I was talking with a friend recently who reflected sadly, “How do we get ready for Thanksgiving? There are no carols for us to sing and that turkey dinner is pretty predictable…and of course there are all those relatives….” What can we do? How can we prepare our hearts before the day arrives so that Thanksgiving Day is the final event to a rich month of preparation?
Have you ever wondered how to get ready for Thanksgiving apart from the food thing?
I don’t know about you but when a big event or holiday is coming, I have a tendency to hyper-focus on it. I busy myself making lists, planning meals, shopping, cleaning and preparing! When the day or weekend actually arrives I have done little to prepare my own heart, because I was too busy preparing everything else. I want it to be different this year so I’ve got some ideas for you and me to stir up our hearts, souls and minds so that on the big day, we are ready to celebrate and give thanks.
We all know how to get ready for Christmas. For four weeks before the big day we light candles, read devotionals and open Advent calendars.
We all know how to prepare for Easter. For six weeks before Resurrection Sunday we remember. We lament. We search our souls throughout Lent and then we celebrate!
But, it is not quite so easy to get ready for Thanksgiving, due, in part, to the fact that it is not a religious holiday.
Because I am one who loves God and who remains thankful for all He is and all He has done in my life, I choose to make my Thanksgiving Day a day to celebrate that which I have been practicing for weeks ahead. Here are a few ideas. Does this spark any ideas in you?
- During my quiet time, each morning in November, I will think about one thing for which I am grateful. I will talk to God about it and thank him. I remember James 1:17 that tells me "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” so I think He would enjoy my thoughts on one of his good gifts each day. Then I will listen and reflect on some aspect of His great goodness, the gift I could never be thankful enough for, ever.
- Since my birthday is in November, I plan to write in my journal about the people who have made my life what it is. They are the ones who have richly blessed me with their time, kindness, understanding and encouragement. These journal entries will be fun to write and I know I will feel a deep sense of gratitude for God’s knowledge of what I have needed to grow into who I am and into a deeper faith. It can only end in worship.
- In November I love to sing the hymns, We Gather Together, and Come Ye Thankful People, Come. Perhaps you have other songs or hymns that hold Thanksgiving memories and could be added to your morning devotions or evening bedtime routine.
- As the day approaches I think of questions I can present to our family for discussion around our Thanksgiving table. I usually forgo the list of “three-things-for-which-I-am-thankful" because I prefer stories over lists! Last year I asked each person in our family to think of one thing that happened in the past year for which they were truly thankful. It was a super discussion filled with meaningful memories. Ahh…I love that kind of meal time. I almost forget to eat!
- Our church puts together Thanksgiving boxes for people in the neighborhood of our church. Buying nice food and adding it to the boxes is a way to remember that we are not hungry as some people are. We can do something to help others. Perhaps there was a time when we had less than we needed. We can reflect on the provision of God during this time.
- On November first I always bring out my CD called: Thanksgiving A Wyndham Hill Collection. The songs on this CD bring back memories of so many years of very special Thanksgivings when our family was growing up, of students who lived with us, of dear ones who are no longer around our table. I have to be careful because this music stirs up my emotions and gets me in the mood to get into the kitchen and start stirring up Aunt Alice's Oatmeal Rolls and pumpkin pie! Now I listen to it on Spotify where I happily found other Thanksgiving music and now I have a Thanksgiving Playlist! (I’ll have to tell my friend.)
- And finally I might suggest a yearly November reading of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, a book that explores the deep soul search for joy with thankfulness at its core. Ann writes: “The practice of giving thanks…eucharisto…this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.”
Oh that this November would open our eyes to truly seek and find God’s very real presence in our lives.
There are many other ways to prepare our hearts for thanksgiving to fill us up to the brim long before the turkey and stuffing fills our stomachs. Do you have an idea to share? I’d love to find it in the comments of today’s blog. There are many days left in November to prepare our hearts to adore Him in very concrete and soul-full ways. Let’s get started.