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Today marks the TWENTIETH episode at The Messy Table (insert allllll the praise-hand emojis)! I want to start by shouting a gigantic THANK YOU to all of my amazing guests who have bravely opened up their lives and souls on this little podcast, for the sake of encouraging others and reminding us just how faithful our God is—even in the messes of life. I also want to thank YOU for coming alongside of us on this adventure. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel, but I’m humbled and expectant for all that’s still to come.

So, thank you!

I couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate this milestone than by inviting some of my precious friends to join me in the celebration! Today’s conversation with Kristi Ivey, Lindsay McKee, Lacye Stewart, Ashley Clinesmith, and Kat Robinson (aka The Village) is rich! We chat about how to sustain friendships as adults and how to keep Jesus front and center during an otherwise commercial Christmas, as well as heavier topics like wading through foster care, infertility, and marriage struggles. There’s loads of wisdom and insight pouring from these women, which has been gained through various experiences in various seasons of life.

“We know that, at any moment, we could call each other up and be at each other’s doorsteps—which has happened.”

Since December officially kicks off tomorrow, we’re running into the Christmas season with a super fun GIVEAWAY! Two identical bundles to be exact. Each gal offered something they’re loving right now—three books (The Best Yes, Sacred Marriage, and A Meaningful Christmas devotional), one pair of buffalo plaid earrings (made by Kat), a holiday candle, and some scrumptious Mary Kay body wash! You could win it all, and maybe even share with a friend.

To enter, simply: 1) Head over to The Messy Table in iTunes and make sure you’re subscribed + leave a rating/review, and 2) help spread the word by tagging some friends or sharing on social media (or both)! Easy peasy. I will announce the winner next Tuesday, December 5th. Until then, grab your coffee, pull up a chair, and join us for Episode #20 with The Village!

CONVERSATION NOTES

Books: The Best Yes | Sacred Marriage | A Meaningful Christmas | 5 Gears | Present Over Perfect | StrengthsFinder

Podcasts: Success Magazine Podcast | Read Aloud Revival Podcast

Sermons: Craig Groeschel at Life.Church | Matt Chandler at The Village Church | Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church | Steven Furtick at Elevation Church

 

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This is a safe place, right? Well here’s the deal: I genuinely want to jump into Thanksgiving with an overflowing heart of gratefulness. I really do. But one friend just buried her brother, another got laid off three days before Thanksgiving, and another is facing an unwanted divorce. Not to mention, I HATE how certain family members won’t be joining us for turkey and pie yet again this year, because life is just too short.

Then there’s the Texas and Vegas shootings still lingering in my mind, as well as the high-strung political climate that’s saturating our nation (and the media). Even managing our own blessings can be embarrassingly overwhelming at times, with bottomless laundry, scattered schedules, and you know—life.

The truth is, we don’t always feel thankful.

 

But as Lysa Terkeurst says (and it’s always stuck with me), “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.” I recognize it would be straight ridiculous to trade a grateful-packed Thanksgiving for one of anxiousness, fear, and frustration. I’m no businesswoman, but that’s definitely not a good deal. And certainly not what God wants for us! So how do we dig up thankfulness when we don’t feel thankful? How do we cultivate a heart of gratitude without it being forged or forced?

Thankfulness is a choice, not a feeling.

 

Even if you don’t feel thankful at this very moment, good news: YOU CAN STILL BE THANKFUL. Thankfulness is a choice, not a feeling. Choosing to be grateful doesn’t mean we’re no longer hurting, confused, or worried. In fact, thankfulness is often found and praises usually offered in the confines of bittersweet spaces.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

All throughout history, God’s people have found a way to worship Him despite their circumstances. Offering praises to our Creator God isn’t contengient on good or bad days, fertility or infertility, job or no job, the stock market being up or down—not even life or death. The verses below were written by David, when he was stuck in the wilderness of Judah:

“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the riches feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.” Psalms 63:3-5

We can be thankful because God is faithful, even when we are not. We can be thankful because of the unending mercy and grace He pours out on sinners, like me, who put their trust in Him. We can pause long enough to give thanks for the timeless and life-changing Word of God, as well as loving families, real friends, warm houses, tasty food, freedom to worship openly in our churches and homes, the future resurrection of our loved ones in Christ, the breath literally spiraling through our lungs at this very moment, amazing teachers/mentors, God’s provision, and the list goes on and on and on.

(I would encourage you to take five minutes and scribble down a list of at least twenty-five things you’re thankful for. I did this and was surprised by all that came to mind once I started writing. Also, listen to THIS.)

We don’t always feel thankful, but we can still be thankful.

 

We can surrender our hardships and disappointments over to God—the unshakable One—and choose to praise Him for who He is, despite our pain. Maybe even in our pain.

“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping Him with holy fear and awe.” Hebrews 12:28

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

And as for me, I’m choosing thankfulness.

 

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Happy November friends! I’m super giddy today, not only because the leaves are exploding into all sorts of chestnut/cinnamon/auburn hues, but mostly because Divina Bruss is joining me for Episode #18 at The Messy Table and I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Divina is a pastor’s wife, former attorney turned homeschool mama of four, marathon runner, avid learner, and lover of God’s Word. She’s continuously teaching me, challenging me, and encouraging me to wrestle with the Truth.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” Philippians 1:9-10 NLT

 

If you’re needing a boost of faith, HERE’S YOUR SIGN. Divina’s transformational story and contagious passion will inspire you to press in, persevere, and hold nothing back. So grab (or reheat) your coffee, pull up a chair, and join us!

CONVERSATION NOTES + RESOURCES

Bible Plans For Kids by Divina: How To Follow Jesus | God’s Plan For Me | We’re The Church

Websites: Bible | Bible Hub | IF:Gathering | New Life.Church Series: When The Devil Knocks

Books: The Jesus Storybook Bible | Kisses From Katie | Raising Kingdom Kids |The Lifegiving Home | Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World | Dance, Stand, Run | Daring to Hope

Podcasts: Journey Women | Craig Groeschel’s Leadership Podcast | Fearless Mom | Revive Our Hearts

 

Connect with Divina + Jenn on Instagram

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My eight-year-old daughter, Hallie, still can’t wrap her arms even halfway around the giant oak in our yard. Our little farmhouse was built in 1930—the first in this square mile—many, many moons ago. She looks like a pint-sized ant standing by the tree’s trunk, peering up into the branches that triple the height of our home. “How did it grow so big?” she asks with a blend of curiosity and wonder. “Well. It happened a little bit at a time, every single day,” I answer. “We can plant an acorn and water it and make sure it’s positioned for sunlight, but it’s God who makes it grow.”

Growth happens a little bit at a time, every single day.

My five-year-old son, Jack, stands next to his daddy and looks up at his towering stature with a proud grin. He measures the top of his head to the middle of Dad’s ribcage and questions, “How can I grow like you?” Derek lifts Jack up on his shoulder and tosses him on the couch like a throw pillow. “A little bit at a time,” he tells him, “every single day.” “We can eat healthy food and make sure our bodies get lots of exercise, but it’s God who makes you grow.”

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)

Even now—today—we’re all staring down the barrel at some kind of task: starting a project, remodeling a house, potty-training a toddler, teaching a classroom, learning the ways of God, leading an organization, breaking down walls in a less-than-ideal relationship. And we find ourselves asking, “How can this grow?” The truth is: progress happens a little bit at a time, every single day. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no quick fix or speedy drive-thru window. We can bring our best and implement different strategies and never give up, but it’s God who makes it grow.

We can bring our best and implement different strategies and never give up, but it’s God who makes it grow.

Sometimes we stand back and look at the heroes of our faith like Abraham and Moses, John and Paul—maybe even a parent, teacher, or mentor. And we wonder, “How can I grow to be spiritually mature, like them?” You know the answer by now: Growth happens a little bit at a time, every single day. But rarely does anything happen overnight (or by itself). Instead, our lives are built moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day—by planting, watering, and allowing God to do the deep, mysterious work. God’s plan all along was for us to be coheirs and coworkers with Jesus in the Kingdom of God.

Our lives are built moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day—by planting, watering, and allowing God to do the deep, mysterious work.

Jesus told many stories about the value of investing our time, talents, and treasures wisely. He didn’t create us as robots, but as living and breathing people with divine responsibility—not to earn our salvation (he already won that battle), but to continuously bring glory to His name.

God will do His part, I promise. But let’s not forget to do ours.

 

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