Thanksgiving

How to Have a Drama-free Thanksgiving // Accepting Others As They Are

Picture this scene.

It's Thanksgiving Day.

The table has been set with grandma's fine china. It's pretty and white detailed with a gold trim and tiny blue flowers.

The turkey has been carved.

The family members pose just before the blessing is said for a Norman Rockwell portrait.

The blessing is prayed.

The partaking of the Thanksgiving meal begins.

And then it happens–Uncle Obnoxious begins his usual antics of getting securely under your skin with his big mouth. His opinionated views on politics, religion, today's youth, the preacher, and even how the turkey was carved flow out of his mouth as freely as water coming out of the kitchen faucet. It goes on and on and doesn't stop until someone turns him off. His very presence begins to gnaw at you, and you pray under your breath, "Lord, why did I ever decide to come to this family gathering!"

Sound familiar to you? Suffice it to say, most of us have an Uncle Obnoxious or someone in our family who just sort of rubs us the wrong way. Perhaps some of you are already thinking of ways to respectfully decline this year's Thanksgiving invitation, knowing he/she will be there.

Wait! Before you decline, may I offer you a ray of hope from my own experience? You see, people like Uncle Obnoxious used to make me cringe. In fact, I thought that I was called into the world to give "Help Tips" to my closest relatives and friends that would assist them in seeing things more positively. And Lord knows those legalistic people who only see things as either black or white definitely needed my assistance in helping them balance the truth. 

Hogwash. The real truth of the matter was I was trying to mold them into what I wanted them to be, especially if I were going to have to deal with them on a regular basis. The bottom line was, instead of my help tips helping them, I was causing division.

The spiritual light bulb revelation that "changed me" instead of me trying to change others came as I listened to my mentor, the late Melba Bekeheimer, teach from Romans 15:7.

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (NIV)

My spiritual light bulbs really went off when Melba asked, "Did God say if you get rid of all the moles, then I will accept you? Did God wait for you to get perfect before accepting you?" (Ugh!)

She continued by explaining that there is a big difference in accepting and approving. We sometimes think that we have to approve someone in order to accept him/her, and that's not true. We have to accept a lot of things in life, but we don't have to approve them. We are all going to have different opinions, temperaments, and personalities. These different types of people don't have to be our bosom buddies (even relatives), but we do have to accept them.

This new concept and revelation, not only brought emotional and spiritual healing to my heart, but paved the way for me to deal with all the, shall we respectfully call them "sandpaper," people in my life.

And so it was. I sat down with a pen and paper and begin to write out all those things that had gotten under my skin about a few people. I then decided that it was time to throw the list in the garbage can. I made a conscientious decision that I would now accept them just the way they are and allow their creator to make the necessary changes in their lives if need be. 

Believe me, I am no longer stressed out around those people who used to make me cringe just to be in the same room with them. Well, not much anyway. A healing came into my life when I accepted them, as well as when I forgave them for times that their words had hurt me. And yes, some of them I had to ask to forgive me for trying to mold them into my image. Why did I even think that was okay?

It is a good feeling knowing I don't have to straighten people out for their journey through life anymore. I also walk with a confidence knowing who I am in Christ and prayerfully function as an ambassador for Him.

And with that, I encourage you to start preparing your heart this Thanksgiving to meet up with Uncle Obnoxious. Make a decision to love him unconditionally, warts, moles, and all–just like Christ loves and accepts you.

Happy Thanksgiving to you from all of us at Created Woman!

Happy Crappy Anniversary

Everyone suffers loss.

Whether it's a relationship gone wrong, moving far away, the death of a loved one, or children leaving the nest, there is no meter that measures how much more one person suffers than another. When left unchecked, grief can waylay you when you least expect it. A major loss, like that of a family member, creates anniversaries that loom over you like a dark cloud. But it's the little things that crop up unexpectedly that can leave you juggling emotions while trying to navigate your day. A certain smell, a song on the radio, or any one of a hundred things can sucker punch you into having to deal with the loss like it was yesterday. How we handle these sudden emotions can cause us guilt and shame if we don’t learn how to deal with them in a healthy way.

After keeping some emotions at bay for too long after my son passed away, I found myself disproportionately angry at the automated message on the Verizon help line. My sweet husband made the mistake of saying something horrifying like "calm down" or some other insane request, in an attempt to get me to stop yelling at a computer. I lost my mind and decided I needed to do some damage. I stomped over to the bathroom and tried to slam the door, but it wouldn't close fast enough to slam. After ridiculous attempts to make a satisfying slam, I screamed at it, and attempted to throw my mini clock on the bathroom counter at the mirror to break it. It bounced back and hit me in the chest, without so much as cracking the mirror. After a few minutes of rage shenanigans, I began to feel sheepish and looked at my beleaguered husband, who has his own grief to contend with. I was making it so much worse for him. I apologized profusely, and we held each other awhile, and he was his usual amazing self. Until the doorbell rang, and the police perp walked him out the front door after our concerned neighbors assumed he was beating me. So, there was that. The patience was a little thinner after that, and my shame immeasurable.

We can feel guilty about our grieving for so many reasons; not necessarily for making the cops ring your doorbell. As I navigate the waters of grief, I've found a few ways to deal with the dreaded anniversaries and unwanted reminders.

Be prepared. When certain dates or situations are coming up, it's not business as usual, and having your normal routine with blinders on is not the healthiest choice. Take off from work, miss your kid's soccer practice, do whatever you need to do to leave room for emotional response. Those emotions will come to the surface, and they will not be denied.

Plan a distraction. Those times that you know are going to be hard, like being around certain family members, or holidays, anniversaries, etc., need to be arranged in advance for your protection. Have something planned for others to do if you need to be alone. If you need company, plan a simple outing or something else to look forward to. Those around you may not always be your best support system, so ask a friend if they will provide back up for you on those days.

Celebrate the good. There is always something beautiful you can glean from a memory, or something in your new surroundings. Find the hope in something small, and it will bring a little light into the shadows.

Reclaim it. There is always something ruined by loss. For me, it is a love of all things fall related, including Halloween. I wanted to buy a pumpkin spice latte so I could throw it at the first happy person I saw. Instead, I forced myself to sit down and appreciate something that used to bring me joy, so that grief could not have it. Sharing it with a friend, talking about the future, and not focusing on sadness, made it okay to smell fallish things without crying. Well, sometimes.

Make a tradition. Start trying things that will become your new traditions, like honoring a loved one with a planting or donation, or serving a charity when you are newly single or empty-nesting. Focusing on things outside yourself will become something you can look forward to every year. For us, we turned Thanksgiving Day into a Grace Party, where we ask friends and family to share moments of grace to be read aloud at dinner.

Ask God for help. No one has more experience with pain and grief than the one who endured the cross for us. He is the foremost authority on suffering, and the author of redemption. He literally wrote the book on it. His grace is the key to realizing hope, walking into healing, and freeing yourself from shame. There is no right way to grieve, but there is a wrong way; alone. No one can understand you like the One who made you, so open your heart and let the healer knit your soul back together the way only He can.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

A Thankful Heart

This Thanksgiving will be the first holiday I spend away from the hustle and bustle of my extended family.  Life happens, retail is demanding and lets face it, IH 35 is a road created by the devil himself. While I won’t be traveling to my family this year, I can say that my childhood is jam packed with memories of Thanksgiving.  My grandmother waking up early to serve me Post Toasties, the smell of tamales being warmed on the stove, dry turkey (I thought it was a compliment), cranberries, cheesecake, lemon meringue pie and crispy warm and serve Hawaiian rolls.  My father's family knew how to celebrate!

“And with the money get whatever you have a desire for, oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your soul's desire may be: and make a feast there before the Lord your God, and be glad, you and all your house.”  Deuteronomy 14:46 (Bible in Basic English)

Those memories warm my heart and remind me of just how much I have to be thankful for.  It’s easy to be thankful for material things, or angry because you lack them; but I challenge you this week to look deeper.  Think about your character, who are you when no one is looking?  Who molded you into the woman you are today?  When was the last time you said thank you?

This week as you download new books, get your playlists ready and charge both work and personal cell phones for your trip remember the most important part about Thanksgiving – giving thanks.

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.”  Psalm 92:1 (New Living Translation)

Hearty Pumpkin Pancakes

Fall and winter are the perfect time to incorporate pumpkin into your menu. Our family appreciates the versatility of this fruit ( seen by most as a vegetable) as evidenced by Pumpkin Cake which has replaced pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Fluff , a low fat and low sugar appetizer served with apples and graham crackers is  recommended  and prepared by our daughter, the registered dietician. Our newest addition to the pumpkin-fest is the pumpkin pancake.  I took a delicious recipe made with white flour and tweaked and tweaked until I came up with this whole wheat version ( I'm always on a quest for healthy and yummy). This recipe makes about 8-10, 4 inch pancakes.

Ingredients:

In one bowl mix the following:

1 1/4 c whole wheat flour

1 t pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t salt

2 t baking powder

2T sugar ( or Splenda if you cut sugar whenever you can)

 

In a separate bowl, mix the following:

1 +1T milk

1 egg

1 t vanilla

2 T melted butter

7 T pumpkin

Fold liquid into bowl with dry ingredients. Using a 1/3c, pour onto a hot griddle. Flip, when top side appears somewhat dry. These pancakes are nice and dense. They stick to your ribs and hold you for several hours.

My family  loves these  because they taste good but I  love pancakes because they they're like fingerprints, no two are alike. Each one swirls just a little differently from the one sizzling just beside it.

You're fingerprint is your mark of uniqueness. No one else looks like you, laughs like you or has a birthmark in the same place as you. Your hips or the texture of your hair may not be exactly to your specifications but you can be certain that there are things about you that others admire. Are you the organizer that  scattered women can't survive without or  the one with witty sarcasm that keeps the office in stitches?

I hope the next time you cook up a pancake, you'll check out how special each one is, then think about yourself and remind yourself that your swirls are practically perfect!

Preparing the Way for Christmas

“Black Friday!” The Thanksgiving turkey had not even had time to digest when Black Friday kicked off the season preparing the way for Christmas.  Shoppers lined up for hours outside stores that held the key to the best bargain.  Nobody seemed to care if they got trampled on - - -after all, a bargain is worth fighting for! Also in preparation for Christmas, the tree went up, the presents from Black Friday were wrapped and put under it, and the traditional holiday baking began.  Just like Santa, people were making their list and checking it twice in preparation for the big day. My question to you is:  “Have you made absolutely sure that your list is complete in preparing the way for Christmas?” As food for thought, allow me to set up an imaginary scene with you.

It is Christmas Day and you and all your invited guests sit down to eat the meal that has been carefully planned and cooked in preparation for this day. Suddenly the doorbell rings.  You open the door and there stood someone you didn’t know.  “Who are you?” you ask.   “I’m Jesus, the one whose birthday you have been preparing to celebrate today.  Don’t you recognize me?”  You quickly look at your guest list, and his name is not on it.  Suddenly you realize that in all the frenzy of preparing the way for Christmas, the honorable guest, “the birthday man,” if you please, has not been invited.

“How could we have missed sending Him an invitation,” we all ask ourselves. “Why, I even went to several Christmas plays at different churches.  I sent out cards with the message of the season:  “Unto you this day is born in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  [Luke 2:11]    “How could I have possibly not given Him a special invitation to His own birthday celebration at my house?”

The answer is simple:  We can know The Story of Jesus’ Birth, but not have Jesus living within our hearts. May I let you in on a little secret:  It is never too late to add Jesus’ name to your guest list and invite Him into your heart as your Savior.

Merry Christmas.

I pray you will have “the honorable birthday guest ” in your heart this year.

Setting the Table

Preparing for the holidays thrills my soul.  The weather is cooler, well, it's supposed to be cooler.  We've had a few warm days, here in Texas.  I look forward to pulling out my boots and sweaters, and I think about decorating for the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas, in my world, mean lots of people. They mean tons of stories, games and laughter, music, great food and holiday decor.

One of my most-loved holiday customs is setting the table.  Preparing the table for Thanksgiving is no small thing in our home. It's a tradition that's been a part of our family for as long as I can remember.  Pulling out the china, cloth napkins and glassware is something I look forward to every year.  Once all the food is cooked and plated, everyone is seated around the table and ready to indulge in the much anticipated feast.  Then it begins; catching up with nieces and nephews, the retelling of hilarious events (often to someone's ultimate embarrassment), the loud belly laughs and the love that is not spoken of, but definitely felt.

As much as I appreciate a beautifully thought-out holiday table setting, creating atmosphere is of much higher value.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love the  dishes and decor this time of year brings. I do my share of decorating, but it's the spirit of the season that's most important to me.  Creating a culture of giving thanks is not only what this season is about, but also what life is about.  There's so much to be thankful.

Here are a few things I'm most thankful for:

  1. Family and friends. I have the most amazing and interesting individuals in my life. They're a variety of people who fill my life with laughter, challenge, hope, and even stress.  A little stress in our lives helps us appreciate the good times, right?
  2. Faith.  Bottom line:  This is my life-stabilizer.
  3. Future.  As important as it is to live in the moment, I believe we should plan for tomorrow.  I just met with my financial planner, Robby Shimanek ,and am more secure about my financial future today than I was yesterday.  Michael Hyatt has a great tool called Creating Your Personal Life Plan, a 5-step process to help you get from where you are now to where you want to be.  Everyone should take the time to plan for the future.

What are you thankful for?

Got Guests? Serve Fresh Cranberry Relish

When I decided I'd share my family recipe, my husband of thirty-five years was ecstatic. "If you're going to blog about it, that means you're going to cook it before Thanksgiving!" he chimed. Hence, this afternoon there's a lovely aroma that smells like pie, but it's not. This recipe is quick , easy and lasts for weeks in the refrigerator. It's a tradition for our Thanksgiving meal but is fabulous alongside a turkey or ham sandwich or as a companion to chicken salad, turkey burger or pork loin.

Ingredients

1 lb. of fresh cranberries

1 box of brown sugar

1/2 c raisins

3/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 t salt

1 t minced ginger root

1/4 t cloves

1/4 c lemon juice

zest of  one orange

Throw all ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

 

That's it! It's done and people who still serve canned cranberries for Thanksgiving

will be in awe of your culinary prowess!

** Clearly, this recipe is loaded with sugar. Today, my husband is unaware that I used Spelenda Brown Sugar Blend. Half the calories and sugar.

*** You can substitute ground ginger. However, there's nothing like the explosion when  fresh ginger hits the taste buds.

This is a great hostess gift for the holiday season.

When people visit us, I love sending them home with a little expression of  our friendship, so

I'm also keeping a few for guests who visit us during the holidays.

Family Holiday Traditions and Starting Your Own

Growing up, my (very large) family had more Holiday traditions than you could count! There were just things we ALWAYS did. Starting with pulling out all of the Christmas decorations and putting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving to homemade pizza and "It's a Wonderful Life" with a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve to everyone getting an orange in their stocking to remember the year during the depression when that's all my Great-grandparents to afford to get my Grandpa and great-aunts and uncles. These things remind me of family and home. As we grow and changes take place - people moving away, we may have moved ourselves or started families of our own. Maybe this year you're not able to make it "home" for Christmas. It's important to be able to adapt and make this Holiday Season one to remember. Here are a few Holiday Traditions I've had and ideas I've come across that may be a good fit for you!

  • Have a tree decorating party with family or friends! Put on some Christmas tunes and have some appetizers and hot cocoa to snack on
  • Take a drive to find the "best" and "worst" decorated houses
  • Attend a Christmas Eve church service
  • Gather friends and family to check out local Christmas parade or live nativity scene
  • Have a Chirstmas movie marathon with all of your holiday favorites like: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th St, Elf, Christmas Story, Charlie Brown Christmas, and White Christmas.
  • Volunteer a few hours at a local hospital, orphanage, or nursing home. There is a great resource called "Holiday Project" that hooks up volunteers with organizations that need extra help around the Holidays! This is a great way to help kids (and adults alike) remember that the Holidays are about more than their Christmas list.
  • Give PJ's to your immediate family on Christmas Eve. This makes for great Christmas morning pictures when everyone comes down in their new, comfy PJ's!
  • Read the Christmas story from Luke in the Bible or "The Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve.
  • Cinnamon rolls and a quiche on Christmas morning (along with a big pot of coffee!!)
  • Have a battle of the sexes boys vs girls game of charades, pictionary, or gestures
  • Make different Christmas cookies and decorate them with kids (if you don't have any of your own - borrow some - they make the whole processes fun :)
  • Create homemade ornaments.

Whatever season of life you're in, remember to take time to count your blessings and be generous this Holiday season. Be generous with your love, your smile, your time, and the blessings in your life!