13 Readings to Help You Find the Thanksgiving Spirit


13 readings to help you be thankful

Image courtesy of Pixabay

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m honored to share with you thirteen fantastic articles from blogger friends, all about gratitude. If you haven’t caught the Thanksgiving spirit yet, these will do the trick. Some readings are devotion–style, with scriptures to meditate on; others are essays to get you thinking; a few give practical tips for cultivating a spirit of gratitude in your family life; all will inspire you to feel (and live) thankful! Read one a day, or splurge, Thanksgiving–style, and read several at once—this is the best kind of feast, one that lets you go back for seconds and thirds, without getting a stomachache!

Bringing Gratitude into Your Daily Life as a Parent

71 Ways to Show Gratitude to Family, Friends, and Strangers by Lauren Cormier (Oh, Honestly). I absolutely love this list of fun, practical ideas for ways to show gratitude—things like giving lots of hugs, or doing a chore no one else wants to do. Lauren writes, “By living life in a way that constantly looks for ways to improve the lives of others, we are showing gratitude.” Read the article here

Today’s Lesson from a Grateful Mom by Traci Rhoades (Traces of Faith). Track writes about slowing down the hectic mom-life pace, and choosing gratitude along the way: “When we force things to slow down, things get better… Because the years we have together are gifts. Memories in the making every day.” Read the article here

4 Tips to Teach Your Children Gratitude by Lauren Cormier (for MissHumblebee). This is an insightful take on getting to kids’ hearts, raising grateful kids, not entitled ones. And guess where it starts? “Model gratitude. This may be the most important tip of all since our children learn what they see.” Read the article here

Gratitude Turns Who We Are into Enough, by Meredith Ethington (Perfection Pending). Encouraging thoughts for moms who never feel like enough, who think, “I yell sometimes, and a good mom would never do that… I want peace and quiet at the end of the day instead of loud laughter and kids running through the house wild and happy. Good mothers don’t think like that. But this mother does.” Read the article here

Devotional Thoughts on Gratitude

Which Letter Is Yours? by Jeanie Shaw (My Morning Cup). This is a hilarious rewrite of the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians. He had every reason to complain, and yet he chose joy. But what if he hadn’t? “Nobody really cares about me…everyone is just thinking about themselves. Well, except maybe Timothy and now he’ll likely go to you and then you will ‘need’ him.  Sheez…what else do you want?” Read the article here

One Thing to Be Thankful for (that’s Not Based on Your Circumstances), by Ellie Fulton (Gumption). Ellie writes about the wondrous reminder that God is always at work in the details of our lives, to bring us to him: “God worked in the very details, every day, of these twenty souls. And I was reminded—it is not just those twenty people. God has worked in the very details, every day, of my life since before I was born…and he keeps doing it…” Read the article here

Giving Thanks, by Debbie Williams (Blogger Loves the King). Debbie writes a simple reminder to live (and thank God) intentionally every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day: “We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we CAN change our attitudes to attitudes of gratitude.” Read the article here

How to Have a Real Thanksgiving This Year, by Stephanie Robertson (Barnabas Lane). Seeking a true Thanksgiving, the kind that begins in your heart and not with your fork: “Heaven forbid we put more preparation into the meal we eat or the way we eat it on Thanksgiving than the way we really experience and really have Thanksgiving.” Read the article here

Monday Thankfulness: Simplicity, by Destin Wells (Arrows of Content). Destin writes about finding joy in life’s simple, daily blessings: “We don’t have much, but we have everything we need. We aren’t wealthy in terms of money, but anytime I spend a weekend doing simple things with the ones I love, I feel like the richest person in the world.” Read the article here

Looking for family devotion ideas? I’ve written a couple of devotion ideas to teach gratitude to kids: A Fun Family Devotion to Teach Kids Gratitude, and A Fun Way to Teach Gratitude to Kids of All Ages.

Gratitude During Hard Times

Choose Gratitude, by Sarah Philpott (All–American Mom). I loved this reminder that gratitude is a choice, even we’re struggling, or suffering, or grieving: “Anchor your soul in gratitude for what the Lord has done.  You might not be rescued from the storm, but you can look around for the beauty in the midst of the upheaval…in the midst of the tempest choose to cherish.” Read the article here. (Sarah blogs about miscarriage and pregnancy loss, so if you or a friend is going through this, Sarah’s blog is a great resource.)

Giving Thanks: Not the Usual Suspects, by Bonnie Lyn Smith (Espressos of Faith). This Thanksgiving, we’re all wondering, how do we find gratitude in the midst of so much fresh pain and terror in the world? What does it really mean to pray for our enemies? Bonnie writes, “…Good rises up in horrifying circumstances, and I have the privilege to pray for change and sometimes to participate in it… I cannot be as self-focused when I am willing to pray back the dark.” Read the article here.

You Are Alive! Savor It, by Christine Carter (The Mom Cafe). If you battle depression during the holidays, this post will encourage you, helping you find ways to savor life even when it’s hard, or you’re not up for the daily grind: “Despite those hard days, those trying trials, those sometimes suffocating sacrifices we endure just to get through the day, we are aliveWe haven’t been taken from this world, just yet.” Read the article here.  

This Is Living, by Jennie Goutet (A Lady in France). Jennie lives in Paris, and had a birthday in the midst of the recent tragedy—and yet she found joy and light in the midst of heartbreak: “Outside it’s dark and it feels like the night is only getting darker. It feels like the heavens are weeping over the tragedies without cease. But we, my friends, are lit from within.” Read the article here


Want more parenting tips and devotion ideas? Sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download with seven two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!


If you enjoyed these readings, you might also enjoy: 

A Fun Family Devotion to Teach Kids Gratitude

10 Ways to Encourage Kids to Open Up

13 Scriptures to Help Siblings Get Along

These Days of Small Things

When Being a Grown-up Means You’re Still Growing Up

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These days of small things


how to enjoy childhood via @lizzylit

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

We’re at the North Carolina State Fair on a perfect October night. The sky is cloudless, speckled with stars. The air is crisp, cool but not cold. It’s a night for pumpkins and bonfires, sweatshirts and cider. It’s also a Saturday night, which means that the entire population of North Carolina has been inspired by our same not-so-brilliant idea: “Let’s spend two hundred dollars buying deep-fried candy bars wrapped in bacon, and then get on rides that simulate standing inside a blender, and try not to throw up!”

But the October sky will not be ignored, so now here we are, fighting our way through a heaving river of humanity to find the kiddie area. Kevin is muscling our double stroller through gaps in the mass of people, parting the crowd like Moses with the Red Sea, only with more shouting and carnage. I’m right behind him, clutching fistfuls of the two older kids’ sweatshirts in my hands, praying we don’t lose any of our four struggling, goggle-eyed children in the swarm. Over the crowd, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome and I keep flashing each other this forced, crazy-eyed smile that means something along the lines of: “Maybe if we keep fake-smiling we’ll trick ourselves into believing we’re having fun, even though we’re terrified—and for the love of all that is good and holy how did we talk each other in to spending our kids’ college fund on rigged games and fried candy?—and by the way, we are never doing this again!”

Finally the wave of people dumps us out into the kiddie area—along the way we’ve mowed down twelve love-struck teenagers and one giant stuffed banana wearing dreadlocks, in between dropping sixty bucks on kettle corn, elephant ears, and a Lebanese dish we can’t pronounce but that tasted like glory—and by some miracle, all four kids are still with us, and no one has thrown up (yet).

I convince the three older kids to ride the giant swings with me, and all through the line they do a dance of delighted terror. You’d think they’ve never been on a ride before, the way they’re gaping at the swings, hugging each other and hiding their eyes. I’m worried they might chicken out. But the minute the ride starts and our feet leave the ground, my six-year-old throws both arms in the air and laughs like an experienced roller coaster rider, like she was born for this. (Recalling her habit of flinging her body from terrifying heights in an apparent desire to become BFFs with the local emergency room staff, I suspect she was.) We stumble off two minutes later, giddy and giggling. I’m starting to feel like the fair wasn’t such a terrible idea after all.

And now it’s the two-year-old’s turn to ride something her speed. We ease back into the torrent of people, searching until we spot a merry-go-round of glittery miniature cars. At first we hesitate, hands pressed against our ears, because the ride’s designer, who has clearly never met a child, thought it would be clever to equip the cars with ear-splitting horns, which the happy toddlers are honking as aggressively as their fat fists can manage. But Sawyer’s eyes light up, and we all sigh: She must ride this ride. She must honk a horn. We must sacrifice our hearing for her happiness. As the girls and I get in line, Kevin pantomimes a message over the relentless horns: he and Blake are going to save their eardrums and go pay a fortune to throw weighted darts at unpoppable balloons. I stick my tongue out at them, because they’re totally getting the better end of the arrangement. Besides, they might win a stuffed banana.


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When it’s finally our turn, I stand behind the Parent Fence as my nine-year-old, Cassidy, helps buckle Sawyer in, and then folds her own long legs into their tiny car. Cassidy’s knees are bent almost up to her ears, and she throws me a dimpled, self-deprecating grin—a grin that says nineteen, not nine. Sawyer attacks the horn with gusto. Avery, my six-year-old adrenaline junkie, scrambles into the car in front of them.

Lights flash. Music blares. Horns crescendo. The ride jolts forward, and Sawyer squeals her delight. Cassidy leans in close, showing Sawyer how to turn the steering wheel. For a moment, their twin grins are all I can see, but then I notice Avery. She’s still young enough that she should be swept up in her own ride—spinning her own wheel, honking her own horn—but instead she is twisted backwards, shining brown eyes locked on Sawyer. She is ignoring her own ride so she can watch her baby sister experience hers. Avery beams at Sawyer, a proud, knowing smile. The same maternal smile I feel lighting my own face.

The simple, honest sweetness steals my breath. For a few seconds my ears forget to hurt. I stand there, blinking tears, drinking in the beautiful sight of my three girls, adoring each other in this small moment.

I’m reminded of a scripture I’ve just rediscovered, a new-old favorite, Zechariah 4:10: “Who dares despise the day of small things?” The passage is a celebration of a quiet but significant event in Israel’s history, as God’s people are rebuilding the temple. The temple is still years from completion, but the plumb line—the guiding marker that will assure the building is constructed properly—rests in the designer’s hand. The building has only just begun, but it has begun the right way.

I think to myself, This may seem like a small moment, but it is not small. Not to God, not to me. My girls, here in this fleeting moment, are all that sisters should be. For these few seconds, the older ones care more about their baby sister than about themselves. They may have squabbled a dozen times on the way to the fair today, they may have begged too insistently for cotton candy and cheap stuffed animals, but right here, right now, in these sparkling seconds, they are loving each other, and how lovely it is. This is no small victory, no insignificant thing. It is the promise of things to come, the foundation of all we are trying to build in our family.

I put the night on pause: I will not despise this moment, this small thing. I will not let it pass by unnoticed, unappreciated. I will make it holy, sending a prayer of thanks up into the starry October sky. I will write it down and make it last. Like Mary, I will treasure this memory in my heart, storing it deep inside so I can bring it out and relive it again and again for the rest of my days (Luke 2:51).

And I will look for more moments like this, small blessings I might miss if I’m not paying attention. I will savor these too-short childhood years, this endless stream of simple joys:

Happy shrieks on scary rides, ice cream stains on brand-new shirts.

A night with no tantrums, a day with dry diapers.

A thousand silly but splendid firsts: the first time they whistle a note, tie a shoe, blow a gum-bubble.

I will not despise these chaotic days in my marriage—this stage of sleepless nights and zombie days, of stolen romance and secret smiles—these years that demand so much, yet make us better.

Family is a happy mess, life a hectic whirlwind. One minute is a disaster, the next a delight. But countless gifts glisten, hidden inside each roller-coaster day, if only we’ll pause long enough to notice. To open. To savor. And in noticing and opening and savoring, we sanctify these small wonders, these insignificant things.

Perhaps we find that small things are not so small after all.

That fleeting moments are not fleeting, not momentary, after all.

That simple days of small things are the best days—the biggest things—after all.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy: 

When Life Poops on Your Party

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

A Letter to My Child About Your Unfinished Baby Book

“I’m a Big Kid, No Wait, I’m a Baby” Syndrome

13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens


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The Thirteenth Summer (and Jimmy) on Facebook


The Thirteenth Summer has its own Facebook page, in case you hadn’t heard: www.facebook.com/thirteenthsummer.

I’m posting lots of fun stuff about the book, including some deleted scenes from early manuscripts, inside info on the characters, and updates about the book’s Quest to Become a Movie (It’s been optioned by Hollywood producers, who are already shopping it around to film studios!). If you like the book (or if you just like me!) please also “like” the page on Facebook, and share it with your friends. The more of a following the book has, the better its chances of becoming a movie! 🙂 It also helps, when you read these posts, if you click the “like” button, so it posts to Facebook more frequently. Okay, commercial over. Back to blogging. THANK YOU!

Today I posted this scene in a note on the new Facebook page, and it felt kind of bloggish, so I thought I’d share it here, too, just for kicks. 🙂

One of my favorite things about writing The Thirteenth Summer was revisiting some of the cities I’ve lived in. Being a preacher’s kid, I moved up and down the East Coast throughout my childhood. I wanted to recapture, through Crystal’s eyes, some of the culture shocks I experienced.

When I was ten, my family moved from Atlanta to Boston. First let me say that, now that I live in Georgia again, fall in the South has been forever ruined for me by glorious memories of Boston’s Real Fall Weather . . . the trees a patchwork quilt of color; walking down the road to Wilson’s Farm to buy pumpkins and squash and caramel apples; aahhh, it was spectacular . . . But there were some bizarre moments, too. Like the first time I sat in my fifth grade class and said the word “y’all,” the WHOLE CLASS—I kid you not—turned around and stared at me like I had an alien popping out of my chest. For lunch, the cafeteria served peanut butter and fluff sandwiches. And here I thought fluff was something you did to your hair when you wanted a boy to look at you! (The sandwiches are divinely gooey, and an orthodontic nightmare, by the way.) If I wanted to buy a milkshake in Boston, people would ask me if I wanted a frappe instead. What the heck was a frappe? I’m still not exactly sure. And then there were the jimmies…

In case you didn’t catch it, that was my uber-smooth segue into a fun deleted scene from an early draft of the book.
This is Luke and Crystal in chapter 7, Coffee, Clothes and Cute Company, sight-seeing in Harvard Square with bodyguard Big Al—I’ll never forget my own first visit there. So I say again (dramatic pause here):

And then there were the jimmies…

Luke and Crystal bought cones at a small ice cream shop, and as the large grizzled man behind the counter scooped their cones, he grunted, “You want jimmies on those cones?”

“Excuse me?” Crystal said.

“Jimmies,” he repeated, looking at her as if she was two years old.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, who’s Jimmy?”

The man snorted and yelled over his shoulder, “Hey Bert, this little girl wants to know who Jimmy is!”

Crystal felt her face redden as she heard a hoot of laughter from the back of the store—apparently Bert was amused.

Luke stepped up beside her. “Hey, now, is that any way to treat a lady visiting Boston for the first time?” Crystal felt her face burn even more. No boy had ever defended her honor before.

The man glared at Luke, leaning over the counter as if to show off his superior size. “Hmmmph. So, jimmies or no jimmies?”

“We’d love jimmies, thank you.” Luke leaned down to Crystal (he was at least a foot taller than she was) and whispered, “I have no idea what they are, either, but we’ll try them, okay?”

She nodded, sure her face was still the color of a tomato.

It turned out that “jimmies” were just sprinkles, and Crystal was disappointed when Luke handed a cone to her. She’d been picturing something more exotic.

“Sorry about the rudeness, no Southern hospitality here,” Luke said between licks.

“Oh, hey, no big deal. And—um—thanks for, you know, sticking up for me.”

“No prob. But now you owe me one.”


After the Rain


Bring on the sweatshirts, I’m sooooo ready for fall! We got a huge downpour on Saturday morning, and this poem is what came out of it in my brain… The formatting is rather atrocious (darn the built-in formatting features I can’t seem to get around!), but… well, here you go.

After the Rain

A whisper, really,
so faint it might be a dream;
not so much a presence
as an absence—
of water in the air.

First a heavy, soaking rain,
like a long, slow drink of iced tea
with a sprig of mint
on a creaky front porch swing—
feet-up relief
after a long, smoldering summer,
burning, suffocating,
smoking, choking in the
never-ending ash and ember.

But now at last the rain has come,
and lingered—
not a quick summer shower
that only teases
and makes it worse:

sputtering,

rumbling,

stomping around

pretending

for five minutes,

just long enough to turn the chalky powdery dirt
into brick-red, carpet-staining glue;

and turn people into steamed asparagus
walking around,
overcooked and limp,
wilting—

no.

At last,
a real,
long,
lazy-morning,
back-to-bed
late-summer drenching
that wrings all the water from the sky,
hour after happy hour.

And when the dripping’s done,
dry air remains—
not cool,
not even close to cool,
but different somehow—
breezy and light,
fresh and clean:

a kiss of fall,
a nip,
a hint,
a whisper—

of joy
and pumpkins
and laughing children
and trees ablaze
and smoking leaves
and bonfires and s’mores
and sweatshirts and jeans
and turkey
and Christmas

all

just

around

the bend.