I don’t know what happened, but Thanksgiving is here! Just yesterday it seemed a month away and now out-of-town guests show up next week! The holidays are here, and sadly, the to-do list is threatening to steal my joy so I am going to take a deep breath and remind myself of a few things. Perhaps you need the same reminders.
Invite God in.
If I have any sort of “secret sauce” that is standard protocol for seeing me through life, it is probably this one. I pray this type of prayer regularly: “Lord, saturate Thanksgiving (or any event) with Yourself. Infiltrate all parts. You are invited into everything. You pull together the food and gift-giving. You orchestrate the family dynamics. No one else is invited into my home but You. Only You.”
Quite frankly, this is all I know to do. Life is overwhelmingly messy. I am not God. I have no power. Dependence on Him alone is key. Inviting Him into all things seems most essential.
I have major events listed on a line of my prayer card, and I ask God to infiltrate each one. As they pass by, I am continually stunned by how God showed up and pulled off what was daunting. Things happen that I could never have planned or thought to plan. My “cross offs” are consistently made while smiling in gratitude to God.
Concentrate on ourselves.
This isn’t selfish. This is a reminder. After all, we can’t control circumstances, people or whether people enjoy themselves. We can’t control another human being on the face of the earth except ourselves.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.(Galatians 5:22-23) I have read this verse countless times, have probably quoted it hundreds of times, and referenced it in talks many times. Yet recently the Spirit made “self-control” leap off the page, and serves as a reminder to all of us today. We don’t answer to God for the responses of our children, spouse, students, neighbors, friends….just ourselves. What a relief!
Watch for the danger.
This self-control principle can be used as an excuse to distance ourselves from people in the spirit of “God doesn’t hold me responsible for them.” False! We need Holy Spirit empowered self-control to love well, speak the truth in love, and suffer well. When we are living in the power of the Holy Spirit, the way others respond is not our responsibility, but loving people is always required.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. Proverbs 25:28
Let the movie play.
Remember the old-time film strips before the digital age? Movies are nothing more than moving pictures. Don’t let the full-feature film of your life get stuck on a single frame. Messy family dynamics may occur, but don’t panic. Let the movie play on. A spat may occur in one minute but be calmed down ten minutes later. A relationship may be stressful this year but amicable next year. Don’t over-analyze each single event. God is not finished with the movie.
There was a moment in history when the frame in the movie strip had Jesus on the cross. Thankfully, God’s plan played on. Jesus was resurrected and ascended and sent His Spirit. As frames pass by today, we find ourselves waiting for the movie to arrive at Christ’s return. Until that frame is reached, and we watch the movie play for eternity, we are to be found loving God and people.
People over perfection.
I am prone to making the execution of a plan more important than people. I pray I don’t do it again this holiday! I have ruined trips and celebrations because I am too much in my head about a meal turning out, the house staying clean, getting the decorations up, or worrying about the expenses in my head. Of course these matters are part of life, but they can’t rob us of being fully present in each encounter with people.
I am setting my mind straight ahead of time this year. Relationships are more important than being right and more important than having a clean house. Relationships win over serving a perfect meal. Relationships win over my wallet. (I can under-spend in the name of good stewardship and fail to live with generosity.) I want people to leave glad they visited and feeling seen.
We can’t make anyone have a good time, but we can exercise self-control to live and love well ourselves. Then, God will get maximum room in our homes, and we can be at peace with the varied responses of others.
I have had the most difficult relationship year of my life. I am not going to call it “drama” because I believe God’s sovereign and specific love for me is perfect, and He has been in the details. He makes no mistakes. I can trust that what I am enduring is making me better, getting more room in the hearts of others, and making His bride shine more brightly.
But it’s been hard.
As I prepare to name what I am most thankful for at the Thanksgiving table this year, I am going to name a door God closed, which provided time for me to say yes to other things and I have been delightfully blessed. I know people this Thanksgiving that I did not know last year and have served new organizations. My life is richer because of something that hurt when it happened. Only God can do such things.
What are you thankful for?
Whatever it is, be sure to tell God and others.
Picture Explanation: God, grant me the ability to do right by these people this holiday season. Them first, me second.
If you are interested in being contacted about participating in a One Gritty Blink Bible study in 2023, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and contact me by email. Let’s focus on things that count for eternity!
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