Working Hard and Resting Well at Thanksgiving

How do we show gratitude when our calendars are filled to the brim?

There is something beautiful and freeing in knowing that we can celebrate without shame and rest without guilt. God gives us an example of this in Genesis, right at the very beginning of the Bible.

My mom has always hosted Thanksgiving at her house — with the exception of one year. With a newborn at home, my husband and I decided that it would be “easier on everyone” if we hosted instead. We wouldn’t need to travel (5 minutes down the road), my mom wouldn’t need to worry about cleaning or cooking the whole meal (which she actually enjoys, we discovered), and it would give my husband an opportunity to show off his cooking skills. 

Did you know that it’s possible to cook a turkey for an entire day and still have a raw turkey by the time your guests arrive?

Neither did we.

My only memories of that day include sitting in the living room, far away from everyone with our newborn daughter, watching everyone pretend it was absolutely fine that Thanksgiving lunch was becoming dinner and choosing to eat in small courses as we waited. All of my plans and expectations of a Hallmark-worthy Thanksgiving Day crumbled. Nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like turkey for dessert!

My mom went back to hosting the next year, and we’ve never offered to do it again. No one else has tried to convince us to give it another try, either — despite how cute my table was decorated.

During this season, that funny-now-that-it’s-over memory always serves as a reminder to honor God through the hectic, activity-filled, high-expectation holidays. I have to admit gratitude was definitely not what I was feeling as we waited hours for that turkey to cook. I never once thought to praise God for all that was going well; I was too grumpy about the things that were going wrong. For most of us, I imagine it’s easy to feel grateful when things are going just like we planned, or at the beginning of the season when we’re anticipating all that’s to come. 

But what happens when we find ourselves in the middle of the mess? How do we show gratitude when our calendars are filled to the brim, the turkey won’t cook, work and school feel chaotic, and the days are flying by before we can even capture the moments to be thankful for?

God’s Given Gifts

November can be so much more than a season to make a one-month gratitude list for the things we have or the things we’ve been given. This year, let’s do something new. Instead of feeling guilty for loving the holiday activities or frustrated by the work that goes into hosting our families, let’s use this time to kickstart a season where we go into the holidays grateful for all that we “get to” do. We get to serve God. We get to love our friends and family. We get to have fun and create memories and celebrate.

And we get to use the gifts God has given each of us, right where He’s placed us. Whether we use them in our daily work or we offer them as we serve our friends and family during the holidays, when we lean into who God made us to be and how He created us to serve, we can swap busy for blessings and grumpiness for gratitude. 

I love how The Message Bible paraphrase provides us with just the right words to embrace: 

“So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality” (Rom. 12:4-13, MSG).

What a beautiful reminder that we each have a role to play in God’s kingdom. He has uniquely designed us so that we can love one another well, even when we don’t celebrate the same way, attend all the Facebook events, or decorate with the same enthusiasm as the neighbor down the street. Some of us might be passionate about hospitality, while others are gifted encouragers. The best part? We need all of it!

I’m learning to love the way God created me as I find my place in His plan. I love work. I always have and you won’t find a personality test that tells you otherwise. I’m responsible, organized, driven, and never lack a creative idea. I also love celebrating holidays and creating experiences and memories with my family. So how do we navigate our desire to enjoy all that the season has to offer while honoring God through it all?

Shift of Focus

For me, it starts with the uncomfortable acknowledgment that it’s easy for me to read this Scripture in Romans and nod my head in agreement — until I read the words “just help, don’t take over” (12:6-8, MSG). I find myself tripping over the fine line between working hard with my God-given gifts and striving to make it all about me. When I stop working in my strengths and start volunteering for more than I can manage, a few things happen: 

  • I tell other people that I don’t think they’re good enough to do the job. 
  • I start telling everyone how “busy” I am and wonder why no one wants to help me.
  • I forget that God has created all of us to work together — and that we can do far more for His kingdom together than on our own.

Maybe you’ve already found yourself answering the “How are you?” question with “Busy.” And while it may be technically true, does it really describe your situation or are you using it as a shield? Do you respond “Busy” to remind others how important you are or to keep them from knowing how difficult the holidays are for you?

There is something beautiful and freeing in knowing that we can celebrate without shame and rest without guilt. God gives us an example of this in Genesis, right at the very beginning of the Bible.

Crystal Stine in Working Hard and Resting Well at Thanksgiving

Instead of using “busy” as an excuse or a shield, let’s use this season as an opportunity to speak with joy about all the ways we’re honoring God through our work, rest, and extra activities. When we shift our focus, we discover that:

  • The spotlight shifts away from what we’re doing and back where it belongs — on God.
  • We can stop striving and invite others to use their gifts alongside us — without fear or competition.
  • We can rest well, knowing that we don’t need to do it all — and trusting that God is more than enough for the areas where we’re weak.

There is something beautiful and freeing in knowing that we can celebrate without shame and rest without guilt. God gives us an example of this in Genesis, right at the very beginning of the Bible. Each day as God created, He focused and did the work. At the end of the day, He celebrated a job well done. Each day He repeated the process until He was finished, and then He rested. Not because God is ever tired or needs a break but because the work was complete. 

Scripture reminds us that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. … So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation” (Gen. 1:1-4; 2:1-3).

God called the work good and He called rest holy.

This holiday season, how can we choose to celebrate the moments of a job done well — even if it’s not perfect? How can we show our friends and family that we can be grateful instead of grumpy — even when the turkey never cooks or all of our plans fall apart? And what would it say to your family if they saw you step back and rest during this season? You might just discover that others have gifts they’ve been longing to use or that your ability to trust God while you rest and connect with Him is just different enough from the rest of the world to draw someone closer to Jesus.

This article is adapted from HomeLife Magazine.

Crystal Stine is passionate about encouraging, equipping, and inspiring women of all ages to embrace a work-hard, rest-well lifestyle that honors God — so they can work without shame and rest without guilt. She embraces this truth in her book, Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Lifestyle. You can connect with Crystal online at Crystal lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Matt, and their daughter, Madison.

Crystal Stine followed the path to success as she climbed the corporate ladder. In Holy Hustle, she now explores “hustle” in a new light as a self-employed, work-from-home mom. She invites you to join her in experiencing:

  • Renewed peace as you focus on serving, not striving.
  • Reawakened potential as you ditch comparison and embrace community.
  • Redefined purpose as you seek the roles God has for you.

You were created to work with enthusiasm for the right reasons — and you were also made with a need to rest. Discover the place where these two sides meet in a happy, holy hustle.