If you are alive to read this post, you have something to be thankful for!

As we approach the 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday, I am reminded of the tumultuous year that we have lived through. I won’t list anything other than the word covid – which I know is usually spelled with a capital c – but it makes me feel like we take away some of the “ominous-ness” by using a lower case c.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday because it brings together so many of my favorites things… I get to cook, eat, and prayerfully host some of my family and friends. I get to be a little lazy and lounge the day of and day after, if I choose to.  For many of you, there is a weekend of celebrating with extended friends and family who are in town. And best of all – we take time to tell God how grateful we are for blessing us.

Psalm 111:1 captures this sentiment beautifully…

I will thank the Lord with all my heart, as I meet with his godly people.

Isn’t this a great passage to describe Thanksgiving!

To help you get ready, here is my 2021 list of Thanksgiving tips and ideas…

12.    If you haven’t done so yet, now is a good moment think about the people you can safely celebrate with this year. Try to confirm whether these people are available and willing to gather. And if yes, determine how and where. Is it dinner in person, or a Zoom meeting after dining with the people you can eat with? Or is it a gathering on a different day?

11.    Once you know this, those who are hosting/cooking can plan the menu. I usually type my plan on a spreadsheet. (See the screen shot below.) I list the dish, the person who is making it, and if it’s me, when I will cook it. Some things get cooked well in advance and they go into the freezer. Most are cooked the day before. My list helps me not forget things people are looking forward to and also to pace myself and to help from other people.

10. I have noticed that turkeys might not be as plentiful this year. Rather than fret, this could be a chance to try a new protein. One year my mom made fried chicken to go with the turkey. From that point on our family demanded friend chicken and most only eat turkey when the chicken runs out. Or you could roast a whole chicken and have a similar look as a traditional turkey. What ever you have – it will be delicious – if you cook it with love and thanksgiving like the first celebrants did.

9.    I find that the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are a perfect time to clean out your refrigerator and freezer. You are going to need that space for the feast and leftovers. I typically plan to cook and eat whatever is currently in the frig/freezer. I candidly have more this year because of covid. I trust we will be eating some creative combinations…

8.      If you are making a dish for the first time, or one you haven’t made in a long time, consider making a small sample as a practice dry run. That way you will be confident when the big dinner arrives.

7.      If you are hosting the dinner, layout the serving dishes that you plan to use a few days in advance. That way you will know what you have and what you might want to borrow from friends or family.

7.      Take pictures of the preparation and throughout the big day. Don’t worry about posting them anywhere. Just keep them, the good, the bad, the ugly, like the dozen uncooked yeast rolls that my dog pulled from the table before I got a chance to bake them, to savor during future holidays. (And if you must share just do a quick air drop to people in the house.) These photos may become precious mementos like the one below of my mom, who is now celebrating in heaven.

5.      If you are a house guest staying at someone else’s abode, ask how you can help. Men folk, maybe you can keep an eye on all the garage cans in the house and be the emptier/bag replacer. My favorite guests help clean the mountain of dishes from dinner. That is one of the best gifts that can be given.

4.      If we have a large crowd, our dining room table isn’t big enough for all our guests to sit there. So we dress-up the kitchen table and add a cute table in the family room, so the football heads can watch the game while they enjoy the meal after we say grace. Each is decorated and set with plates and utensils that guests can carry through the buffet line. This can be a great strategy to help manage create social distancing spaces.

3.      Consider setting up the food buffet style. We sit our dishes around our kitchen countertops so folks can serve and get seconds easily. I try to make it attractive while self-sustaining once the eating begins. Keep plenty of hand sanitizing handy so people can be safe. And wear masks while fixing plates, especially if guests have not taken the vaccine.

2.      Make it a priority to enjoy the process of cooking, cleaning, visiting. Make sure you laugh. Play encouraging music or listen to books on tape/CD while you cook and clean or pack if you are traveling. (Check out this playlist of music written by Vince Guaraldi – https://youtu.be/zSR4m6xF6I0) for inspiration. And definitely watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. Make popcorn and toast as your show-watching snack if you dare. Gather up some board games to play when Thanksgiving dinner is over.

1.      As you finish reading this post please take a moment to tell God how grateful you are for His grace and mercy in your life. Be thankful this Thanksgiving holiday and don’t stop. (Just like Psalm 103:1-5 says… https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%20105%3A1-5&version=NLT)