Thursday, November 17, 2016

Here's Why You Might Want to Serve S'Mores on Thanksgiving



You've had a difficult year.

Maybe that would be a vast understatement.

Perhaps you've encountered challenges galore and transitions that have almost done you in.  Or immense losses too great to number or beyond description.  And you already know that this year's holidays will be drastically altered and you're not quite sure what you're going to do about it.

I hear you, friend.  That scenario was ours last year as both my dad and our little grandson Tyler went home to be with Jesus, one in July and one in September, suddenly and without notice.  Our extended family was left reeling, stunned, and shaken to the core.

We were also yearning to gather together again.  

To soak in the strength of each other's company and savor hugs given.  To play and laugh hard and feast well and share sweet memories that just begged to be spoken.

A week or two before the planned festivities, one or two decided that it would be wise to skip our decades old Thanksgiving tradition of going around the table after dessert with each one, young and old, sharing what we were most thankful for in the just-about-finished year.

It wasn't that we weren't thankful.  

It's just that we thought it wouldn't, at that point, well ... be particularly helpful.

So ... 

Fast forward to the blazing smokey fire pit outside the kitchen door.  The bitter icy cold and the shared knit blanket wrapped up tight and the mugs of steaming coffee.  Fast forward to soft marshmallows melting into gooey chocolate wedged between stone-cold-crisp graham crackers.  

And fast forward to the cuddling and the laughter and the billowing smoke that finally sent all sixteen of us stampeding back into the house to thaw out and re-warm.  

This was how our thankfulness played out.  It just ended up being different than the norm.










I have no idea what unspeakable losses and unexpected transitions have come your way in recent months or what your holidays are shaping up to look like this year.  All I can do is encourage your family to have some gentle, respectful conversations together, to listen well to each other, to embrace what works for you in this particular season.

Preferably well ahead of time.

By all means, turn once again to your beloved, anticipated traditions if they will be comforting and grace-filled.  But be courageous enough to shake things up a bit and temporarily put aside any former routines that would feel forced or uncomfortable, exhausting or just plain inappropriate for where your tender hearts find themselves.

I'd love to hear what you've done to navigate through difficult holidays.  And if this has been a rough year, let's talk.  You're in good company around here.

And praise God, even through life's seismic shifts and the grief and uncertainty that follows, He remains solid and strong, tender and sweetly present.


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taking marshmallows to

46 comments:

  1. I toyed with the idea of canceling Thanksgiving. A long engagement........year planning a wedding......a whirlwind divorce. The bride has moved on and is enjoying life but mom still sheds tears. How could I face the relatives? God gently reminded me that my family loves me and supports me no matter what and we need to be together more than ever. I prayerfully wrote notes to family members so there would be no shock on Thanksgiving and we are carrying on as always. There's a bit of a drag in my step as I prepare but my brain appreciates the distraction and I know how wonderful all the hugs will be!!

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    1. Oh dear, Val ... I am so very sorry. Your tears are valid and necessary, and I am so grateful that your family is supportive and nurturing.

      How wise you were to pray over those notes, to let the family know what you are facing.

      Please know that I'm going to be praying for you, ok?

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    2. Thanks, Linda. It's all good..........I don't see now, but God will show me later.

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    3. You're showing us what faith's all about, Val ... 'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' {Hebrews 11:1}.

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  2. Hard to comment on this one. I dread the holidays. They are filled with memories of when our family was complete and there was no empty chair. Now, almost 15 years after our son decided to remove himself from all of us, with no reason given, life continues but it will never be the same. The memories are everywhere - trick-or-treaters, a school bus, a Nintendo figurine, a graduation, wedding, the birth of a baby. Either the memories are of him or how he is missing out on wonderful family times. Regardless that this is reality, that our family changes with the joyful additions and the heart break of God taking people home, our family is still incomplete. We are waiting for the day that God will bring him back to us. Maybe it will be this Thanksgiving or this Christmas, we don't give up on God doing a miracle. The door will always be open and we will always be waiting. That is the reality.

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    1. I pray that the chair will be filled...soon. I can't imagine your heartache, but i pray that one day you will have joy as he sits with his family.

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    2. I will always wait with you, Marilyn. Always. My prayers continue to go up ... very often.

      Thank you so much for your transparency, for joining Valerie in kicking off this conversation. I know it's not going to be an easy one for a number of readers that will gather 'round.

      May comfort and some sense of hope spring from what emerges here over the next few days ...

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  3. What a beautiful way to break tradition. Love these pictures, Linda. Praying this Thanksgiving will be a tad easier for you all, but I know it will still be hard.... Losses linger.

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    1. I had to put out a family email letting everyone know that there would be family-eating-s'mores pictures. We're not big on the camera lens aimed at us ...

      ;-}

      And this year there'll just be 3 at the table ... and 4 more later for dessert. Every year brings a uniqueness to celebrate, for sure.

      I hope your Thanksgiving is memorable, friend ...

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  4. Last year, I had a series of medical treatments ending 2 days before Thanksgiving. I called everyone and said "I'm not cooking and I'm not cleaning. Please come to my messy house, and bring food. I'll visit with you as much as I'm able." They did. I did. And it kept our little gathering going. Sadly, this year I have medical treatments ending 4 days before Christmas and will have to do the same thing. I will sleep a lot, hide from food smells, and visit with my loved ones as I am able.

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    1. And those are precisely the times when we realize how blessed we are when it hits us that we have people that truly love US, not just what we have to offer.

      I'm real glad you're here tonight ...

      ;-}

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  5. Smores on Thanksgiving are already a huge tradition for us!! Sitting around an outdoor fire... doesnt get any better!!! <3 - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. Sitting around an outdoor fire when it's frigid cold certainly has its benefits, Gingi! Hot drinks, cozy blankets shared, appreciation for a warm home ...

      And oh yes ... an exquisitely melted marshmallow nestled between 2 Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Who needs stale ol' graham crackers?

      ;-}

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  6. The holidays can be so tough, especially the presence of loved one's that are missing. I think your smores tradition is a lovely one, there is something about a bonfire and the coziness of it that draws people together. Hugs to you Linda, praying your Thanksgiving is a lovely one :)

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    1. You and Gingi are one in spirit, for sure, friend! Let's hear it for more memories made around holiday bonfires ...

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  7. Linda, I'm sending a load of hugs your way as you and the family trod the holiday path after two losses. We do "get" each other, don't we? (Although your loss is certainly doubled.) But to put a little smore "lightness" (is that a word?!) on a heavy situation is simply awesome. Love the pictures. Love the idea. Love how you're trodding the path with the comfort of our Almighty, even when it's tough. May your Thanksgiving be coated in chocolate and slathered sweet with marshmallows and memories of both your father and Tyler. (((hugs)))

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    1. Praying for you right now as you remember your dad, as you venture into the holidays, as you look back yet continue to move ahead, Kristi.

      May God's comfort surround and envelop you like a beloved cozy shawl ...

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  8. I do love this so much. I have found in times like this, in times of sadness and grief, this is exactly what we need to do Linda. When we feel we have nothing to be thankful for, we need to strive and find something that we love...and that can help bring a little hope to our hearts. Love smores...so you had me at the title on this post. :)

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    1. And I love that you're here this morning, Nicki. I hope your Thanksgiving week is filled with joy and gladness ...

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  9. Hi Linda! As you know, it's been a tough year over here too, although I didn't experience as much loss as you did. The photos of the smores roast are so fun! What a needed event, and a way to have fun together.
    I don't know what this Thanksgiving will bring, but I'm trying to be thankful for everything I have and have been given, and that gives me peace. I pray you will have a portion of God's great peace and comfort as you approach the holidays. It's so hard on our bodies, but I know our spirits rejoice.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Dear Ceil ... yes, I was thinking of the great loss of your dear Dad just a few months ago when I wrote this. Right now I'm recalling the beautiful picture you shared of the two of you on your blog.

      Please know that you'll remain close to my heart through the holidays. I do remember how difficult the first one is ...

      Yes, yes. His comfort to you, friend.

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  10. I hope this Thanksgiving will feel a bit easier for all of you, Linda. Though missing places always sadden us. I always feel kind of sad around Thanksgiving. I miss my mom more, even though it's been over 10 years. She always pulled the family together on Thanksgiving Day, but once she was gone, everyone went their own way to their own families. I guess it's a way of life, too, as families get bigger and older, but it's sad. Our immediate family gets together the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so the families are freed to get to the other side of the family on the day. My heart goes out to all families or to those with no families. There is often so much pain in the midst of families that one doesn't see, but it's a blessing if it unites them instead of splitting them apart. And there are some lonely people who have no family to go to at all. Prayers and hugs reaching out to all!

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    1. I hear you about the sadness, Trudy. Yes, even after 10 years. My clients have taught me what this is like, so I am hearing your aching heart today.

      Even in the bittersweet hours of this coming week, may you find pockets of sweet remembrances, may the time you have on Saturday surprise you with joy.

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  11. Thank you, Linda. For sharing something people just don't want to talk about. Losses are real and that empty chair at the dinner table makes a difference. The lost voice pierces the darkness. Thanks for giving us hope.

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    1. You're so right, Christine. We don't want to talk about it. But yet we ache to do so ...

      And we can shuffle those chairs all we want, but we still know that a loved one is not present.

      So instead, we exchange hope with each other ...

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  12. Thank you so much for this perspective, Linda! This will be the first Thanksgiving since Danny and I have been married that we won't spend together. His mother is not doing well enough to come to our house as she did in previous years, so he and his brother are going to her house for the holiday while my family is gathering at my mom's. It's been hard to do holidays since my dad died two years ago, but with God's help, we will make new, and hopefully sweet, memories.
    Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

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    1. Oh I am so sorry, Martha ... with missing your dad, Danny's mom ailing, and him having to make that difficult decision on where he needs to be most.

      May you feel loved and cherished all the same, may you find new memories springing up 'round each corner.

      Blessings, friend ...

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  13. Last Thanksgivng seemed to be a tough one for me. My son decided not to come home for Thanksgiving but in my thinking, I could not understand why -- why would he want to spend Thanksgivng alone? I first got mad, then sad, then cried all Sunday afternoon. To add to the pain, my other son and wife would be spending Thanksgiving with their other family. Low, low, low was how I continued to handle my loss of expectations of a holiday that was not to be. God peeked into my thoughts, and I asked Him to help me not to project my sadness on my undeserving children. The thought of my mother and how much I missed her startled me. She has been gone for 9 years. Who would think that the absence of someone gone so long ago could come to the surface so silently. But here is where it is a joy to have a God who knows our every soul crack and crevice. As soon as I realized it was mom who I grieved, I no longer felt disappointed by my children. Praise God from who all blessings flow!!!!!!!

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    1. Oh ... that was a rough one, wasn't it ... just like Valerie and Marilyn were sharing at the beginning of our dialogue, our adult children can cause us real heartache that's difficult for us to comprehend, to get our hands around.

      But what grace! That you were able to realize the depth of grief still tucked inside over your mom's death, understand what much of your pain was about, and then release your kids.

      I continue to learn important lessons from you, friend ... even from afar.

      ;-{

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  14. Wise words, friend. Praying that this year the holy days will bring comfort and peace to you and your family.

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    1. And the same for you, June. I know this has not been an easy year for you ...

      May comfort and joy be yours in great abundance, may your photography and writing bring strength and deep satisfaction.

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  15. Thank you for these beautiful words! Life this past year has been challenging but also so very good. I love how you grant permission to just be ourselves and to gather as a family. That is the greatest gift anyone can ever give me this time of year. I am traveling to see one of my brothers and his wife for Thanksgiving and I am so excited to step away and just be! Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Don't you just love how God restores our souls and raises us up from the ashes!

      I am so delighted that you'll be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and get away from the usual for a change of pace.

      Blessings, friend ...

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  16. Hi Linda, What a year of heartbreak and sorrow ... and recovery, too. 2016s been a hard year for us too. I'm working harder to be more mindful and hopeful for each and every day - of course, finding gratitude as much as possible. I'm so sorry for your pain and your family's losses. Thinking of you all.

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    1. Yes, we hang on to hope, gratitude, faith. And God sees us through, doesn't He.

      I'm praying for you even as we speak, friend ...

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  17. I adore you. Just do! Thankful for the ways you share your life with us, and for the ways you encourage and bless. Much love. xoxo

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    1. You always come spreading kindness, love, and grace, Beth. Seeing you here today is such a gift to me.

      I hope you guys are all doing well and that your holiday will find you snug in your family's arms.

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  18. Love this, my friend! This was such a great choice for you and your family. I still recall how tough the holidays were the year both my parents died unexpectedly three months apart. We changed a number of things that year because I just couldn't do it any other way, but never thought of s'mores!! What a wonderful idea!! I'm thankful this year has brought you into my life!!

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    1. Well, I'm grateful for the mentoring and spiritual encouragement you've sent my way this year, Pam. Blessings to you and your family as you celebrate this week!

      God is so good!

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  19. Linda, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to ask my sister to be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's house this year. I've hosted almost every major holiday dinner at my home for the last 10 years, but this fall has been sorta exhausting and I just needed a break. She happily agreed, and I am SO very thankful. I love your story about s'mores and your encouragement to shake up traditions when it seems like the most helpful thing to do. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friend!

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    1. I love that she agreed ... happily! It makes me wonder how many joys we've missed along the way because we were afraid of what someone might think or say or if we'd be misunderstood.

      Your story is a lovely reminder that sometimes, someone might just be waiting for our request ...

      May you embrace a relaxing holiday, dear Lois.

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  20. great pictures.. it's great to shake things up.

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  21. We huddled with family around the fire pit last year Anita. Fortunately, we were in the northern part of FL so it was 80* ;) We'll be making the trek to join that part of our family again and we'll huddle around the table, name our thanks which include sorrows but ones covered with His grace. Happy Thanksgiving

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    1. Another fire pit fan.

      ;-}

      Sorrows covered with His grace. So apt, so beautiful. May you feel His sweet comfort in huge measure, Debby.

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda