WITH THANKSGIVING IN MY HEART

By Lisa Huddleston

Psalm 95

It’s almost here. Next week is Thanksgiving and then we will be smack dab into “the holidays.” Whew! Take a deep breath, Lisa. It’ll be okay. And I know it will—it always is. But I really want it to be more than okay this year. I want it to be … hmmm? Exactly what do I want it to be?

I’m sure if you asked my family the number one thing that would improve the holidays for all of us would be for Mom to get a new attitude. It hurts to acknowledge it, but much of the stress in our home comes from me. I fret about the meals. I worry about the presents. I agitate about places for everyone to sleep. I whine and complain until everything out of my mouth begins to sound like, “Bah humbug.” Yeah. That’s a lot of fun for everyone. Therefore, if I want this year to be different then I need to stop worrying so much about things that don’t even matter, and turn my focus onto what does: honoring God and blessing others.

So here I am. While there is still time and I have you as witnesses to hold me to it, I, Lisa Marie Collins Huddleston, do solemnly resolve to kick Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch right out of our house for the holidays. Nope. No room in the inn for those two at Hudfarm this year.

Oh … did I really just say that out loud? Yes, I did, and I’m counting on you to hold me to it. No more whining. No more complaining. Sure, I may have to be a lot more quiet than usual, but I can do it. Right? Right. With God’s help and your encouragement, yes, I most certainly can.

And Thanksgiving is a perfect place to begin. Let me come into his presence with thanksgiving in my heart for my God is a great God. He has given me a family who loves me even when I gripe. He has given me an opportunity to bless them and others in my home. And he has placed within my sometimes hard and Grinchy-green heart a pea-sized desire to praise him more.

And I am already thankful for the change. I can feel it. I’m thankful that there is still time to make this year’s celebrations better than okay. I’m thankful for the Lord’s willingness to transform me. And I’m thankful for the Lord himself. For he is my God and I am a sheep in his pasture and in his hand. I will make a joyful noise to the Lord with songs of praise instead of complaining. I will worship and bow down before the Lord, my Maker. And today or tomorrow, if I hear his voice, I will not harden my heart like Ebeneezer Scrooge. No, not this year. Oh come, let me kneel before the Lord and then let me rise up to celebrate this season with joy. Oh yeah—that will be much more than okay.

Happy Thanksgiving!

AMAZING GRACE

By Lisa Huddleston

Deadlines are great motivators.  Without them, I’m not sure I’d ever accomplish anything.  I would be much more likely to ponder and muse over quandaries and ideas than I would be to actually dig for the answers to my questions.  But knowing that I had a discussion to lead on Wednesday night forced me into action.  We were spending the month learning more about the items on our “Thankful For” lists, and this week’s topic was “grace.” 

At first, I had thought it would be an easy subject to discuss.  After all, it was near the top on all of our lists.  We all knew the words to the song, “Amazing Grace,” and we all were glad to know that we could get something for nothing—even if we weren’t quite sure what we were getting.  But, as I began to study and come up with an outline for our gathering, I realized that there was a lot I didn’t really get about grace. 

For many years, I have clung to a certain verse in times of trouble.  It first became real to me when my husband was very ill, and we were afraid that he might not survive.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-9) were words that carried us through that time and became an integral part of my spiritual psyche.  But they didn’t always bring me the comfort you might imagine.  In fact, as we moved tentatively out of that season and Chuck’s health returned, the idea of the sufficiency of God’s grace began to haunt me.  If those words were true, then why did I still feel such a gap in my life?  Why did I so often feel as though I needed something more?

As I studied, I made some important discoveries.  First, grace is an attribute of God.  When you get God, you get grace.  He is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and he “waits to be gracious to us” (Is. 30:18).  Thankfully he is not waiting until we deserve his grace but until we will accept it (Rom. 5:6-8).  Once we do, our budding faith gives rise to God’s grace.  To borrow a line from my friend Dr. Paul Jackson, “When faith surfaces, grace is stirred.”  Like a pebble dropped into a glassy pool of healing water, faith stirs our souls to receive God’s grace.  God gives the grace—we only receive it.  Then why the longing for more?  I still ached for the answer as I pumped friends for knowledge, scoured my books, and searched through Scripture.

Finally, light pierced through my clouded musings.  If I really believed what I knew to be the truth then something else must be the problem.  There is no gap in his grace.  Sufficient means “all I need.”  Therefore, the lack must come from me.  I know that this concept was probably clear to everyone but me; however, it was a radical idea when it dawned.  And I hope it is the next handle to which I cling.  I am not enough.  Finally, I see my weakness, and I am praying that in it he will be strong!

Now as I ponder grace and study more to show myself approved, I will have a new prayer on my lips.  Father, I thank you for your grace which is sufficient for me.  Your grace on which I can stand assured (Rom. 5:2).  I do believe.  Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24).  Amen.

THE FAMILY OF GOD

By Lisa Huddleston

Oh boy—family!  You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. 

I’m sure by now you’ve already guessed that I’ve been trying to make plans for the holidays.  If not, then you either don’t have family of your own or you’re the one who goes to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving.  I remember those days of “Over the river and through the woods” … but now my house is often the destination.  And, truth be told, I really do love it.  I’m a true homebody (recluse!), and I love that I don’t have to go anywhere else to celebrate.  But attempting to work around multiple schedules and expectations does get to be a little trying at times.  I am trying to make everyone happy.  I am trying to stay sane.  And I am trying to get through the whole ding dang time without killing anybody!

Amazingly God has spoken in the midst of all my pre-holiday angst to remind me that the gift of family is a blessing.  And as he has also reminded me lately, we are blessed to be a blessing.  Therefore, please, bear with me as I share a little of what I’ve learned this week about that blessed curse called “family.”

To begin with, family isn’t our idea—it’s God’s.  From the beginning, God determined that it wasn’t good for man to be alone so he made a helper fit for him.  “Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’” (Genesis 2:23).  Adam knew family when he saw it—Eve belonged with him, and he belonged with her.  Together they made a unit of one.

And that’s pretty much how it feels when a family works as it should.  We belong to the whole unit.  We fit and are recognized as a part of the group.  We just know we’re home—no matter our condition, no matter our attitude, no matter our health or wealth.  As Robert Frost put it, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/They have to take you in.”  Adam saw Eve and cried, “At last!” 

But not all of us have a family like that.  Some of us are orphaned.  Some of us are widowed.  Maybe not literally, but maybe so.  Life changes.  Family evolves.  Parents pass away.  Children grow up and move.  New people are added while others are subtracted.  Family is not always as easy to define as we would like, and often there are many people who find themselves alone as the holidays approach.  And God knew that from the beginning as well.

As the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows … God settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:5-6).  He cares for those who are lonely, and he expects us as his sons and daughters to care for them as well.  That is very good news for all of us whether we are on one side of that conjunction or the other.  We may be lonely this Thanksgiving.  Isn’t it a blessing to know that God cares and is our ever-loving father?  Or we may have more than we can say grace over this year—more family than we can comfortably seat around the table or more than we have china to serve or more than we can fit in the same room at the same time.  God sees our fishes and loaves and is just waiting to multiply the feast.

Ultimately the most important thing I’ve learned this week as I’ve fretted over schedules and plans is that it’s ridiculous to fret over schedules and plans.  As a dear lady told me once, “God knows.” And he does.  After all it’s his family that is gathering together and the purpose for our gathering is to give him thanks.  Of course, he will provide for his children.  Of course, he will give us all we need.  He’s our father, and it’s good to belong to the King!  Whew—at last!