If you have not yet done so check out the first post in this series, “Thanksgiving – A Day or a Lifestyle? It contains a brief history of Thanksgiving from the Israelites to the early Church, showing the gratitude that was continually given to God…2 Corinthians 4:14-15; 2 Corinthians 9:10-12; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; 4:4-5.

An attitude of gratitude is what makes Thanksgiving, and all of life, special.   

Family time, great food and eating all you want, road trips, precious memories, warm hearts and hearths…. Or harried schedules, “burnt offerings,” and eating way too much, strained budgets, trying to please everyone, not-so-pleasant memories, broken homes and hearts and lost loved ones.  Which describes your Thanksgiving thoughts, memories and expectations?  Maybe it’s a bit of both.

Here are some quotes that represent both sides of Thanksgiving and the Holidays…

“He who thanks but with the lips thanks but in part; the full, the true Thanksgiving comes from the heart.”                                                       J.A. Shedd

“Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.”  Anonymous

“You can never be really happy if you keep holding to those bad memories which make you sad.”                                                                                   Anurag Prakash Ray

One of my most memorable holidays was the Thanksgiving when I was 13 years old. I had a relapse of the flu and spent the entire holiday either on the couch or in bed while all my cousins played basketball, football, baseball and any other kind of “ball” that we knew. You can imagine how a 13-year-old loved being down the entire holiday and family time together!  I said memorable, not best! 

The other was an unseasonably warm CHRISTmas that we spent the entire time (except for the meal) playing outside in shorts and short sleeves!  It was AWESOME!

These were the best until I had my own family and began focusing on and finding ways to make Thanksgiving and holidays special for them.  It’s wonderful when we find out how much more satisfying it is to do all we can to make life good for others rather than just having others do so for us.

For me the holidays were all about extended family, fun, food, gifts, sports and generally good times counting our blessings and thanking The Lord for them!

Over the years I learned that things weren’t always as they seemed in our “perfect family” as financial struggles, health issues, divorce and broken homes became evident as well as the loss of loved ones.  Still, I’m so thankful for the efforts of my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles to keep us coming together and sharing with each other. We still do to this day with over 60 in attendance last Thanksgiving!

These two questions will determine whether you can enjoy this Thanksgiving and all those yet to come.  What’s been your experience of the holiday?  How have you responded?  Pay special attention to the second one as it makes all the difference.

For those who don’t have pleasant memories or suffer the pain and sorrow of loss or brokenness that is magnified during the holidays, here are reminders from God in His Word to help you cope and find reasons for hope and to give thanks always to Him…Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 61:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Attitude has everything to do with what you get out of life, including the holidays! God’s Word put it this way, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).  Giving thanks not only gives us a better perspective but also reminds us that God is in control and we can count on Him no matter what.

Some things we can control and some we can’t.  Keep this in mind with the following Priorities and Tips to help you not just survive but thrive in the Holiday season…

Priorities in your life, marriage and relationships determine whether you follow through on tips or suggestion.  So here you go…

10 Priorities that make for a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry CHRISTmas

1) Seek The Lord first in your life, relationships and decisions

2) Choose an attitude of gratitude in all things

3) Forgiveness is mandatory for Christ followers

4) Take care of yourself

5) Put others above self and your marriage/immediate family above your extended/blended family

6) Honor your parents and extended/blended family

7) Budget within your income and stick with it

8) Plan your calendar/travel according to priorities with family and loved ones

9) Enjoy those you spend time with and don’t let others make you feel guilty

10) If you’re single consider what applies to you and be willing to honor your parents and family for their sake – remember others above self!

With these priorities guiding your decisions, here are ten tips that can make your Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas peaceful and enjoyable:

1) Spend a few minutes in God’s Word and take time to thank Him for at least one thing every day!

2) Pray for your family members and friends and forgive those who’ve wronged you – you’ll never be free to enjoy the holidays or life until you forgive others.  It’s hard to hold grudges against those you’re praying for.

3) Pray for your plans, budgets and schedules.  Placing all in God’s hands helps you make the best decisions and enjoy the season and those you share it with.

4) Be sure to maintain good exercise and rest – you need to be healthy in order to enjoy your family and for them to enjoy you. 

5) Don’t overdo it.  Schedule, prepare and travel so that you can enjoy the time and people you’ve planned for.  If you spread yourself too thin, everybody loses.

6) Budget for holiday spending and then stick with it.  Be sure to include food and travel costs in your budget, not just gifts.  Don’t try to impress or please others at the expense of your personal, financial and family well-being.   

7) Schedule and plan ahead of time and communicate with extended family the time you can spend with them.  Do your best, enjoy the time and don’t fret about what you can’t do.  Don’t add or let others add a “guilt trip” to your travel plans.

8) Alternate trips and time with families as needed between Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas and/or from year to year especially as miles and money are an issue.

9) Don’t COMPETE!  Your food, clothes, car and whatever else you’ve been blessed with are just that—a blessing through which you can bless others—not outdo them.

10) Enjoy those you spend time with!  Remember, people and relationships are most important.  You can’t please everyone so don’t try!

Our prayer at Love and Lordship is that we, individually and as spouses, families and Christ followers, would be able to show a hurting world that the Holidays and giving thanks are a reminder that no matter the circumstances, because of Christ, we can choose to “Rejoice always, give thanks in all things and pray without ceasing, for that is God’s will for us in Christ!” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Here are a couple of articles that I pray will help you “recalibrate” and find ways to enjoy the holidays and even more so those that make them special…Christ, family, loved ones and friends.  Be sure to let all of them know you are thankful for them!

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – What dictates how you enjoy or avoid Thanksgiving?  What can you do to make these special times special again (or maybe for the first time)?  Prayer?  Priorities?  Planning?  Forgiveness?  Gratitude?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Plan and budget what you can do this Thanksgiving and holiday season and follow through to bless your spouse and family without trying to please everyone or spreading yourself too thin.  Also, set yourself free by forgiving at least one person you need to forgive.  If you are willing, think of any and all you are holding grudges against and forgive them.