Every Woman a Theologian
— Give Thanks With an Ungrateful Heart —
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Dear friend,
American Thanksgiving is this Thursday; I have been assigned the green bean casserole and a salad. We are shipping hundreds of packages from our winter collection the two days before and day right after and Thanksgiving sits, like a restful pause, within the rush. I have always loved Thanksgiving – it was one of my favorite holidays as a child. The Michigan air is crisp and cold but there isn't much snow on the ground (usually), the trees are purple-gray, leaves entirely gone for weeks now; and the smell of coffee mingles with the scent of stuffing and pie and all the delicious things my grandma cooked.
My mom tried hard to keep the focus of Thanksgiving on actual thanksgiving – not football or Black Friday. I think she generally succeeded (though we do still tease her about her obsession with the Pilgrims, and I had my Pilgrim placemat for longer than I care to admit).
Thanksgiving makes me think of this 90s worship song, a song I remember hearing as a self-conscious ten year old who wouldn't sing in church, plucking the plastic chair tops in and out of the seat in front of me:
Give thanks with a grateful heart,
give thanks to the Holy One;
give thanks, because he’s given
Jesus Christ, his Son.
Give thanks with a grateful heart,
give thanks to the Holy One;
give thanks, because he’s given
Jesus Christ, his Son.
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But when I was chronically ill, I couldn't give thanks with a grateful heart. Be grateful for skin that blisters and peels? Be grateful for more elimination diets, more doctor bills? Be grateful for a pregnancy marred with pain – again?
Or when Josh lost his job when I was pregnant with Eva. Be grateful for the sinking numbers in our bank account? For the boss who dismissed him without a care? For the terror of living in a city with no industry to support my husband's career?
I really like that worship song. But sometimes we have to give thanks with an ungrateful heart. We have to give thanks before we feel grateful, before things change. 
But there's another important piece here: God isn't asking us to give thanks FOR the circumstance. He told us to give thanks IN all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). There is a difference! And that is why… I actually LOVE how that worship song ends:
And now let the weak say ‘I am strong’,
let the poor say ‘I am rich’,
because of what the Lord has done for us;
and now let the weak say ‘I am strong’,
let the poor say ‘I am rich’,
because of what the Lord has done for us.
Give thanks…
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When I was chronically ill, I did not give thanks for my illness. I thanked God for a healthy baby despite my risky illness. I thanked God for friends who supported and cared for me. I thanked God for answers when they came. And I learned to say “I am strong” in a season of deep weakness.
When we were unemployed and afraid, we did not give thanks for the job loss. We thanked God for the church who cared for us. We thanked God for every little bit of provision. We thanked God for His provision in the past. And we learned that we were very rich in Christ, even though we were very poor. 
Maybe you don't feel grateful this week. Maybe “thanksgiving” seems far off. Dear friend, you can - and should – give thanks based on who God is, not the circumstance you're in. You don't have to be grateful for what is happening; but there is something IN what is happening for which you can be grateful: God sees you. He loves you. And He is not far off.
Five Faves

  • This article on talking to Jehovah's Witnesses. This was helpful to Josh as we study and navigate this theology with some new acquaintances.
  • Amos and Margaret Raber's country album “Sing Me Back Home.  Ok, there's a story here. Margaret attended Verity Conference in October, but I didn't get to meet her - she left a gift at the conference that Josh brought home and forgot about in the warehouse. Last week he brought it in and felt SO bad he just discovered it! Margaret left a sweet note and the album as well as her husband Amos' testimony of leaving the Amish for true faith in Christ. Last Sunday I read the whole book and listened to the album as we drove around this week. I am so impressed with Amos' talent, but his testimony is also beautiful. This not the first Amish testimony I've read; I also read Ira Wagler's. Margaret - thank you for these sweet gifts!
  • Journey to Bethlehem by Philip Ryken: This Advent compilation of classic Christmas hymns and writings is part of my favorite series from Crossway. I've read The Heart in Pilgrimage twice; can't wait to use this for Christmas season!
  • The Toddler Advent Plan: This blog post has all my recommendations for Advent activities with really little kids! This is what we used to do before my kids got older. 
  • This Jesse Tree Advent Bundle is my FAVORITE Advent activity: Pip and J makes beautiful resources and this is no exception! I love using this with my kids. 
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Ask Anything Q/A

Question: How to discern where God wants us to live/move?
I think this is a bigger question of discerning God's voice in general! God speaks: that is the beautiful thing about being a follower of Jesus. We follow the Living God who not only loves us but personally guides us. And: there are some decisions God grants us perfect freedom within. We might pray and ask for leading, and He gives us both options, willing to use either for good. This was the case when Josh and I left Pennsylvania for Michigan. We fully believe we could have stayed and been in God's will, but we chose to leave and were also doing God's will. Ask yourself: Have we prayed about this? Have we made a pro/con list and prayed over that? Are we making decisions from peace or fear? Have we sought wise counsel? Here is a resource on hearing the voice of God. I also talked about it at Verity Conference. 
Question: Any good Advent studies you are loving this year?
There are so many! Here are some I love:
The ones I use repeatedly: I like to read Light Upon Light on Sundays of Advent; it's not a daily devotional. I read this privately, not with the fam. Journey to Bethlehem would be my daily choice this year, but I also love The Greatest Gift because it covers the whole biblical story leading to Jesus. Ruth's and Asheritah's are shorter, daily, and easy reads. 
What I'm Reviewing

Instead of what I'm “reading” this week, here's a list of books that are up and coming – I'm currently reading them for endorsement or review.
The Gift of Limitations by Sara Hagerty
Sara's writing is always beautiful – like sitting down to stare at a landscape painting, breathing in the loveliness. But this book? It's not just beautiful, it is necessary. When she sent it to me the title didn't grab me at first. I didn't really “get it” until I was two chapters in with tears in my eyes, realizing it's exactly what I needed. If you ever feel like you're kicking against the goads of your life, like you're trying to get back to “how it used to be”, this is for you.
Behold and Believe by Courtney Doctor and Joanna Kimbrel
This is not a trade book but a bible study on the I Am Statements of Jesus. I love these statements and I love Crossway (the publisher of this study) so I am excited to explore with Courtney and Joanna have created!
Untangle Your Emotions by Jennie Allen
I recently read and endorsed this new one by Jennie. I think Jennie's gift is writing in a casual, friendly tone on topics that simultaneously practical and relatable. My biggest question was how she dealt with the “impassibility” of God and His emotions (some people believe God has no emotions; I personally disagree with this. I think He can have emotions and also be fully in command of them). Those who like formal or lyrical writing would probably not enjoy this book, but if you like something more casual or something to discuss with a newer believer on the topic of emotions, this would be a good choice!
At Home with Phylicia

For Thanksgiving week we are doing something different! Though we had co-op on Monday, I'm bumping week 11 of our core studies to next week and doing a Thanksgiving deep dive this week instead. Kind of like a unit study… except I compiled everything myself! Here is what I am using.
  • Lots of Thanksgiving picture books for read-aloud: