Art by French Press Mornings, lettering by Alyssa Martin
Drew and I have landed back in the States for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We weren’t sure we would get to come back before we had even clocked a full year in Zambia, but a few months into our time there, we were already ready for a break and booked these tickets as soon as possible.
Now that the time has finally come, we were actually sad to leave many of our friends and precious community in Zambia. While the lure of the US and all of its plenty seemed to call our name, we have been nervous for how we will react being back at home and what this time will hold.
I am glad however that we get to start off our time here celebrating a holiday that is all about thankfulness rather than the temptation to skip right to the greed our commercialized holiday season often centers around. I think people outside of the US are slightly confused about Thanksgiving and why Americans take it so seriously. Although it isn’t always about thankfulness for everyone, I appreciate the heart behind the time set aside, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, to sit and be truly thankful in the way we ought to also be throughout the year.
On our long journey home, I finally found time to sit down and begin reading Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven. I know I am super late to the “Seven train,” but I have been fascinated hearing from others who were moved by this book. For those of you who are also late to the train, this book recounts a series of fasts Hatmaker set out on for seven months in order to bring herself closer to Jesus and counteract the consumerism and greed she had been convicted of in the American culture.
It’s been so good to read this coming from where we have been for the past 10 and half months in Zambia where it has felt like we have gone on a similar journey, though less intentionally. I’ve only made it through the first couple of chapters, but I have been seeing the thread of gratitude woven throughout and found her journey fitting for this thanksgiving season.
Pathway to our first home in Zambia
In one of her weakest moments during her first fast limiting herself to just seven whole foods, she speaks of allowing Jesus to melt her into a “gratitude puddle” as soon as she begins feeling overwhelmed with the fast, and perhaps she has reached her limit. As she remembers the overwhelming joy of the things she has to be thankful for despite the things she is denying herself in order to move closer to God, all of the sudden the purpose becomes clearer.
I loved that imagery of opening up to the Lord about all of the hard and icy feelings she had about the way she felt called to follow Him, and as she began to look around at the gifts He had given her, all of the bitterness melted away. It is amazing what the power of thankfulness can do, even though it sounds cliché, it works and may in fact be a part of God’s design as are all good things.
Philippians 4 speaks deeply to the joy that comes from gratitude as Paul describes his incredible joy while he is writing to the church in Philippi from prison, and brings me back to the familiar message in verse 6,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.”
After reflecting on Jen’s fasting experience and our time in Zambia this year, I know that the thankfulness part of that verse is definitely not an after thought, it is a therapeutic aspect of our prayers that makes space for God to truly move and retain His rightful place as our good, perfect, and gracious Father that works out everything in our lives according to His plan.
It is so much easier to complain about the aspects of our lives that aren’t going according to our plans, but God is so much greater. The truth is, that among all the gifts in our lives, we fail to recognize our God as worthy to be praised and thanked.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18
May we use this holiday, this week, and this amazing grace God has given us to melt into a puddle of gratitude that causes His name to be praised through our lives. These are difficult times throughout the world, and we are longing for the coming of our Savior now more than ever. Let’s call His kingdom to come through our gratitude and acknowledgements of His goodness despite the pain and chaos of this world.
“…Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30
Deliciously Simple Apple Crumble
2 ½ cups sliced apples (time to break out that apple corer!)
1-cup sugar (I use brown, but the recipe usually calls for white)
1-cup flour (I use brown flour in Zambia which is a mix between whole wheat and white)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)
- Grease your baking dish (8-inch square works well)
- Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl
- Cut in the melted butter, which will form the “crumble” consistency
- Layer the sliced apples on the bottom of the baking dish
- Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients on top
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes
- Service warm with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream