Grace for Our Imperfect Thanksgivings — Guest Post

Christmas image with a quote on choosing the precious over the perfect.

We’ve all probably allowed ourselves to get so caught up in the event of a thing that we’ve lost sight of that thing all together. I have. When I do, my stress climbs and my attitude tanks. But then God gently helps me shift my priorities back where they should be. Amazingly, when I do, my attitude and inner tranquility follow. I’ve learned, no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving and Christmas will inevitably be imperfect. But I’m also learning, it’s often the imperfections that make those unscripted moments so beautiful.

If you’re beginning to feel the stress of the holidays, or preemptively want to avoid this, I think you’ll find my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post encouraging, and you’ll want to grab a copy of the devotional she contributed to, mentioned at the end.

Grace for the Holidays

by Andrea Chatelain

The turkey was frozen. My mother and I flopped it in the sink and ran warm water over the cold, hard, unappetizing bird. This was the second year in a row this fiasco had happened. All we wanted was the thanksgiving meal magazines touted. Twice baked mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans and bacon with caramelized onion and a golden brown cooked turkey. So maybe our expectations were a little high. But they pointed to an even bigger problem.

Our anxiety was just as high as our expectations.

It’s not bad to want to serve our families well, but when we make perfection our goal we rarely do so with happy hearts. My mom and I grew stressed, there seemed insufficient time or oven space to get everything done in my little galley kitchen. Meanwhile I have no memory of what my kids were doing while I was busy worrying about a thawing turkey.

So I hold tight to Psalm 17:1 ESV during the holidays which reminds us, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house Thanksgiving place setting with text of psalm 17:1full of feasting with strife.”

There are so many instances this is true, but especially when we prepare for big gatherings. I’ve learned it’s better to have store bought stuffing than batches of Pinterest worthy meals if it means I have more time, joy, and peace with the people I love.

But it’s hard to give up the idyllic version of Thanksgiving we have in our minds. How do we stop competing with the invisible and improbable version of our perfect holiday and accept the reality of our time and emotional constraints?

For me, it means squashing my pride and remembering the grace I have in Jesus. He doesn’t expect us to serve perfectly. He never called us to nail the most golden pie crust or win an award for cleanest house. He commands us to love others well with the strength He provides.

When we serve others, we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:10-12, ESV).

Boy do I want to be filled with His glorious might, endurance, patience, and joy this season! I’m not sure if that is what this passage teaches and I don’t have time right now to really dig in to check. Sorry! Can we just cut that part out and use this: When we focus on Jesus, He changes our stressed out minds to servant hearts. We serve and love better when we lean on and are energized by Him.

This reminds me to focus on pleasing Jesus because He will lead me to peace, not anxiety.

The stress and emotions of the holidays are real, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by meals and chaos. We can choose instead to be overwhelmed by the provision and grace of Christ. Focus your heart on Him this season and let go of the idea of perfection, you will experience His peace and joy no matter your circumstances, even if you turkey is frozen.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to prioritize precious moments over expectations for perfection? When you sense yourself prioritizing details over people, what helps you to regain a proper perspective? Share your thoughts, tips, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Andrea!

Andrea's author photoAndrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for WhollyLoved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus. Visit her on her blog and follow her on Facebook.

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Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalhis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

When Our Mess Reveals Our Blessings

Messy RemodelChaos and confusion make me nervous. I like Well-orchestrated plans, and when those plans actually happen. When things appear to come unraveled, I go running for my to-do list, anxious to manage the mess. Unfortunately, life is not always that easily contained or cleaned up. But as my sweet friend Shannon Taylor Vannatter shares, sometimes God allows the mess … and for a beautiful reason.

When Our Messes Reveal Our Blessings
by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Sometimes it takes a mess to experience gratitude.

I’ve talked online lately about our major remodel. We’re swapping three rooms around including the kitchen. We also got a new roof and heat pump, plus a room addition – a closet and my office. Yay!!!! We’re doing most of the remodeling ourselves along with finishing out the closet and office.

Since the work never seems to stop, my husband and I are exhausted. And our many jobs have multiplied. The electrician had to cut into our drywall in the new kitchen to add wiring for appliances. Therefore, I had to replaster one entire wall.

For a while two rooms of furniture were smashed into one with a narrow walking trail around it. This makes it almost impossible to put pine planking on our vaulted ceiling. As I write this, most of our kitchen is completed but the plumbing isn’t hooked up yet. That’s tomorrow’s project.

And the list goes on.

The carpenter had to knock out our rock foundation to connect our addition. Completing my office isn’t even on the agenda while we focus on keeping our pipes from freezing and getting our main living area in functional condition.

Suffice it to say, our house is a mess. But in the midst of our disorder, four things put everything into perspective:

Odd sized windows to replace old, breezy ones and my kitchen sink had to be ordered. We waited and waited for the arrival date, but neither showed. We joked about our items coming on a slow boat from China. Lowe’s apologized and said all the hurricane victims were getting precedence on shipments of building supplies.

My house may be a mess. But I have a house.

One of our church members was diagnosed with cancer. Too late for treatment. Days ago, my husband visited her in the hospital. She was unresponsive with her grieving spouse holding her hand. We realized that poor man’s house was in a mess as the woman God gave him was shantiesslowly and painfully ripped from this life.

Our bedroom end of the house was cold for a few days until the heat and air people added vents to the addition.

People in third world countries don’t have a heat and air guy.

My kitchen sink still isn’t hooked up. It’s amazing how crippling not having water to cook and clean with is.
Sixty percent of the population don’t have indoor plumbing.

So as we dig out from under our rubble, I’ll try not to complain or feel overwhelmed. Instead, I’ll count my blessings along the way.

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Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

More about her latest release, A Texas Holiday Reunion:

His Christmas Homecoming 

With her foreman out of commission, Resa McCall needs horse trainer Colson Kincaid to run her family ranch through the holidays. But having the handsome single dad back in Bandera, Texas, is unsettling. Colson broke Resa’s heart years ago, and she can’t risk getting close again. Still, working with him and bonding with his sweet little girl is making the ranch feel merry and bright. Being at Resa’s side stirs up emotions Colson thought were long gone. But he has a powerful secret that could keep them apart forever. Can Colson give Resa the one Christmas present that might finally bring them back together—the truth?

Get your copy now:

 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Christianbook                 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Amazon

Let’s talk about this! Are you a neat and tidy type of person or do you thrive on change? I’m neither, but I’m also not a huge fan of mess or chaos. When my house feels chaotic, so do I. When life feels chaotic, I tend to clean and organize. And, unfortunately, get hung up on a lot of minor details, potentially losing sight of all the blessings God’s provided. What about you? What resonated most as you read Shannon’s post? When has God used a messy and chaotic environment to point you to a deeper truth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Before you go, I invite you to join me at Crosswalk where I shared ways we can find strength in Christ. You can read that HERE.

Monday, I stopped in at Wholly Loved to share my thoughts on God’s favor and what that looks like when life gets hard. You can read that HERE.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and want to receive more great content sent free, directly to your inbox, then sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You can do so HERE. (Subscribers will receive a free, 36-lesson Bible study based on 1 Timothy titled Developing a Life of Love and Faith. I’ll be sending that out soon!)

Jennifer Hallmark Launches Our Call to Praise Blog Hop

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Picture by Naypong, taken from freedigitalphotos.net

If you stare at something long enough, whatever it is, that thing will soon distort your vision. Everything, especially the peripheral, becomes blurry. Try it. Or maybe don’t. It might give you a headache. 🙂

Our problems are like that, aren’t they? Yes, they’re real. Yes, they’re hard, and for some of you, incredibly hard; harder than most. And yet, if we focus too long on the problem, the peripheral becomes blurry.

But if we focus on the good, the lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy, peace takes up residence deep in our heart. And this is the reason behind the Call to Praise Blog Hop. Well, that and Christ is absolutely worthy of our praise, regardless of our circumstances.

I’m so excited for this series and the opportunity it will provide to gain deeper insight, through the perspective of others, into what has quickly become one of my favorite Psalms–Psalm 103.

Kicking us off today is my very sweet, Christ-centered friend, Jennifer Hallmark.A Call to Praise icon 2

Having an Attitude of Gratitude

By Jennifer Hallmark

Winter will soon be over. Warm, sunny weather is peeking over the horizon, life and newness in its hands. The first months of this year have been good for me and my family in many ways. We received favorable reports on medical tests, job opportunities opened, and we’re all focusing on exercise and healthy eating. I have much to be grateful for, but I don’t always recognize it.

Why?

We all tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive. For me, I don’t recognize the good when…

 

  • I let fear and worry creep in. These attitudes point out every speck on an otherwise clean floor.
  • I expect the worst from people instead of the best. Scripture says to believe the best. (I Corinthians 13:7) I need to focus on the strengths of myself and others instead of the weaknesses.
  • I don’t balance work and rest. When I’m overtired, everything looks difficult and unbearable. When rested, gratitude has a place again.
  • I don’t keep my focus on God and the big picture. When I take my eyes off Him and put them on the problem, the good disappears. I can’t see past the detour or curve in the road. Prayers don’t often have instantaneous answers. I need to focus on Him and patiently wait.

It’s time for me to adopt an attitude of gratitude. My friend, Joyce, gave me a happy journal. I’m using it to write my blessings and things that make me happy. When life is tough, I can take a glimpse in my journal and remember.

And be grateful.

 

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Jennifer Hallmark is a writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet, short stories in several magazines and been part of two book compilations, A Dozen Apologies, and Sweet Freedom A La Mode. She is currently shopping her contemporary southern fiction novel, When Wedding and Weather Collide. She’s contributed to two compilations, one that will release in June with Write Integrity Press called Unlikely SF Front CoverMerger and a non-fiction compilation releasing in the summer called  Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. 

Visit her online at Alabama-Inspired Fiction, and the group blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. Keep up to day with her and her writing by subscribing to her monthly newsletter at her author page. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. For fun, she loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What are some ways you center yourself in praise? Have you done that when going through a particularly anxious or difficult time, and if so, how has it helped? There are countless ways to praise Christ, and today, Jennifer shared one–maintaining an attitude of gratitude. What are some things you are most grateful for?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And make sure to visit our next stop in the Call to Praise Blog Hop on March 9 when Sarah Ruut will visit Carol McClain’s  to share her thoughts on what it means to praise God will ALL that we are.

 

Vision Check

This past month, my husband’s schedule has changed slightly, and he’s spent a few days working from home. In the beginning, each day as I performed my daily chores he’d ask, “Are you in a cleaning mood?” By the third time he asked this, I had to laugh. What was routine for me Monday through Friday seemed out-of-place for him because I rarely do major housework while he’s around. Most likely, he doesn’t give the clean floors and folded clothes much thought. (And I’m sure there are countless things he does each day I’m not aware of.) If left undone, however, I’m sure he’d notice!

I think this is true of God as well. We notice and talk about the big things–a miracle healing, a special verse that pops off the page when we need it most, but each day, God works behind the scenes, watching over us, guiding, loving, nurturing. In Matthew 6:23 Jesus said: “But if your eyes are bad, then your whole body will be full of darkness.”

Bad eyesight leads to distorted vision. If we can’t see God’s hand, the problem lies with us, not Him.

Perhaps it’s time for a vision check. 🙂

Let’s talk about this. How often do you think we miss God’s blessings because we’re not looking? Throughout the Bible we are told to live lives of praise and gratitude. Do you think negativity can distort our vision? What else hinders our ability to see God’s hand? How might “counting our blessings” change that?

And on a fun note, what are some unexpected or perhaps easily overlooked blessings that came your way this week?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to enhance our spiritual vision. 🙂