WFMW: {Guest Post} 5 Ideas to Make This Year’s Thanksgiving Your Best Of All Time

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Hi, I’m Robin! When Kristen invited me to step into her space while she and her family are loving on those babies at Mercy House, fistpumping I thought, “Thanksgiving Week?  Yes!!  I know exactly what I’ll write!”

And then she wrote most of it for me in her WFMW last week. ~ smile ~  Wonderful thoughts on taking back Thanksgiving, her ideas embody my soul’s cry for the holidays.

So I re-grouped, incorporating one or two ideas in a new way and adding a few others, and today I’m happy to share What Works For Me this week:

5 Ideas to Make This Year’s Thanksgiving Your Best Of All Time

1.  Require a ticket to the table.

When I host our family Thanksgiving meal, I require a ticket for admission for everyone.  We do this by way of our Thankful Box, and it’s as simple as writing down at least one thing for which you’re thankful and slipping it into the box before dinner.  After we’re done eating, we pass the Thankful Box around, taking turns reading the slips of paper and trying to guess who said it.  It’s a great conversation starter, it holds us together just a little bit longer, and it serves as beautiful reminder for why we’re together.  If you’re interested, I penned a little poem to go with mine, and one year gave it as an inexpensive but priceless Christmas gift, tucked inside a pretty box.

2.  Establish Your Signature Dish.

Can you think of specific dishes made by members of your family, the ones that are as eagerly anticipated as the holidays?  Well, if you don’t already have one that everyone is begging you to cook, make that your goal this year!  Mine is apple pie; it’s a definite labor of love because I have to make two to have enough (four homemade crusts!)…but the lip-smacking and declarations that I make the best apple pie in the world are big paychecks.

3.  Do Something Different.

As host this year, I was thinking through details for dinner when it occurred to me I couldn’t remember a single specific Thanksgiving meal with my parents.  Horrified and wanting to make sure this wasn’t the case for my babies, I asked my youngest (the only one still at home) for ideas.  Though I don’t think I’ll take the advice of my teenage son, I’m cooking up some surprises to go with our turkey.  Feel free to offer YOUR suggestions in comments–I’m listening!

4.  Give Surcies.

Wanna fill your family’s and friends’ cup to the overflow?  Gift them a little something that demonstrates your anticipation of their arrival.  Among family, this kind of thoughtfulness is unexpected.  It’s a way tangibly to express I love you, and can be as simple as a scripture verse rolled in a tiny bottle (I received one of these and it MADE MY DAY!), after-dinner mints (or if you have time,  hand-pressed buttermints) wrapped in a little bag to freshen post-turkey breath.  Love notes at each table setting don’t cost a thing, but they’re word treasures.

5.  Remember Others.

It’s likely you have family members too far away to visit, those who have experienced great loss since last year (through death of loved ones, marital strife), and others who are struggling through difficult circumstances (illness, financal, etc.).  Pick up the phone and call them.  Drop a card in the mail.  Serve with your family at a local ministry.  Don’t feel like you have to talk an hour or write a dissertation–the act of remembering is a beautiful expression of love, and it could be the very thing someone needs to hear.

Heartfelt thanks to Kristen for allowing me to share Wednesday with you, and if you’ve never visited my blog (or it’s been a long while), I’ve just unveiled my new design and I am thrilled to the moon!  Pop over for a visit?  I’ve got a few surprises waiting :).


Sweet [Exhausted] Mercy

We made it.

And I’m almost too tired to type another word.

30 hours and mostly still smiling (not one meltdown, so clearly miracles happen).

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We landed at 7am and hit the ground running. We arrived at the home and got reacquainted. Everyone is shy at first, babies tentative to white strangers.

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Well. Most.

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We shared gifts with all the residents and staff and took a tour of our new home and the recent additions.

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It’s surreal being in Kenya again. Loving mercy, being eyewitnesses to all God has done.

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Also: What happens in Kenya stays in Kenya

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One of my kids got stuck in a bathroom for half an hour and we had to break the door down. That was fun. You can take that family out of the USA, but you can take THAT family out of us. Apparently.

I’m so glad you’re here with us!

P.S. Don’t you love my Team Mercy shirt? Our new Team Mercy Advocacy Program starts in 2014. It’s the perfect way for families to join our team and help reach more girls in Kenya for Christ.


Last Minute

Our bags are packed, weighed, rearranged, unpacked, repacked ready for Africa. (And I have a large supply of chocolate and Xanax for my travel anxiety. And all the other passengers said AMEN).

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We leave on a big plane tomorrow and layover in Amsterdam. Since our kids are traveling with us this trip, I was on the hunt for cheap plane tickets a few months ago, which should explain the 12 hour layover in Holland and the 9 hour red eye to Kenya. And also the cranky exhausted kids I’m expecting.

Remind me of that okay?

I’m always excited SLASH nervous when I travel to Kenya. It’s like stepping into a completely different world where you lose control and expectations. I’ve gone half a dozen times now, but this trip, this trip will be like no other. 

12 babies, y’all. 

I want you to come with me. I want you to taste, smell , hear and see. I can’t wait to show you what you’ve helped create. I can’t wait to show you joy only God can bring.

I can’t wait to show you miracles.

Would you pray for us? (Specifically for peace and wisdom, endurance and grace over the next 12 days)

I’m praying for you, too. 


Raising Grateful Kids in An Entitled World

When my family moved a few miles away to a smaller town last year, we swapped a huge school district for a smaller, more rural one, a push mower for a broken down riding one that my hubby fixed and city sewage for our very own septic system (just don’t play in the sprinklers). And while we are still close to The City (and by city, I mean Target and Chick Fil A), it was time we two-stepped over to the other side–and became a boot-wearing family.

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On the way to the Rodeo a few weeks ago, one of my kids had a nasty, ungrateful outburst and I was half tempted to leave them in tennis shoes (the horror), but grace won out. Outfitting our children in cowboy boots was quite a splurge (hubby and I already had some).

After a fun day, we drove home, and this same kid’s ugly attitude showed up again with a bit of entitlement thrown in and it went downhill from there. There was dysfunctional family activity (so glad my life isn’t a reality show) and my husband asked for the boots back. This sort of broke my country heart, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

We didn’t buy the boots, so we could return them. As a matter of fact, my hubby couldn’t find the receipt at first and I bit my nails because THIS PARENTING THING IS SO HARD. We wanted our child to share the joy down to their feet, but it was the heart that needed the immediate attention.

The said child cried and begged and promised and fretted. And then pulled the grace card: “Why can’t you show me grace?”

I piped up and said, “Buying you the boots in the first place was grace” and then I recounted the earlier behavior.

My husband put the boots back in the box and stuck them on a high shelf in the laundry room and said,”If you want the boots, you’ll have to work for them.” He pointed to the huge mulched areas in the front yard and then the back. “You have 3 days to pull every weed. I won’t remind you, it’s up to you. It’s your job if you want it. It pays in boots.”

And that was that.

I wanted to high five my man and sob with my child, all at the same time. Because, lo, the weeds were many.

Our big yard is muddy and wet and full of weeds and I grimaced at the job, wondering what my child would choose. I was a silent cheerleader on their behalf. And my heart soared when I heard the front door click and I saw my offspring in old clothes sit down for the long hours ahead.

For the next two days, I watched my child work hard and get hands dirty and heart tender.

When my husband handed back the boots and I heard a true apology on my kid’s lips, I knew we had all won. “You earned these. I won’t take them away again.” A certain little cowhand is walking high around here and those boots means twice as much this time around. Hard work pays off and changes us in the process.

We live in an entitled world and whether we like it or not, children in our culture are consumers. It has become a global issue because they are a captive audience and the average kid views up to 40,000 commercials a year and business pour up to 17 billion into that advertising. Source. If you still doubt, just walk down the Easter aisles in your local store. Because only a consumer-driven society could take a Savior on a cross and turn it into a four aisles at the grocery store.

“Marketers want to accomplish two things with our children:

  1. Awaken and amplify their desire to consume
  2. Blur the line between wants and needs.” Source

And this combination is creating a generation of children who aren’t grateful, who expect everything to be handed to them and don’t really know how to work and this breeds the greatest enemy of all: discontentment.

Just look at what our culture has done with holidays. They’ve turned it all into hoopla and not only is it confusing to our kids to live in a world of made-up celebrations, it muddies the waters of the Holy ones and their true intent is lost.

If “true godliness with contentment is great wealth” (1 Timothy 6:6), then discontentment leaves of spiritually bankrupt and completely empty.

Honestly, I don’t blame the kids. As parents, we often foster this mentality with our own actions. We compare ourselves (and our homes, cars, etc) to what others have, we let media (and ultimately, advertising) influence our home by not limiting screen time and we have a hard time deciphering between needs and wants.

Fighting the entitlement battle  in our home is hard, but here are some things we are doing to try and live counter-culturally in this area:

  1. We are Asking for Hard Work- I think many kids in our culture (my own included) don’t know much about hard work. I grew up in a house that worked. We cleaned and did yard work every weekend and everyone helped clean up the kitchen every night. A few weeks ago, we spent most of the day in the yard. And the more my kids complained, the more I realized how much we had neglected giving them hard, dirty work. My kids get their own laundry basket and take over washing, folding and putting away their clothes when they turn 8, they take turns helping clean up in the kitchen and their rooms, but it was clear to me that a little hard work was needed. I’m excited to say a truckload of dirt and rock are sitting in our driveway right now, waiting a few hard workers. Oh parenting, you do come in handy. (Phil 2:14-15)
  2. We aren’t Making Unrealistic Promises-We regularly tell our kids not to expect us to pay for college. While we hope to help in some way, we don’t have plans to pay it for their college education in its entirety. We expect them to work hard now, focus on their gifted areas, get scholarships, part time jobs, etc, to contribute. We try not to make them promises that only enhance the entitlement attitude in our culture or promises we don’t know if we can keep.
  3. We are Sticking to Consequences-If we suggest a consequence, we commit to seeing it thru as often as we can. I’ve come up with some stupid consequences in my day and have regretted my rash tongue. But something clicks in our kid when they understand we are serious about some things.
  4. We are Limiting Media-Hushing the voices of our culture that is telling our kids all the stuff they need comes in part by tuning it out. Media specifically targets our children to want a lot of stuff they don’t need. We have a TV and computers and devices, but besides filtering them, we turn them off. My kids still complain about it, which reinforces exactly why it’s important.
  5. We are Exposing Them to the World-I’m a firm believer that an entitlement attitude is in direct correlation to perspective. When you’re only looking and thinking about yourself, you can only see what you want. But when you remove the blinders and see needs around you and in the world, it alters your perspective. Exposing our kids to other cultures and how most of the world really lives, stirs up gratitude like nothing else.
  6. We are Extending Grace-Living by a bunch of strict rules and do’s and don’ts isn’t the answer. Being flexible with your own rules is not only necessary, it’s healthy for your family. And let’s face it, who doesn’t need extra grace? We are on the same team.
  7. We are Examples in our Mistakes-Ouch. This is the hardest. When I compare and complain, I’m leading by example. When I am thankful and gracious, they are watching. As I make mistakes, I’m offering them the greatest lesson. It’s important to admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness when we hurt our kids.
  8. We are Raising them to Be Different- I Peter 2:11 Our society has low expectations of kids. We expect toddlers to get what they want and teens to be rebellious. Instead of helping our kids fit in every area of their lives (an impossibility, really), we are encouraging them to go against the flow, reminding them we’re supposed to be different than the world.  They are normal kids and have longings to fit in-we all do. We just aren’t going to compromise our beliefs or lives to do so in every circumstance.
  9. We are Relying on God- By far, parenting is the hardest job. And honestly, there are so many days, we don’t know what to do. Our kids belong to God. He loves them more than we do. He wants to guide us down the hard roads.

Our family certainly didn’t need new boots, even though we plan to wear them for years to come. But walking a mile in them taught us a great lesson in gratitude. Some days we feel like we’ve lost the battle against entitlement in our home; we are still in the trenches, trying to figure this all out. But as we reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and turn our attention to The Cross, it’s thankfulness for His sacrifice and our chance at New Life that I want them to grasp the most.

repost from archives


WFMW: 5 Ways to Take Back Thanksgiving

“You mean we won’t be eating turkey?” my 6 year old asked in surprise.

There won’t be a turkey.

Or a pumpkin pie.

No, mashed potatoes or a food-coma-football game.

For the first time in our family’s history, we won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving.

We will be living it.

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We will be holding babies in Kenya that weren’t supposed to be born. We will be hugging girls that should have died. We will be eye witnesses to the remarkable story that God has written.

“Will we even know it’s Thanksgiving Day?” she asked.

Yes, we will know, darling. Because Thanksgiving is more than food and parades and bounty. It’s testimony. It’s looking at what God has done-from the mundane to the miraculous- and breaking bread, our lives, in thanks for it. We will know.

Your Thanksgiving won’t look like mine. But I urge you to take it back. We live in a world that has turned a turkey into a god and God into something routine.

Five Ways to Take Back Thanksgiving:

1. Be intentional. Write down your thanks–on a paper tablecloth, pinned to a wreath, in a gratitude journal. Read it out loud. Share your thanks.

2. Share your table. Invite a single friend, a new divorced mom, neighbors, strangers and feast with them.

3. Don’t be a consumer. I’m all about a good deal, but let’s not turn this day of thanks into another day of shopping.

4. Give thanks by giving your life away. Find some way, someone to share your resources with. Look at your excess (toys, clothes, food) and find someone who needs what you have too much of.

5. Include God. It sounds trite, but it’s powerful and freeing to remember and acknowledge where every gift comes from (God in Heaven).  Offer gratitude to the One who gives us breath and hope.