When we’re traveling, we often stop at Cracker Barrel to eat breakfast. The gift shop cracks me up. One of their whimsical signs that you can purchase says, “I’ll be home for Christmas and in therapy by New Year’s.” If your family is like the TV show, the Waltons, then you probably don’t need to read this. However, if you identify with the Cracker Barrel sign, this might help you.

Here are five suggestions that will ensure that you enjoy the Thanksgiving holidays.

1. The first secret is to lower your expectations. I mean waaayyyy down. Maybe the turkey will be tough this year. Maybe someone will break one of your wedding plates that are no longer available. One of your children might embarrass you in front of your sister-in-law’s perfect kids. Your husband may sit on the sofa and watch football instead of offering to help. Your teenager’s boyfriend brought mud in on your new carpet. Lower your expectations and then when good things happens, you can enjoy them. Lowering expectations of a “Hallmark” Thanksgiving is step one.

2. Secret number two is to decide not to be offended. Aunt Martha is going to make a comment about your weight. Cousin Henry rsvp’d but didn’t show up and you waited an hour on him. Someone will ask you if you’ve read any of the new parenting books, suggesting that it’s obvious you need to. Your husband will ask you if you read the recipe carefully because this dish doesn’t taste like his mother’s. Your sister-in-law will talk to one of your other sisters the whole time, clearly demonstrating her preference for her. Your brother’s girlfriend signed up for dessert and brought one pie to feed 20 people. Just get ready. Decide now to “overlook a transgression”. Just let it pass. Being offended is a quality in immature people. Addicts are ridiculously offended so learn this ability to forego.

3. Secret number three is to SAW. We rush around with the linens and the decorations, but we forget the main thing: the people we love. It’s easy to go through the entire holidays, and not express affection to those that we care about. SAW stands for “sensitivity, affection, and warmth”. Pick out some people you love, and be sure and SAW them in an obvious manner. Tell your teenagers how proud you are of them for a specific character quality. Tell your mother how much you appreciate the example she’s given you. Tell your dad that you will always be “daddy’s girl”. Tell your son that you always knew he’d be a great father. Express these things. We all long to hear them. But focus on how you give and love, not on how others give and love you.

4. Secret number four is to make a decision to overcome your normal negative tendency to focus on what is wrong and instead, command your mind to focus on all that is right. Before I got out of bed this morning, I realized I had 4 negative thoughts already. Enough of that, I said. I started thinking and listing the 1000’s of blessings that I have. You have 1000’s of blessings, too. If we could hook your brain up to a computer and see your thoughts, that would explain your mood issues. Negative thoughts make negative moods. Happy thoughts make happy moods. You get to choose your thoughts. Get rid of the troublemakers. List your problems in your journal, pray diligently over them, get counsel to help you deal with them, and take massive daily action to proactively solve them. Then, put your problems on a shelf in heaven. The Accuser will beat you up with your weaknesses and with the WMD (what’s missing and disappointing) if you don’t “gird up the loins of your mind”. Your mind is a vast empire and you are the Emperor. You get to choose what you think about. You create your inner world by choosing your thoughts. That’s why Philipians 4: 8 tells us what to think about. Certain thoughts produce corresponding emotions.

5. And secret number five, as you expected, is to spend time in prayer before the holidays. Pretty table linens can be bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but there’s only one place to get the peace that passes understanding.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Julie