3 Ways to Help You Prepare for the Best Thanksgiving Ever!

The giving of thanks – an empty nesters perspective

One Thanksgiving family tradition we have enjoyed throughout the years as a family since 1987 when the Block Buster hit was released, is gathering together to watch Planes Trains and Automobiles. It’s a movie with a story line that combines the best of the good, the hard, and the humorous.

Neal Page, played by Steve Martin, a traveling business man, is forced to make other plans to get home for Thanksgiving when his flight is rerouted from Chicago to Kansas because of a sudden snowstorm. Neal is a good guy – but his character and motives are quickly challenged by his inability to get home and his annoyance with his new traveling companion, the very talkative, Del Griffith (played by John Candy). Neal’s patience is tested further over a period of several days by a series of events that cause him to shift blame toward Dell and his personal shortcomings.

But what Neal Page is unaware of, is Del Griffith’s real story. Once the truth is discovered, Neal has a sudden heart change about his new “friend” Del which then changes the trajectory of the story’s ending. Both men are forever changed in a good way, in a hard way, and in a humorous way, as a result of their planes, trains, and automobile experience.

I can just imagine a sequel to this classic with Neal and Del – now 30 years older – as they recall  their first encounter over a busy Thanksgiving weekend adventure. I imagine them laughing until they cry, as they recall getting pulled over by the cops, the way the car caught fire, the breakdown of that same car, the night in the motel, and the “those aren’t pillows” incident.

What seemed like the worst of days (weather interrupted travel – every flyers nightmare) led them to a life-changing  adventure of a life time.

Reminiscing the past has its benefits

We are always quick to make new year resolutions at the start of each new year, but rarely do we stop to recall various events of the previous one.

Recalling our personal journey is helpful for many reasons, mainly because it shows us how far we’ve come and reminds us of all what we have overcome. It also urges us toward a life of gratitude and celebration and helps us consider what is yet possible.

Recalling the Good, the Hard, and the Humorous is a Good Thing

Another example that illustrates the reflective life, is the stage performance I recently observed called “Wardrobes and Rings.”  It’s the story of the friendship between two of the world’s most famous mythology fiction writers, C.S.Lewis (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and JR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings). 

The two and a half hour dialog between these dear friends was a tribute written to honor their classical literature genius and their life-long friendship. The play takes place in the same English pub in 1967, and depicts their last encounter together. It’s a journey down memory lane for them both as they recall the many ways their friendship grew throughout the years.

It was a beautifully written play right of their lives, friendship and that centered around their writing journey. Like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, all the elements of a good story were there…the good, the hard, and the humorous.

Both stories stand out in my mind as a great way to approach the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.

The Act of Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day has become one of the most celebrated holidays practiced by Americans far and near. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity on this Midlife Monday, to invite you to join me in a look at the practice of recalling, reflecting, and recommiting various aspects of your life.

It will require that you make room in your busy week of planning and preparation. But I think it will be time well spent.

“Why celebrate Thanksgiving at all, if we don’t actually take time to reflect on what it is we are grateful for, why we are grateful, and to whom we are grateful?”

I invite you midlife friend, to insert a 20, 30, 45 minute block of time in your cell phone right now. Schedule it any time between now and this Wednesday evening. Let it be a sacred time of reflection that prepares you to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with your family in a whole new way.

So in the spirit of Neal Page, Del Griffith, CS Lewis and JR Tolkien, get out your bullet journal, pad of paper, or notes app and join me, as together, we make room in our heart to celebrate all that God has done, all he is doing, and all he will yet do in our lives.

3 Things to Help You Celebrate Thanksgiving Day in a Whole New Way.

These are the three things I did recently – and I invite you to do the same.

Take Time to Recall, Take time to Reflect, and RECOMMIT

The first thing that will help you prepare your heart for Thanksgiving Day is to take time to recall the events of the past 12 months.  I’m often astounded – yes astounded, by all that transpires in a years time.

I want to invite you to give yourself a few minutes to be astounded too, friend!

 Start by making your own personal “List of 9.” 

This list should include 9 things that happened to YOU this past year.

It should include:

  • 3 good things
  • 3 hard things
  • 3 fun things

1. take time to recall

my 3 Good Things:

As I look back on the past 12 months, it’s hard to limit my recall list to just three things. God has blessed me more than I deserve and he continues to do so. But these three things, are big ones.  I celebrate God’s good gift of – babies.

  1. In the past 12 months, I gained not one, not two, but three new grands…(a fourth one if you go back to September of 2016.) They are amazing little people in every way. And as I pause to consider their sweet little lives, I realize how blessed I am to be their Grammie and how good it is to have them in our lives. They are the youngest 4 of 16 grands. Crazy Cameron, Magnificent Margot, Tender-hearted Tommy, and Entertaining Evie. Each of them bring so much joy to my life and our entire family in such unique ways.

2. My second good thing takes my mind back to one year ago from now when I received my first shipment of my first published book. Becoming a published author was a long-awaited goal that began (as a seed thought) on a plane ride from Colorado Springs to Cleveland about 12 years ago.

Getting published has also encouraged me to continue pursuing my writing life and has opened many unexpected doors. One of those doors included an invitation to be the guest author at my son Sam’s elementary school where he teaches fifth grade. This past January, I got to read my book, Acorn Gert and Brother Bert, to over 200 K-2nd graders, teach 3 writing workshops to over 250 3rd-5th graders, and speak to an auditorium full of kids and their parents about the amazing potential that lies within each of their children.

3. The third really good thing that happened to me this past year was becoming part of an online community of writer called, Hope*Writers. My life is richer and better because of this amazing group of people. They were and are an answer to prayer. They are led by a group of four individuals that our committed to our success. Encouragement is their first name and equipping is their middle name.  They believe we have a message to share and an audience to serve. But most of all, I see Jesus in them. And I know he has brought his goodness onto my life because of them.

For these 3 Good Things, I am so very grateful.

my 3 hard things

  1. One hard place this past year was that I was very discouraged in my writing life. This discouragement spilled over into my personal life, too. I believed I was supposed to publish my children’s book, but I had lost heart and direction in knowing how to do so. I wanted to start blogging again but I was afraid of failing. I was afraid to put my words out there. I doubted my ability to connect with my readers. I questioned the calling I felt to write words that would help other women. I was my own worst critic and listened way too much to the negative voices in my head. To relaunch my blog, was a risk I wasn’t sure I should take.

2. My next hard thing was related to my physical health.

This time last year I was still recovering from a broken arm. In June 2016, I was working a flight from Punta Cana to Houston. While existing the aircraft after deplaning, I tripped on a metal strip in the jet-bridge, broke my left arm and tore ligaments in my left wrist and hand. I was off work for six months. It was a hard six months.

Physically, I was greatly limited in what I could and couldn’t do. The healing took time. I had to wait. I had to have help from others. I had to go to tons of doctor and physical therapy appointments. And although good came from this difficult season of physical setbacks (I did get my children’s book published and I was able to gain the encouragement I needed to launch my new blog). But regardless, the reality is that it felt like a season of wondering and wandering for me.

By the time January 2017 rolled around, I was back at work.

But in February, my third hard thing was about to go down.

3. I returned to the hospital for double knee surgery. It was a surgery that I was supposed to have that previous fall while my arm was healing, but I needed a healthy arm to help me get through that healing process after surgery, so it was postponed until February 2017.

I’m not gonna lie, the rehab was brutal. It was painful. It was hard. I also got the flu during my two-week rehab stay. I was alone much of the time. I was lonely. It was a long and hard road to a full recovery. I am now reaping the benefits of that surgery, but it came at great cost.

What about you? What are your three hard things? As you write them down, can you recall how you felt?

Let this next step of help you reflect on where you were and where you are today.

my 3 Fun Things

  1. In February of this year, after my broken arm healed and before my knee surgery, my two close girlfriends and I spent five glorious days in Ft. Myers. It was an amazing time together. I was refreshed by their company as I was by the Florida sunshine and beaches. I also spent part of my time writing, and strategizing, and praying about various writing projects. I’m indebted to God for giving me such amazing friends.

2. One of the perks of being a flight attendant is being able to fly anywhere I want – any time I want.  This summer, my middle son, Brad moved from Prescott, AZ to St. Louis MO with his wife and new baby. So when he called to ask me to fly into Phoenix to keep him company on the road trip to get his car and dog to MO, what do you think I said to him? Of course I did. What a blessing it was to spend those two days in the car with him. It was a gift for so many reasons. But mainly, because I enjoy his company immensely. The gift of time with my adult kids is always treasured time, and this was one of those times that I will be forever grateful for.

3. Another fun event, was surprising my TX grand boys. While on a Dallas/ Ft. Worth layover, I was able to coordinate a surprise visit with them. After surprising them at their front door, we made a quick trip to the grocery store for chocolate chip cookie ingredients. We then made their favorite cookie recipe together and my oldest grandson made me his “homemade pasta.” This too, and they too, are the gift of God.

I recall these three memories with a thankful heart because I know that God always…works all things to the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

My prayer is that you know this truth, too friend.

2. Take time to Reflect

The difference between recalling and reflecting is that the former entails a simple act of remembering. But reflecting on that memory is an entirely different thing.

Reflecting requires energy. Reflecting encourages your brain activity to go deeper. To ponder and consider what that situation or event did to you…or for you. It invites you to show that experience respect and devotion. It requires more time – a slowing if you will, from rushing by a memory, and actually digesting what it can teach you.

I want to invite you to spend the next 5, 15, or 30 minutes reflecting and journaling on your remembrances of this past year’s hard things.

  • Consider each event
  • How did it change you?
  • How did it help you? Hurt you? Heal you? Hinder you?
  • Is there a take away that has changed your perspective on something? How so?
  • Did your hard thing change you? Are you better or bitter, friend.

As I reflect on my journey through the hard things I endured this past year, I am grateful that I started writing again. All that soul-searching I did helped me gain the clarity I needed to relaunch my blog focused on helping midlife women – especially empty nesters. I want to help women become more of who God made them to be by helping them rediscover their lost identity. I want them to know that they are more than a mom. And I want them to know the one who is writing their next chapter. I’m thankful for the internal wrestling and that God’s grace helped me persevere to take the next step in my writing life. YOU are the reason I show up here each Monday. And it’s a pleasure to do so.

I’m also very grateful for all the good that came from my broken arm. The time at home was like a period of rest and reflection. It also afforded me the focus time to research and submit my book for publication and to see it come to fruition.

I’m equally thrilled that I can walk without being in constant pain. I had forgotten what it was like to not have pain with every step. I can ride my bike again. I can walk for hours through an airport and on a plane with a new bounce in my step. And this – my surgeon straighten my legs that had begun to bow.

There are many other things I’ve learned, but I’ll save that for another day and another post.

What about you, friend? Where are you?

Are you still in a hard place?  Ask God to meet you there. (He already knows where you are anyway). DO you need to add more humor into your life? More fun? More time with the girls? More time discovering who God mad you to be in this new chapter of your life?

Are you at a place where you can begin to thank him for the hard things you went through this past year?

Come back and linger on those thoughts later if you need to.

For now, I’d like to now ask you to consider what God might be inviting you to commit yourself to or recommit yourself to.

3. Take time to Recommit

What do you need to recommit to lovely lady?

Do you need to recommit yourself to time in God’s Word? Do you need to recommit your adult kids  into God’s care? Perhaps there are new things God wants to teach you about how to love them from a distance. What does that need to look like for you? for them?

What about that thing you’ve been putting off? Do you need to recommit your priorities and time to God’s care and leading? Do you need to recommit your marriage to God?  Is your family paying the price for your neglect or perhaps it’s the other way around? Are you paying the price for neglecting your own soul? What about your job, neighbors, church family, or friends? Is there a need to recommit yourself anew to one or more of these people groups?  And here’s one that I’m often reminded of…what would it look like if you and I would recommit our tongue, thought life, or prayer life to God?

  1. For me recommitting my Blog and writing journey has been my main focus. I’m asking God to help me to be faithful to my people, my tribe, my followers. I’m praying that I will stay committed to showing up, to writing weekly, and to continue trusting God to lead my life as well as my writing journey. I’m committed to learning what I don’t know – the hard things that I don’t like to do or want to do – those  things that will help me grow to become a more effective communicator and help you become more of who God made you to be.
  2. I’m also recommiting my priorities to God. And in doing so, I’m flying less by the seat of my pants, and being more disciplined with my time at home and my time away from home. If I am going to fulfill my destiny in life, I know I need to keep my eyes on Jesus and the work he has called me to do. I’m asking God about new things like, podcasts, products, and productivity. These are words and things that never entered my mind a year ago. I had a broken arm and had double knee surgery…why would I? But having gone through the year that I’ve had, I’m open. I’m listening. And I’m will to step into those new places.
  3. And finally, I’m recommiting my heart to the one who made it. In the hustle and bustle of life, time spent reading and studying God’s word too often gets pushed to this side. But I’ve been walking with Jesus long enough to know just how desperately I need him. I want to spend time with him because of who he is – not what he can do for me. he has done more than enough for me. I know there is still work for me us to do together, and so I have recommitted my heart to pursue him before I pursue any other thing in this world.

It’s good to recall and reflect on where you’ve been but it’s also good to know where you’re going. My prayer is that you will be inspired by your time of reflection to take hold of your next chapter by recommiting yourself to the things that matter most. I hope this read today, will help you do just that.

Fall is quickly turning to winter here in the Midwest. The first snowfall has shown herself. We too, Midlife Momma’s are entering a new season. I pray that it’s one that’s filled with anticipation and excitement for you. That the good, the hard, and the humorous have brought you to a place of growth that will help you move forward in your next chapter.

my final thanksgiving Words of Advice for you

  1. Look Up

    • Thank the Giver
    • Celebrate his Grace
    • Receive his Goodness
  2. Look Around

    • Who Inspires You?
    • What Drains You?
    • What helps/prevents you from moving forward?
  3. Look Forward

    1. Start Where you are
    2. Use what you have
    3. Do what you can

And with that, I want to tell you thant I’m thakful for you. Im excited for you. And Im praying for you.

I’ll sign off today bidding you the loveliest of Thanksgiving celebrations.

See you back here next Monday.

Remember, Your Next Chapter Matters!






2 thoughts on “3 Ways to Help You Prepare for the Best Thanksgiving Ever!

  1. Lisa Tenerowicz says:

    I have an unexpected day off Wednesday so I’ve scheduled time to do my “List of 9!” Many blessings to you and yours this Thanksgiving – you are a real blessing to me for sure! 🙂


    • Elizabeth Duncan Stretar says:

      That’s so great Lisa. I’m praying it’s a good, reflective, fruitful time for you.
      May it lead you to a deeper joy of knowing more of God’s goodness and love for you.
      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’ll be flying to Alaska. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing. You are a blessing to me as well, friend.


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