Breaking Bread

Over and over again in the Bible, we see the term “breaking bread”. The Bible uses this term for three different events. It is used for shared meals, Holy communion, and even talking about the Crucifixion. I loved my study of each of these specific events. Today we’ll be specifically talking about breaking bread in terms of sharing meals with others in our community for the purpose of meeting needs and providing fellowship.

Acts 2:46  “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”

Did you know that 20% of all American meals are eaten in the car? Another study shows that on average, nearly 50% of our meals are eaten alone. In 2010, a journal report showed that only 43% of American families eat together every day. This doesn’t even touch on how many families sit down with one another in fellowship to share a meal. As a nurse, I want to go into the negative physical and emotional health effects of our declining eating habits, but I’ll save that for another time and place. Today we’ll simply look at the importance of sitting down together and sharing a meal. I believe that in regards to fellowship and hospitality, sitting down together for a meal is one of the most important things you can do. Just the act of inviting someone to your table speaks volumes. It is a tangible way to extend love to friends and grace to strangers in need. Christ Himself extended that same grace over and over again, and we’re told that after He calls all Saints home for good, we are invited to sit at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19)  Not a church service, not a conference, not a seminar. But at the table.

Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, or put on events. He ate meals”
Tim Chester “A Meal with Jesus”

One of the passages I turn to frequently to illustrate the importance of eating meals together is in the book of Acts:

Acts 2:42-46  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…”

caffeine-coffee-cuisine-15280133 things happen when you sit down to a meal together

1.) Physical needs are met
It’s no secret that we need to eat to live. Whether it’s a stranger who needs a hot meal, a friend who doesn’t feel up to cooking, or that new college kid at church who could benefit from some home cooking. Romans 12:13 tells us “Share with the LORD’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” If there is a need, we as Believers should be the first to jump up and say “I’ll do it!” It doesn’t feel natural at first, and that’s ok. Inviting people into your home can be scary until you have experience. That’s why we’re told to practice. Start simple. Ready-to-cook pizza and bagged salad is a great place to start. Once you start feeling more comfortable having people in your home, you can start cooking. But again, stay simple and work your way up to a “from-scratch” meal. God told us to practice hospitality, not practice fine dining parties with elaborate meals. It’s not about perfection and talent, it’s about presence and togetherness. If that’s a rotisserie chicken and instant mashed potatoes, so be it.

2.) Emotional needs are met
Looking at that same passage, sometimes those needs aren’t just physical. Sometimes there are emotional needs that need to be met in a non-threatening environment. What better environment than around your kitchen table? Those who eat alone can experience more loneliness, depression, and in turn reach for unhealthy options, or skip meals altogether. By inviting those people to your table, you’re not only providing for their physical hunger, but for their emotional hunger as well. Think about how nice it feels to be asked for dinner, or even just coffee. It meets the desire for fellowship. It makes your heart happy. Sharing a meal is about more than food. It’s about friendship, grace, and love. When we sit down around a dinner table, our emotional need for connection is met. “…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”

3.) Spiritual needs are met
Looking through the life of Jesus, we see over and over again where he would share profound truths and encouragement with people around a table. It was around a dinner table that He redeemed Zacchaeus from a life of dishonesty and thievery (Luke 5). It was around a dinner table that He extended grace to Mary as she washed His feet (Luke 7). It was around a dinner table that He taught Mary, Martha, and Lazarus the importance of fellowship with Him (Luke 10).  It was even around a dinner table that Jesus told us that He was the only answer to our greatest need (Luke 22). There are times when people need grace or encouragement. There are times when people need to hear a hard truth. There are times when people need to dive deeper in the Word of God and learn together. Through the example of Jesus Christ Himself, we learn that there is no better place than around our table.

Following the example Jesus set for us, we can be encouraged to reach out and extend may change their life. If you are looking for more information, an excellent book that talks about this subject is “A Meal With Jesus” by Tim Chester.  I would love to hear your feedback, as well as any tips you have for simple table hospitality. Drop a comment below!

cutlery-dining-room-flatware-269264

-Paige

Recipe for Homemade Bread:

Ingredients:
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1pkg)
2 1/4 cup warm water
1 TBS sugar PLUS 1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS salt
2 TBS olive oil
6 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Butter for pans and plastic wrap

Directions:
~In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 TBS sugar. Let stand until bubbly and foamy.
~Add remaining sugar, salt, oil, and 4 cups of the flour and mix until smooth.
~Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time to form a soft, smooth, and slightly sticky dough.
~Knead for 3-5 minutes until smooth and then roll into a ball.
~Place the dough in a buttered bowl and cover with buttered plastic wrap.
~Let rise for one hour in a warm place.
~When dough has risen, punch down and divide in half.
~Roll out each half into a long rectangle shape 8 inches wide. Then roll the dough up to form a log shape
~Place the dough logs seam down into a buttered pan and cover with buttered plastic wrap and a towel.
~Let rise for another hour in a warm place.
~Preheat oven to 375º. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped.
~Remove to rack and cool slightly before serving.

This bread can easily be frozen by letting in cool completely and wrapping tightly in plastic wrap before putting in the freezer. I wouldn’t suggest keeping it frozen for more than 2 weeks for best taste. To use, take out and let thaw in refrigerator overnight.

Word for 2021: PEACE

Thinking back to this time last year I can’t help but laugh at the events that transpired. I was in the middle of choosing my word for 2020 and I was so excited about the new decade and what thrilling adventures it would bring. We were all excited about kicking off a new decade with “20/20 vision”. We were planning to push ahead with dreams, desires, goals, and achievements. We were going to travel more, spend more time with family, work harder, show more hospitality, learn new things, and really start enjoying life as it should be enjoyed. We were going to thrive.

We can all agree that the adventure that was 2020 can be described as anything but thrilling. Other events had been set into motion that none of us could have even imagined at the start of this new decade. Events that were beyond our control, events that would change our lives, events that would effectively bring our world to a halt.

2020 hit and had a promise of a good year…until we heard the word COVID-19. In early March our country was hit with this brand new virus and we shut down. Many lost their lives, many more lost their livelihoods. Churches were closed, schools and sports were cancelled, business shut down, families were separated, and we were isolated from everyone and everything. Fear set in and has only taken deeper root in the hearts of most. Graduations were missed, weddings were cancelled, birthdays were celebrated via Zoom, and we all got used to hearing “social distancing” driving a deeper wedge between each other. Depression and anxiety soared, fear gripped the hearts of all, and it wasn’t long before unrest set in. We then turned to face political turmoil, increased violence, angry protests and riots, and even natural disasters with devastating fires. It was easy to lose hope and give in to the darkness settling in around us.

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With the pain and suffering that 2020 brought, how do we go into another new year without fear and trepidation of what more we will face? How do we get excited about hope when we can’t see an end in sight to all of the heartache this year has brought? It’s easy to quote verses like I Peter 5:7 (“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”) at each other, but it’s a lot harder when it’s you having to do the casting. When it’s the person we look at in the mirror having to actually put in to practice what we’ve been preaching, well that’s a different story right? It’s easy to read stories in the Bible and say “well that was different” or “that’s not like this at all”. It’s easy to pass the story of Peter in the midst of the storm off as just a story, not to be taken seriously. It’s easy to say “well Jesus was right there with him so that’s different”. My friend, Jesus may not physically be standing in front of you today, but if you are a child of God you are not alone. He has sent another in His physical place and the Holy Spirit has just enough power to calm the storm as Jesus in the flesh had 2,000 years ago. You may look around at the turmoil in the world today wondering where in the world our Savior is, but friend all you have to do is look up. The curse that sin left on this world is dark, and tribulation is part of the effects that curse has had. While Jesus may not be calming the storm we’re in right now, He sure is standing with us in the thick of it.

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With this is the forefront of my mind, the word I have chosen to focus and meditate on for 2021 is the word

Peace

Peace is a word with many meanings. One definition is to represent the absence of war or conflict. Another definition refers to a state of rest, calm, or quiet. However, Biblical peace is more than just the absence of conflict or state of rest. It means completeness and it points to the presence of something, or someone, else. It points to our Savior and it is a peace only He can provide.

How then do we get to a point where we can experience His peace?

1.) Separate the Lies from the Truth

Fear is the biggest liar.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

We all have to be honest and admit that 2020 was a fear filled year. Some more than others, but all nonetheless. Fear will rob us of God’s peace by taking our focus off of Him and putting it on the circumstances surrounding us. Fear will lead us to believing the lies spread by media and news. Fear will have us believing that God is no longer in control, but that we have been abandoned. Fear is a liar.

The truth is that God is in control of every situation. While He may not stop the storm, he knows every outcome and every consequence. That alone should bring comfort to our hearts.

2.) Stop Trying to Gain Control

We cannot control the curse we were brought under, nor can we control the outcomes. When we learn to stop grasping for control that we will never have, we will find calm while the storm carries on. Instead of grasping for control, grasp the Father’s hand.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Cling to His promises for you and let Him carry you through.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

3.) Realize the God is Sovereign

God may allow the consequences of the sin curse to play out in our world, but He is still sovereign over all. In the end, He gives and takes away. He allows and he halts. He creates and He destroys. He judges, and He loves.

 “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45: 7

The most important thing to remember is that God does not work on our timetable.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, ”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8-9

4.) Renew Your Mind Daily with Prayer and Meditation

Choosing to ignore the things of this world and choosing to focus your mind on Christ will bring calm and peace in troubled times. Read and meditate daily on the scriptures. Keep a scripture journal as you study and note the things God is showing you as you read through His Word. Put yourself in a quiet place and note the emotions your heart feels. Pray though and tell God specifics on what has you anxious, and then leave those things with Him. If we start each day like this, we will experience God’s peace and calm in a chaotic world.

“He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” Psalm 201:17

This year it is going to be really hard for people to want to set goals. It’s going to be hard to dream again. It may be hard to continue on with no knowledge of where this year will take us. Hopefully you found some encouragement in the above words. May you find God’s peace this year and experience it like you’ve never before. May your heart be calmed as you go about your days. May you find rest in God’s promises knowing that He knows the end of the story. May you learn to trust Him more and cling to Him during this storm. And may your 2021 be the start of a renewed relationship with our Savior.

This song has been an uplifting encouragement to me, especially as I wrote this. I hope it is the same encouragement to you as you start the new year.

Paige

A Thrill of Hope Far as the Curse is Found

Christmas week is finally here. I wanted to share something with you that encouraged me as we head into this week. With the darkness that this year has brought has also come the very painful reminder that we are living under a curse. A curse that was cast thousands of years ago during the fall of man. A curse that seems to be building as time marches forward. Heartaches of all shapes and sized remind us that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Genesis 3 tells the painful story of the fall of man that changed our future and cast humanity into shadow.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,“ Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it, ’“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

However, as the long awaited season of Christmas approaches we are reminded not only of the curse we live under, but we are also reminded of a promise. A promise of a hope. A promise of a Savior. A promise that one day that curse would be broken. A promise that we would be provided a way to restore fellowship with our Creator.

Isaiah 9: 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Matthew 1:20-21 …an angel of the Lord appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

As we approach and celebrate Christmas this year, let us not do so with fear and trepidation of where the year has led us, or where the next will lead. Let us celebrate Christmas under the hope of the fulfilled promise that we were given over 2,000 years ago. Let us approach the new year with confidence in our Savior and a hope like this world have never seen.

I truly hope you feel the thrill of hope that this reminder brings to us at this time of year. Take a break this Christmas from the presents and the food, and meditate on the greatest gift that we’ve received. The gift of a Messiah, a Redeemer, a Friend, a King, and a broken curse.

Merry Christmas friends,

Paige

A Different Kind of Christmas

I’m going to be honest with you, I am having a lot of trouble writing about hospitality this year. Whether it’s people to fearful to gather or governments imposing restrictions we all have to admit it’s hard to practice hospitality in 2020. I had my entire December posting schedule mapped out. It was breaming with hostess secrets and tips on Christmas dinner, bake-offs, parties, gift guides, open house events, and so much more. I have been pumped to write and share since last Christmas.

I feel lost friends. I’m sitting here realizing that Christmas is only 1 week away and there hasn’t been a single party, dinner, gift exchange, or bake-off. I’m even behind on my own Christmas shopping. I do have a little bit of an excuse as I announced the expected Summer arrival of our first child early this week over on my social media, but it’s hard to even use that as justification for slacking off this Christmas.

With the pandemic stealing so much from us this year, how do we go forward in love? As we quickly march forward into the holiday season and the new year that is waiting just around the corner, how can we still practice hospitality and kindness to those around us?

Here are 5 unconventional ways to show Christmas love and kindness to others without gathering together:

1.) Send a week worth of groceries or meal delivery kits.

Meal kits such as Hello Fresh will have great deals around Christmas time. Consider gifting someone a week of meals. If that’s not an option, consider going shopping and buying them a weeks worth of groceries instead. Items such as cereal, oatmeal, pasta, crackers, canned goods, and jar soups are great options for meals that will stay good for a long time.

2.) Send a Christmas card with a variety of gift cards.

If you have a larger blessing budget consider blessing someone with a variety of gift cards. Include establishments such as grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants to hit all essentials. If you’re sending them farther away, consider a Visa or Mastercard gift card to be sure they can be spent anywhere as some local chains might not be available across country.

Write a letter to include in that card telling the recipient how much they mean to you. Offer some encouragement and maybe a written prayer for them that they can go back and read when needed.

3.) Send a surprise box with games and activities.

I like sending packages from Amazon. I can shop and send straight to the recipient all while hiding payment information. There are many places that will allow you to send packages straight from the shop, so do a search and pick the best option for you.

Board games, card games, activity books, puzzles, and brain teasers are excellent choices to provide cheer and entertainment through the winter (and pandemic) months.

4.) Do a surprise porch drop.

Put together a cocoa bar basket with drink mix, peppermint sticks, mini chocolate chips, and marshmallows and drop it on their porch for a fun surprise. You could also do a basket with freshly baked breads and cookies.

This is an excellent choice for someone who is sick or recovering, new parents, single parents, older adults, and quarantining friends.

5.) Put together an essentials package for someone in need.

Include items such as toilet paper (a rare commodity these days), laundry soap, hand soap, toothpaste, sanitizer, Lysol wipes, diapers, etc.

This could mean the world to someone who has lost their job or part of their income for the holiday season. If no names come to mind consider reaching out to your local church and see if they have some people that need an extra blessing this season.

This might not be the Christmas hospitality we were hoping to share this year, but we can still be a blessing to those around us! So many are suffering in many ways this year. Whether it’s health, relationships, or finances, we don’t have to look long before we find someone in need of encouragement and help. This Christmas I encourage you to look around and ask God to show you who you can be a blessing to this year.

5 Quick Holiday Hostess Tips

I love hosting get-togethers at Christmas time! My house looks bright and festive, peppermint is everywhere, and the feeling of goodwill and hope can be felt throughout. December is probably my favorite month to host dinners and parties. Today I am sharing 5 quick tips to make your holiday hosting smooth and effective.

1.) Have a Playlist Ready.

Don’t wait until the last minute to search through your music library to find something suitable for entertaining. Have a holiday playlist ready to go and have it playing softly before guests arrive. Check out my top 25 favorite Christmas songs for hosting.

Keep the music soft so it does not interfere with conversation. I recommend getting a home smart system and placing small speakers throughout your home to keep music consistent in otherwise quiet rooms. I have small google nest speakers in places like my guest room, bathrooms, and study. This allows the same music to play throughout and provides a little noise to otherwise boring rooms.

If you don’t want, or feel comfortable with, a home smart system you can purchase small inexpensive Bluetooth speakers and play music the same way using your phone as a base for the music.

I also have a list of favorite Christmas artists if you prefer to add full albums:

  • Michael Bublé
  • Pentatonix
  • Francesca Battistelli
  • Chris Young
  • Point of Grace
  • Brett Eldridge
  • Lauren Daigle
  • Idina Menzel
  • Andrea Bocelli
  • Straight, No Chaser

2.) Utilize Candles.

There is something very cozy and inviting about candles burning in your home. You also get the added benefit of the delightful aroma.

My favorite scents for hosting are vanilla, cream, candy cane, fig, cotton, lavender, lemon, birch, or fresh snow. Be careful not to choose scents that are overpowering or heavily musky. Also, consider if your guest has allergies or is expecting. Certain scents can cause sneezing or vomiting that you don’t want you guests to have to deal with (and neither do you).

To add an extra special touch to your dinner table bring out that pair of candlesticks, or those special tea lights. Just be sure any candles on the dinner table are unscented as you don’t want anything to unpleasantly mix with your food.

3.) Make Coffee.

Even if you don’t drink it, your guests may welcome a cup. If not, then the smell itself is very warm and inviting. Be sure to have basic cream and sugar for guests who do want to drink a cup. If you want to make it extra special keep a few syrups or flavored creamers on hand to dress up plain coffee.

If I will be serving coffee I like to make up a tray with a French press, cream, sugar, and use coffee cups with saucers.

I recommend having an electric kettle for quick heating of water to make your own French pressed coffee. It’s an elegant presentation and it makes guests feel extra special. Besides that, it’s fun and tastes so much better!

4.) Set an Appetizer Out.

If dinner will take a few extra minutes of prep work, be sure to have an appetizer set out to keep guests satisfied. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate, you can choose something simple or complex. It’s entirely up to you and what time you have.

My go-to appetizer for snacking before dinner is usually a light cheese, a thin cracker, and thin cut deli meat such as salami or pepperoni. Be sure to communicate with guests how long dinner will be so they can snack accordingly.

If you have a little more time and want to step it up, Ritz crackers with an herbed cream cheese and smoked salmon is a beautiful hor d’oeuvres to serve as long as there are no seafood allergies or aversions. Other quick options include berries, veggies, cocktail shrimp, or nuts.

5.) Know Your Guests.

You may not know everyone as well as you’d like; after all getting to know them may be why you’ve invited them into your home. However, make an effort to know something about them and their life for conversation starters. Look on their social media page or ask a mutual friend.

Things to know would be: Do they have kids? What do they do for a job? Are they religious? These points can give you enough information to start a conversation and dive deeper.

Hopefully these quick 5 tips will help you during this holiday season of hosting. My ultimate goal is to make you more confident with every meal you cook, every party you throw, and every person you bring in to your life.

As always, if there are any particular subjects you’d like to read about or learn more about, please contact me via the Contact Us page! I would love to know more about what YOU need!

Paige

Preparing For Thanksgiving (When You Don’t Feel Thankful)

This year has been tough. Humanity has been hit with a major health crisis, political turmoil, and natural disaster. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, and livelihoods. Churches and schools were forced to close due to the pandemic so there was no social outlet. People lost touch of reality, lost touch of friends, and lost part of themselves. Others watched doors close, dreams die, and lost all hope. For many, this Thanksgiving season is going to be difficult to go through with a grateful heart because they are carrying heavy burdens of pain and suffering.

While we do go through painful seasons, these seasons do not define our life. One of my hero women, Christy Wright, says this “You are not the season you are in”. Psalms 30:5b says “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” If I can offer you some encouragement friends it would be this: painful seasons do not last.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalms 46: 1-11

Gratitude is the art of being thankful. Thankful for what we have been given, and thankful for what we have been spared.

  • Did you wake up this morning? Some did not.
  • Did you eat breakfast? Some could not?
  • Did you drive to work? Some had to walk.
  • Did you wake up with your spouse? Some lost theirs this year.
  • Did you kiss your children? Some can’t have them.
  • Are you reading this? Some can’t see.

Did you know the art of gratitude actually has a chemical and physical effect on our bodies? Yes! Practicing gratitude releases dopamine. Dopamine is our “feel-good” chemical messenger. It tells out brain that we are experiencing pleasure. Practicing gratitude is just as pleasurable as eating our favorite foods or taking part in a fun activity. It reduces our stress and anxiety, and tells our brain that we’re happy so we feel happy. Even in the rough seasons, there is still so much to be grateful for. One of my favorite Thanksgiving passages comes from Psalms 100.

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalms 100:1-5 

How do we do this then? How do we go in to a season of Thanksgiving with a heavy heart?

1.) It’s ok to acknowledge your pain.

You do not have to guard your heart with God my friend. He made that heart and He knows when it is breaking. Hebrews 4:15 tells us “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” When Jesus came to earth wrapped in human flesh, He did not do so void of all human emotion. He took on that which we experience. Jesus experienced loss and grief, but was able to turn it for the glory of the Father. He’s not scared or disgusted by your pain. Psalms 34:18 says “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We can be assured that our Father does not run when we tell Him we’re hurting. He is close, begging us to rest on Him and in His grace. He says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

2.) Make gratitude your first response.

When you wake up in the morning, make a habit of vocalizing gratitude first thing. Start your day with prayer and a gratitude journal, or have an accountability partner you text with your daily gratitude. It’s amazing what starting with Thankfulness will do for our daily mood. We don’t have to pretend there is no pain, but we should learn to give thanks for what we have been given.

3.) Reach out to someone else who may be hurting.

It’s always harder to focus on your suffering when you are helping someone else through theirs. Reach out to someone who lost a spouse and invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Reach out to a family who lost their income and offer to bring groceries for Thanksgiving. Reach out to someone who has had little human interaction and ask if you could come visit and bring dessert. Check with your local church for some names who need help paying a bill, an encouraging letter, or just some extra prayer. When we get our eyes off of our misery and focus our energy on others, we start to notice our own blessings even more.

4.) Plan Thanksgiving Dinner.

There’s nothing like sitting down and planning a holiday menu to lift my spirits. If that works for you, then grab a notebook and start planning. Whether you want family, friends, or both. Whether you want potluck style or formal sit-down. Whether you want traditional turkey or more modern baby back ribs. It doesn’t matter. Just start planning and make it happy for you and your family.

My prayer is that even in the midst of this rough season you can find encouragement to continue on in thanksgiving and praise to our Creator and Savior. Happy Thanksgiving!

~Paige