Thanksgiving: Just the word evokes an idealized family gathering where everyone is holding hands and in perfect health, with fully-funded bank accounts, blissful marriages, and children who are always cheerful and obedient.
Now that’s a far cry from reality isn’t it?
No one’s real Thanksgiving gathering looks like this. Ever.
Yet we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that in order for unreserved thanks giving to occur (no matter the time of year), this idealized picture must be present.
We’ve bought the lie that our ability to give thanks should be based on how close our life matches this perfect image.
But what if giving thanks is possible in the here and now–in the midst of marital difficulties, cancer diagnoses, wayward children and empty wallets?
What if God is calling us to search for more on Thanksgiving–to discover a deeper life that is truly able to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)…and he’s using these adversities to bring us there?
What if he’s allowing our tragedies to to say, “Walk with me and let me show you a lasting contentment and thankfulness that cannot be shaken”?
This is the “giving thanks” I believe God calls us to discover this time of year.
In fact, it’s often through the tears that we can see the testimony to the thanksgiving.
Redefining “Giving Thanks”
In Christian circles, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is an oft-quoted scripture, especially this time of year: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Let that thought sit there for a minute. All circumstances? All the time? Really, God? You want me to say “thank you” if my child is suffering from a debilitating illness or if my husband one day decides to have an affair?
Well, perhaps we need to redefine our definition of what thankfulness is.
Giving thanks doesn’t necessarily mean that that we’re saying we believe the situation is perfect and that’s why we’re thankful.
In fact, giving thanks doesn’t even have to mean that we’re happy about the situation or that we like it at all.
Thankfulness can simply be an offering: a hope and a faith put in a promise yet to be fulfilled. It’s a faith in believing God’s truth that “all situations work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
It’s persevering through the pain because we trust Him and believe in the promise, like the example given of many who have gone before us (Hebrews 11).
How Am I Supposed to Be Giving Thanks Through This?
I’m like you–sometimes life’s difficulties make it nearly impossible to “see the thanks.” Truth be told, my wretched heart’s natural bent is to wallow in my misery, complain about the injustices and rail against the painful parts.
The last thing I want to do is to “give thanks for all things” as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 encourages me to do.
It’s during these times when the Holy Spirit steps in. In a gentle voice, he reminds me of those who walk beside me and who have gone before me (Hebrews 11; Hebrews 12:1-3) so that I don’t lose heart.
I think of the biblical story of Job–a man who watched his whole world collapse as his livelihood and family were taken from him–who still said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).
I think of Horatio Spafford–a modern day version of Job–who was able to pen the powerful hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” after the death of his daughters and the loss of his entire fortune.
I think of the friends whom I’ve watched succumb to horrible illnesses–wonderful men and women who were bright lights in this world–who overcame their tragic circumstances by choosing to say “God, please allow me to discover ways to give you the thanks for all aspects of this unspeakably awful part of my journey and let my life be a testimony to your faithfulness.”
I think of the thousands of Christians worldwide who right now are suffering extreme persecution, and the hundreds who, today, will willingly choose to give up their life before giving up their faith in God.
And I think of my Lord–the God-man beaten to a pulp, pinned to two splinter-filled planks of wood, and humiliatingly displayed before the entire city–who underwent such physical and emotional torture for no other reason than to say, “My darling daughter, this is what I’m willing to endure so that you and I can be in relationship together.”
Reflecting on these people and circumstances doesn’t change the difficulty of my own situation; but it changes my perception of it and opens the door to authentic thanksgiving.
4 Steps to Authentically Giving Thanks
If you’re finding it difficult to give authentic thanksgiving right now, first of all know that it’s OK.
We place an added shame on ourselves when we know we should be doing something (especially something that is right and good and that is encouraged because of a national holiday) and yet we don’t feel the emotion of thankfulness.
Acknowledge. Can I first encourage us to admit to these emotions? Can we be real enough with ourselves to see these places of inauthenticity and choose to desire something more?
Discover. Next, let’s do a little digging. Let’s write down everything about the situation and let those real emotions flow–even if they are painful to feel. We’ve got to be honest about all aspects of the circumstances so that we can identify the areas to bring healing.
Reflect. What are the areas here that are pleasant and easy? And which are unenjoyable and difficult? Most important of all, consider which aspects of the situation are blessings. Note that something doesn’t have to feel pleasant to be a blessing.Where have you seen God provide, bring hope, offer encouragement–even in this trial? And where do you see room for God to do even more miraculous things? Look to these as the starting point for that flow of authentic thanksgiving to occur.
Ask. Come face to face with those things that are gut-wrenching, unfair and challenging and ask for Him to bring you a different perspective. Ask for the supernatural ability to choose to be thankful during this trial, trusting that only He can provide the endurance and encouragement through the pain.
Search, dig, look for the authentic thanksgiving today. It may be tear-stained, covered by anger or drenched in frustration, and that’s alright.
Give every part of it as an offering to God, asking Him to give you the power to rise above the ugliness of the situation to discover the blessing.
Just like a pearl that is formed inside a oyster’s shell as a result of the oyster’s irritation by a grain of sand, great blessings are often released through acceptance and authentic thanksgiving.
Have you discovered the beauty of skillet suppers? Chop up a few vegetables and some protein, cook them together in a skillet and presto–you have an easy, fast and fresh weeknight dinner.
This Fall Sausage Skillet Supper recipe combines the ease of a skillet supper with the intoxicating flavors of fall that make us all swoon this time of year.
One bite of the sizzling sausage, perfectly fried sweet potatoes and onions (all seasoned with the heady aroma of cinnamon, ginger, garlic and chili powder) and this fall skillet supper will convince you that, yes, this amazing dish needs to become a staple in your family’s fall dinner menu. Now.
The best part about this dish is that it comes together in minutes, and is versatile for whatever items you may have on hand. Now that’s a fall-inspired weeknight dinner recipe that performs!
Fall Sausage Skillet Supper with Sweet Potatoes and Apple
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
Serving Size: 1.5 cups
1 pound smoked sausage, cubed
3-4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 large Granny Smith apple, chopped
other vegetables (optional: carrots, butternut squash)
2 cloves garlic, minced
ginger (1 inch fresh, grated; or 1 tsp powder)
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Add the olive oil to a large pan and saute the onions and sweet potatoes until they are almost cooked through. If you are including other vegetables in this dish such as carrots or butternut squash, add these at this time.
Add the cinnamon, chili powder, garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook for a few minutes, allowing the herbs to flavor the veggies.
Add the apple and the smoked sausage to the skillet. Cook for several minutes until the apple is soft and the smoked sausage is browned nicely.
Serve dish immediately (by itself, or over an optional bed of lettuce or other greens).
Place the cubed and peeled butternut squash along with the chopped onion in a large bowl and add 2 tsp of the minced garlic, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, chili powder, olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Toss all ingredients to coat.
Arrange the seasoned butternut squash and onion mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees or until the vegetables are fork-tender and caramelized-looking. Stir once during the cooking time.
While the veggies are cooking (and your kitchen begins to take on the dreamy aroma of cumin, chili powder and maple syrup), thinly slice the apple, chop the walnuts, and chop up the greens.
Mix together the remaining minced garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and 2 tbsp maple syrup with a whisk in a small bowl to make the marinade.
Once veggies are done, allow them to cool slightly for a few minutes. Add the greens, chicken, walnuts and dried cranberries to the bowl. Top with the cooked veggies and the marinade. Mix everything together well.
Garnish each plate with a few slices of apple on top and serve immediately. Enjoy!
I’m not one of those people that drink coffee all day long, or even first thing in the morning.
But every once in a while (especially on rainy days like today at my house) I crave something warm and sweet (AKA a flavored coffee drink). Especially during fall!
Since a few people in my family can’t have dairy (and we’re all trying to limit the amount of refined sugar we eat), I created a few homemade healthy coffee creamer recipes for when that coffee craving hits.
Here are four awesome versions of DIY non dairy flavored coffee creamers!
All the richness is still there… without the guilt!
You’ll love these four favorite fall-inspired recipes:
You’ve got to give them a try!
These DIY coffee creamer recipes are dairy-free and gluten-free, and are a healthy replacement for any store-bought creamer.
What a wonderful way to enjoy the flavors of fall.. without the guilt! 🙂
Click “next” to get the recipes for these 4 amazing dairy-free coffee creamers!
This recipe for Crock Pot OatmealRecipe with Apples is so awesome that all four of my kids (and my hubby) lick the bowl clean!
Here’s the recipe for this amazingly flavored (and easy-to-make) oatmeal that will have your family cheering too!
This oatmeal is creamy but still a little chewy with just the right combination of spices and sweetness. And of course it’s free of dairy, soy and processed sugars (and whatever else you might find in those odd little oatmeal packets).
Plus, it comes together for a healthy quick breakfast (you can prepare it the night before). Hurray for easy breakfasts for those extra busy mornings!
And when it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than warm oatmeal to start the day!
This crock pot oatmeal recipe is also super easy since the Crock Pot does all the work! (Here’s my favorite Crock Pot… it’s very versatile for all kinds of dishes because you can use it on the stovetop as well!).
4 c. coconut or almond milk (you can use soy milk or dairy milk instead, if preferred)
2 apples, chopped
1 banana, chopped
½ lemon, squeezed or 1 tbsp lemon juice from concentrate
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 ½ tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. vanilla
¼ tsp salt
Walnuts, hemp hearts (seeds) and/or flaxseeds as toppings (optional)
Add all ingredients (except toppings) to the Crock Pot. Mix well.
Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours or high for 1.5 to 2 hours. Smell the deliciousness simmering away. (Hint: if you assemble the night before you can program your Crock Pot to turn on early and cook while you’re at your 5:30 a.m. exercise class. Or while you’re buzzing logs. You know, whichever.)
Wake up (or come home to) an AMAZING smell of cinnamon, vanilla… you know, the smell of totally rockin’ oatmeal.
Spoon the deliciousness into your bowl and try not to make a pig of yourself in front of your kids.
Oh… is there anything better than the smell of fresh muffins wafting through the house?
Especially if they are pumpkin muffins? Come on… nothing can compete with that lovely smell of ginger, orange and cinnamon on a cold morning!
And there’s no guilt with these lovely breakfast treats: this healthy and easy pumpkin muffins recipe is dairy free, gluten free and grain free (for those that have sensitivities).
But I promise they’re not taste free! Seriously… they are amazing!
Just stick these bad boys in your oven one Saturday morning and see if your kids don’t come flocking to the kitchen with giddy faces.
Or make up several batches of batter, divide them up into freezer bags and you can experience pumpkin muffin bliss anytime!
I also love the crispy pecan and shredded coconut topping on these easy pumpkin muffins. If shredded coconut or pecans aren’t your thing, then you can leave off the topping. But if they are… oh man, are you in for a treat!
Is your mouth watering yet? Ready to drop everything and get your pumpkin muffins on? Let’s do this!