Thanksgiving is next week. A day for gratitude, hospitality, and occasionally, stress. Rather than get tangled in planning, why not make this season a time for gratitude and actually, you know, thanks giving? A time to practice gratitude, hospitality, and simplicity?

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Here are three quick tips to make Thanksgiving less stressful and more meaningful.

  1. Ditch the kids table. Hear me out by reading this post.
  2. Accept contributions. When someone says, can I bring something, say yes! And let them. This involves letting go of some control. You may not love marshmallow topped yams but if your brother offers to bring them say yes, thanks, and just enjoy. Make sure you’ve got plenty of good wine and it will all taste delicious.
  3. Enlist cleanup help. Whoever doesn’t cook, cleans. Let folks know (especially the men folk, just saying) that if they are not cooking for two days straight, or at least bringing a dish to share, they will be washing dishes and scrubbing that turkey pan.  Nothing makes someone feel like family like handing them a sponge.

Thanksgiving is not about impressing people, it’s about creating space for folks to enjoy time together and to express gratitude. To that end, I wanted to share this edited excerpt from my book GodSpace, which explores seven spiritual practices, including gratitude.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

(Psalm 118:1, also Psalm 107:1, and several times in each Psalm)

Unlike Easter or Ramadan or Hanukkah, Thanksgiving it is not specifically tied to a faith tradition. It invites everyone, faith or none, to be a little spiritual and practice gratitude. No one asks, “What is the real meaning of Thanksgiving?” because, thanks giving is also a verb.

Thanksgiving is giving thanks. It’s active; you do it. While our culture has created some traditions around it—turkey, mashed potatoes, football, hanging out with relatives whom you may not even like that much—the focus of the holiday is still giving thanks. Recent calls to remove bias from our history (um, the Pilgrims were not always very kind to the Native Americans) don’t change the truth that Thanksgiving, at its heart, about gratitude.

Christmas has been commercialized and politicized; happily, nobody argues about whether we should say “Happy Thanksgiving.” Even people who don’t believe in God celebrate Thanksgiving, and express gratitude, if not to a higher power, to the people around them. The commercialism machine is trying to encroach on this day to be thankful, with stores opening not just on Black Friday, but on Thanksgiving! I resist that. I’m all #optoutside instead.


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Thanksgiving is about gratitude—even when it’s hard. When your family squabbles or when you’re sad because someone who once sat at your table isn’t there this year—for any number of reasons, still, it’s a day to express thanks, to remember the goodness of God. And when it is hard, as holidays can be, when you feel sad or lonely, it is a day to choose gratitude, to lean into those realities and say “thank you, Lord” in spite of the circumstances. Sift through life’s debris, and find the gems.

Confession: at Thanksgiving, I need to lean in to the practice of simplicity, because my greatest temptation is to overdo things. Brine the turkey, make everything from scratch, use chargers under the plates—a mostly ornamental addition that never graces my table except at the holidays. They’re basically a plate for your plate. But it looks so fancy, I convince myself they are necessary. But I digress.

Thanksgiving is one of the few times of year I go on Pinterest. I have a stack of food magazines with turkeys on the cover that I save and look through each year, having earnest debates with myself about what to cook and how to cook it. I love planning the menu, cooking, creating a beautiful table. I have to remind myself: this is not about the fancy meal; this is creating a space for gratitude, for hospitality. I make myself spend time not just planning the menu but

Thanksgiving meal prep a few years ago.

thinking about how to get conversation to a deeper place with a group of folks who may not want to go there.

(Want to read more of this chapter? Grab your own copy of GodSpace from amazon)

This year, I’m leaning into gratitude, and staying off Pinterest. I’m not even sure who’s coming to dinner, and friends, that both stresses me and feels like progress in my quest to let go and welcome all.