat of getting us all in the frame, looking at the camera at the same time, with a “decent” look on our faces. And they are right, it isn’t easy.

So before we attempt to take this year’s picture I thought I would show you what it does take to get a family of 7 in one shot, looking at the camera, and hopefully, with at least a pleasant look on our faces. I’ll settle for no one with a pained look on their face, including me…no, especially me.

Here are a few of my favs…enjoy.

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There’s always one.

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Despite the terror going on around her, one curtsies while soaking up her moment on stage.

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Yea, yea, don’t worry mom, I’m going to smile for your precious little picture.

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Picture taking is painful…or scary…something.

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Look! Santa’s here… he came early!

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No guys, really, it’s SANTA…I mean it.

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Let’s try it again. This time everyone sit up straight.

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you told me only ONE more picture. you lied.

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Often one will just bust out in song. Just what everyone needs…Let it go, let’s go… I can’t take it anymore. Let it go, let’s go… or I’m going to slam the door. Here…I…sit…with my smiling face…will the fun go on…cameras never bothered me anyway.

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All h$%^& has broken loose. Grandma’s trying to pretend she is still enjoying the grandkids. Grandpa is looking for a way out and the kids are well….done.

Do you have one? Please share!

Intentional Holidays – A Restful Thanksgiving

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A week or so ago I talked about being intentional with my holidays and eliminating some of the stress they bring.

So for Thanksgiving I punted. We went to a friend’s home and celebrated with them. For nearly 20 years these friends of ours have feasted with family and friends that need a place to celebrate. It’s always large. It’s always fun. The traditions are deep. But the cast is always different. And the stories…oh the stories we have heard of the fun. Roll-throwing contests. Burnt casseroles. Movies. Piano playing. Singing. Relaxing.

There is no formal invitation that goes out. Just a “hey you are always welcome to join us” kind of thing. But this year we accepted. We were excited and honored at the idea.

And all I had to do was bring some green beans!

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It was everything we had heard about and plenty more. The table was beautiful and yet practical. There were 19 people there sitting at one very long table that was pieced together from three tables.  We used paper plates and napkins but real silverware – a lesson learned over the years I understand. I took notes.

The food was plentiful and fantastic. Each of us brought a special dish to share. We loaded our plates up the first time and went back for more as many times as our stomachs would allow. We laughed, we relaxed.

We shared what we were thankful for in an “anything goes” sort of way. Some were funny, some sweet. All were honest. Everyone participated including a few who couldn’t be there this year and phoned them in. As they were read we had to guess who’s it was.

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While it was a total vacation for me it reminded me how very blessed we are to have such good, generous and loving friends. I know that day was a lot of work and preparation for them. I know because I have lived it. But this year, because of their generosity and goodness, I didn’t have to. I got to relax. For years through this tradition they have nourished many, many people. Their bodies, spirits and souls.

And I am very thankful for what they gave me this holiday season. Rest.

Intentional Holidays – Advent Calendar

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One way I wanted to be intentional about Christmas this year was through our Advent calendar. I want to help my children be others-focused instead of me-focused during this very self-centered, consumeristic season. In the past I have filled my Advent calendar with little gifts, or treats each day. Oddly, this didn’t get the results I was hoping for – instead it perpetuated the me-focus.

So this year I will fill the Advent calendar with kind deeds for us to do each day and promises we receive because Jesus came to earth as a baby and grew up to die for our sins.

The list of kind deeds are fun and silly and all the stuff kids love, but instead of focusing them on what they are going to get, they focus us on giving to others. Click Here: Advent Kind Deed List for a list of more-than-you-will-need ideas. Pick a few you like and add them to your Advent calendar this year!

Here is a list of Promises God gives to those who believe in Jesus. I hope these help us focus on the gifts Jesus brought to each and every one of us through His birth and life here on Earth.

 

 

 

Intentional Holidays

 

Its the most wonderful

Is it the most wonderful time of the year? Can it be?

In several, recent, years I have wrapped my holiday season up in the doctor’s office with anxiety coming out my ears, toes and everywhere in-between.

Some of it I bring on myself, and some of it others generously give me.

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There are so many fun and exciting things to do during the holidays. Parties, shows, planning, decorating, baking, cooking, prepping, church services, family gatherings, shopping, wrapping, lists, notes, dressing up, going out, elves, rain deer, sleighs and bells, hustle and bustle, christmas tree lighting ceremonies, Santa breakfasts and brunches, movies, treats, presents, oh my.

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Let’s take Christmas Eve for starters. We have so many traditions packed into that night it is neither Jesus focused, relaxing or enjoyable. In that one life-changing, history-making night when our dear savior was born we celebrate it with: a full day of cleaning, cooking and preparing, followed by an early evening of church services, singing and pictures, followed by a sit-down dinner, clean up, listening to the Christmas story before we rush out the door to spread out reindeer food on the lawn, leave our cookies and milk for Santa, watch the Santa Tracker on cable, open our one gift, more pictures, get the kids in bed, wait for them to FINALLY fall asleep, while we finish wrapping and prepping breakfast, then digging out all the gifts and stocking stuffers from their hiding places, trying to remember what you had and what is missing, placing it under the tree and in the stockings, rearranging the furniture so it all fits, taking “before” pictures and then finally settling down to a very, short, winters nap. Only to wake up very early the next morning for more of the same. Add on to this very chaotic schedule some lovely family drama and voila – you are in the doctor’s office being diagnosed with a very serious case of holiday anxiety disorder.

Can you relate??

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This year, my husband and I have decided to change this story. We want a different ending and we need to have a clearer focus along the way.

This year we want to be intentional about our holidays. Not only WHAT we do, but HOW we do it. We have to make changes. And we want to make changes.

If your holidays are anything like mine, how about coming with me and doing it different this year?

Be intentional about what you want to get out of your holidays

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1. I want to enjoy my family. I want to lay around and watch movies on the floor with them. I want to look in their eyes and tell them how much Jesus loves them, how much I love them and that I know God has a beautiful plan for their lives.

2. I want to keep the focus on the real reason for the season. I want to prioritize Jesus this year. Plain and simple.

3. I want to keep the stress and drama around me to a minimum. This may mean thinking about appropriate boundaries now and having others help keep me accountable to them as the season progresses.

Those are my priorities. What are yours?

If you too need to change your holiday ending this year let me challenge you to list your priorities: what you want to get out of the holidays, what you want them to feel like and what you want to avoid. Then when you are scheduling the next several weeks, if something doesn’t fit with these priorities, nix it. Share your priorities with a friend or two and ask them to keep you accountable to them.

In the next few days I am going to share some of my plan for how I will accomplish my holiday priorities.

Have Yoursefl