Thanksgiving is hardly a time to think of battles. We were at Gettysburg recently. It was sobering. The wheat field, the hospital, the pillars from the states erected over acres of war-torn land. It was amazing and quieting. We attended a luncheon with our State Senator who mentioned that President Lincoln declared a day of National Thanksgiving after the battle at Gettysburg.
A Day of Thanksgiving after a horrible 3-day butcher-fest.
And the pilgrims- think what you may- lost 45 of the original 102 souls who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were people who were willing to suffer and die for the hope of freedom and the right to religious liberty. Those that survived celebrated with a feast: a day of thanksgiving after a year of profound suffering, death, and loss.
Battles and Loss
Maybe you feel like you’ve just come through a battle of sorts: a battle for your health, a battle for a child struggling with addiction, a battle for your soul or the soul of someone you love. What I know for sure and for certain is that this life is chock-full of battles, hardship, and disappointments. And holidays can be like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut!
But I also know that regardless of the battles you’ve fighting or just won or recently lost, there is much to be grateful for. We live in America. We are the fortunate 5% of the world’s population that lives in a place of relative freedom, choices, prosperity, and opportunity.
In spite of the battles being fought, lost and won, we have much to be grateful for.
An Attitude of Gratitude
My daughter and I went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when it came out. Mr. Rogers was beloved by many precisely because he continuously found thanksgiving amidst the battle. I certainly didn’t expect to cry throughout, but I wasn’t the only one as you could hear others in the theater muffling tears, sniffling and blowing their noses.
At the end of the movie, Mr. Rogers leans in to whisper to a dying man, a man whose life has been exemplified by loss, addiction, and desertion of the people he was charged to protect. He is asked later, what was it that he whispered. He has asked the man to pray for him because someone so close to death would be close to God. It is a beautiful re-frame. Instead of pitying the man, he sees that death brings clarity and refined purpose. This woeful sinner repented, asked forgiveness in a clear and profound manner and used his last days to redeem and bring healing. Mr. Rogers is grateful for this man’s life-all of it- the pain, suffering, redemption, and healing. He finds thanksgiving amidst the battle.
Holidays can be hard. My prayer for you is that you see all that you have to be thankful for and that despite the current or recently fought battle, you will feel God’s good presence and experience joy!
May it be your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness and peace.
May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth.
May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us.
May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, who hears prayer.
As Thanksgiving approaches followed closely by Christmas, life can get a bit… hectic! This week’s life skill tip is all about simply being thankful! Haven’t heard of The Penny Challenge? Stay tuned for this fun and simple way to instill thankfulness!
Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
As my household, we could use this reminder as well.
So, we are doing a penny challenge.
Each of us are being given some pennies to hide around the house. Over the next week or two, as we find them, we are to think of something we are thankful for that has happened on that day. Then the finder of the penny gets to keep the penny. It might be simple, but sometimes a simple token; like a penny, can remind us to pause and be thankful for our many blessings!
Raising Thankful Kids
We want to create teens that are thankful in season and out of season. It might be the key to helping them push through that hard time. And look, we know hard times will come; it’s the nature of life! Counting his blessings made all the difference for Willie Nelson,
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
Even better the BIBLE says it!
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Sure, life is going to throw you lemons, but if you can see that those lemons are helping you become who you were meant to be not only will you be more pleasant to be around as you go through that season, you will also be on the lookout for ways to make that lemon work in your favor.
If your kids love gamifying learning -and which one doesn’t, be sure to check out Classical Memory classes as well as Personal Finance. Both classes, along with many others at True North Homeschool Academy are specifically designed to make learning FUN, with interactive, dynamic games, challenges and great discussions!
February 15 kicks off the 2021 Chinese New year, which lasts until January 21, 2022. Based on the Lunar New Year, it is celebrated in Asian countries around the world, including China, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, and Tibet, as well as Chinese communities throughout the United States.
My daughter and her friends have a round-robin monthly movie night. This month they’ll be watching Mulan, eating fish, dumplings, and sticky rice cakes while celebrating the Chinese New Year! My daughter is hosting and has spent many happy hours creating Chinese Lanterns, beautiful cut-outs, and banners with sayings on them as decorations. The theme was inspired by her Chinese language class. Of course the color red features prominently and that is because “red” traditionally means “good luck” especially accompanied with gold or black lettering or decoration. These are cheery and beautiful decorations and the pops of red are a beautiful contrast to the dead of winter we are experiencing!
Each Chinese Year is assigned an animal. This is based on the Chinese Lunar Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac is a classification system that assigns animals and related attributes in a 12-year cycle based approximately on the orbital period of Jupiter. 2021 is the year of the Ox. According to tradition, people born during the year of the Ox are considered hard workers, intelligent and reliable. They don’t need to be center stage or demand praise are calm and make excellent leaders.
Celebrate Chinese New Year with Activities
On Chinese New Year, you’ll commonly see a calligraphy character on a square of red paper, hung in a diamond shape. The character, 福 [fú], means good luck.
Red envelopes full of money- are traditionally gifted from an elder or parent to children, or to anyone who’s unmarried.
Fish – In Chinese, “fish” (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like “surplus” and it’s believed that eating fish will bring an increase in prosperity.
Chinese dumpling (饺子 Jiǎozi /jyaoww-dzrr/) – legends say that the more dumpling you eat during the New year celebrations, the more money you’ll make in the New Year.
Glutinous rice cake (年糕 Niángāo /nyen-gaoww/) – symbolizes prosperity. The main ingredients of Nian Gao are sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, Chinese dates, and lotus leaves.
Good fortune fruit – tangerines and oranges (橙 chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for “success” (成). They are selected as they are particularly round and “golden” in color symbolizing fullness and wealth.
As with many New Year traditions celebrated around the world, a deep and thorough house cleaning is in order. Getting rid of the old and treating oneself to new, particularly new clothes. Make sure those clothes are new to bring you good luck!
And share the New Year Celebration with those you love- family and friends- eating, giving red envelopes full of money and wishing each other good fortune and ( 新年好 Xīnnián hǎo) Happy New Year!
Charles Dickens had an incredibly humble upbringing. That’s probably why we love him so much. We can identify with him or we have a sense of empathy for him. However, if we can’t identify with true poverty he gives us, through his writing, the opportunity to see all facets of society. Dickens helps us explore how Victorian Society was so challenged during the Industrial Revolution with the affluence of the few in contrast with the poverty of the masses.
As a child, he worked in a blacking factory under horrendous conditions before the laws of child labor were enacted in England in 1833. His father, mother, and younger siblings were sent to debtor’s prison. He was too old to go with them, however, and was healthy enough to work so he was sent to work at Warren’s Blacking Factory making shoe polish.
Charles Dickens’ childhood had such an impact on him it became a regular theme throughout many of his books and short stories. His captivating stories allow readers from all classes to see what Victorian life was like for others.
Charles Dickens’ Present: Family, Privilege, and Power
Like every adult with a young family, Charles Dickens was in need of an income to support his growing household. He was becoming an accomplished writer. He had a dedicated following for his weekly short stories (later chapters of some of his most famous works). This was his opportunity to use his creativity to explore the current issues of the day in Victorian England.
The Industrial Revolution was at the height of progress. Industrial magnates were inventing all kinds of things from steam engines, to cotton gins. Every effort was being made to make England a powerhouse of commerce. In the midst of it all, there was an expanding gap between the classes in Victorian Society. There was a growing population that had the luxury to spend money on books and magazines and ‘the finer things of life’. However, these were the people that were out of touch with the life of the common citizen of Britain – the factory worker, the shipyard laborer, or the country farm tenant.
As Dickens grew in popularity so did his connections in high Victorian society. He had many friends with noble upbringings, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings. He was the perfect person to help bridge the class gap and create awareness of the reality of every-day, common life in Victorian England.
Dickens’ Future: Hope
It’s easy to see how Dickens was becoming a person to help create change in society. With his stories in written form, they were accessible to many. However, by going on the road and performing excerpts of his most loved works he was able to reach people in other countries and increase awareness through the stories of his quirky, oddly, but always perfectly named, characters.
His travels allowed for even more creative genius as he traveled. Exploring abroad was a perfect way to become familiar with the culture and customs of other regions of the world. His popularity grew as he toured the USA and Europe. His tours allowed him to see how others were handling the positive and negative effects of the Industrial Revolution. Creating a path of hope was his greatest and most powerful writing endeavor.
History in Context
When you recognize the individuals that were the contemporaries of Charles Dickens, it’s astounding. As he grew in fame, he likely had multiple opportunities to mingle with many well-known people. His opportunity to influence them and be impacted by their life stories no doubt became his inspiration for so many of his literary works. Look at this shortlist of other famous people that were living at the same time as Charles Dickens.
Scientists – Inventors – Businessmen
John D. Rockefeller
We could stop there but let’s continue with recognizing other famous authors of the Victorian era. Imagine Dickens, among these famous writers, sharing their thoughts and ideas over a game of charades or chess at a dinner party.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Henry David Thoreau
As a world traveler, Dickens had the opportunity to ‘rub shoulders’ with so many famous people in both Europe & the United States of America. His circle of influence was ever-expanding; creating opportunities to invent the timeless masterpieces for which he is known. Imagine being at a gala event with even just a handful of these world leaders!
Kaiser Wilhelm II
While he may have not met all of these people personally, he had more than ample access to the news of the day. His journals show that he was greatly impacted by his trips to the United States.
Of course, art and music was an important part of ‘high society’ life as well. But these artists also had a way of creating greatness out of the simple aspects of life using a variety of different creative mediums. Can you imagine the inspirational conversation that would come over an evening together with these world-renowned artists & musicians?
Vincent Van Gogh
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Like most in the Victorian era, Dickens was considered a very religious person. He was benevolent and had a familiar sense of the impact generosity – or the lack of it – can have on a person. Imagine him sitting at a table discussing the human condition with any of these famous humanitarians, theologians, missionaries, and activists.
Surely, each of us lives ‘for such a time as this’!
Dickens lived during an era of massive change in every aspect of life in the modern world. Did his past haunt him? Definitely.
Were his present circumstances challenging? Indeed.
Did he have hope for the future? Absolutely!
And, he was committed to using his talent of masterful writing and character creation to help change thoughts and ideas about the challenges of life in the Victorian era.
His timeless classics offer an opportunity for us to examine our own era and decide how we can be people of strong moral character with our own God-given skills and creativity.
Find Out More
Want to know more about the man who invented Christmas and the Victorian world in which he lived? Check out our spring class, Dinner with Dickens, taught by Shannan Swindler, this spring for students in grades 8-12.
Holidays! I absolutely LOVE the holidays! Just the thought of them makes me smile so hard that my cheeks hurt. In this article, I want to share some of my favorite holiday memories.
As a child, I enjoyed making ornaments at school because I knew that my Mom would treasure them. Our real, six-foot, Douglas fir tree was adorned with three kids’ worth of ornaments and the number grew with every school year. The thing that I loved most was that nothing else went on the tree but those and maybe some garland!
Do you and your family make ornaments of any kind, especially edible ones?
Aside from this, my favorite holiday pastime was stealing the pineapples and cherries off the ham before it went in the oven! My mom didn’t figure out it was me until the bowl disappeared and reappeared empty. I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen after that!
Do you have one in your home who simply can NOT wait for you to stop cooking or to walk away while they sneak in for the kill? Who gets run out of the kitchen at your house?
Making memories is what the holidays are all about! Whether it’s your entire family or only those who live in your home with you, make memories! Start new traditions, too.
I remember the year that we had steak, baked potatoes, and salad for Christmas dinner instead of the traditional foods we were used to having. Let’s just say that there were NO leftovers!
What’s the craziest or most different meal you’ve had for the holidays?
As a teenager, my best friend and I would go to the movies on Christmas morning to keep from having to help with the cooking. By the time we were done, our families were eating and we always seemed to make it home right when the blessing was being said!
Do you have a favorite movie that you like to watch during the Christmas season?
In college, I spent those same times volunteering at local shelters and missions, serving the homeless. I can remember helping to de-bone 250 turkeys, sending 30 back to the restaurant who donated them because they weren’t completely cooked. As I stirred a restaurant-sized vat of cornbread dressing and then moved to open 100 cans of bulk-sized cranberry sauce, I didn’t want to see or hear anything that resembled food!
Do you and your family volunteer anywhere during the holidays or go caroling? What are some of the ways that you spread the love?
This year, one of the things we will be doing is the Luke Bible reading challenge where, beginning on December first, we will read the corresponding chapter of Luke together as a family. According to the challenge, families who participate will read through Jesus’ entire life by Christmas Eve.
One important thing about the holidays is to make them your own—that’s what makes them special! Your holiday celebrations don’t have to look like anyone else’s, so don’t stress yourself out trying to overdo things. Most families get into the most financial trouble during the holidays and overspend on pretty much anything during this time!
It’s okay to give gifts, not to give gifts, or to give gifts on a different day…
It’s okay to decorate a little, a lot, or not at all…
It’s okay to rest, relax, and order out instead of cooking…
It’s okay to celebrate away from home or with friends instead of family…
It’s okay to have a crowd, a few close friends, or only you and yours…
It’s okay to take a break from Life itself…
It’s okay to argue about why matching pajamas are or aren’t okay for your family…
It’s okay to have an overabundance of hot beverages just so everyone can have their favorites…
The holidays are YOURS, so let them reflect you!
About the author: Tammie Polk is a Mompreneur on a Mission! She is a married, homeschooling mother of three girls ages 15, 10, and 5 from Memphis, Tennessee. When she’s not pouring into her girls, you can find her writing, doing crossword puzzles, or playing games! Her major claim to fame is being the author of over 30 books on life, faith, family, and business- all of which were written in the last three years. Tammie is also a business coach, homeschool consultant, motivational and inspirational speaker, and international radio show host!
Let’s face the challenge of THIS advent season together. Join us at our Facebook Group where we will have live presentations and check-ins to help us all keep our focus during this Christmas season. If you have always wanted to know more about creating a Jesse Tree as part of your celebration or more about Advent itself, you won’t want to miss the adventure! It’s no pressure – just a guide- and we will do it together.