Being Present at Thanksgiving

A few Thanksgivings ago, I looked up and saw the tops of everyone’s heads. From the age of 13 to 60, on the one day a year we were all in the same place together, we had our heads down. No we weren’t all praying. You could probably guess it; we were all on our phones! Scrolling through our feeds to see how others were celebrating,, we were totally missing our own celebration.

I loved my family too much to let it keep happening (please, know I was just as guilty). So I grabbed one of my Mamaw’s baskets and wrote on a folded piece of paper to make a sign that read: “Phone Jail. Let’s have actual face time with actual people. You may grab your phone to take a quick pic, but then it has to go back.” Everyone thought it was a good idea —a little bossy — but a good idea. Everyone of us also admitted that it felt a little weird to go an entire day without scrolling. But you know what? Now it’s one of everyone’s favorite traditions.

Being present at Thanksgiving won’t always come easy for all of us, but it’s also not impossible. Here are a few ways you can stay more present on Thanksgiving day:

1. Prepare yourself beforehand to have realistic expectations of others.

For many we disengage because it’s harder to engage. Maybe your feelings have been hurt by someone or you’ve never felt you could be yourself with them. There are many, truly justifiable reasons  that you might be tempted to disengage. However, don’t do it. Let’s live fully wherever we are.

Before you even go to Thanksgiving, spend some time setting up realistic expectations of the time you’ll spend that day with certain people. . When we take the time to do the heart work, we will find it easier to be present with others. In Sacred Holidays: Less Chaos, More Jesus, I devote an  entire chapter about setting realistic expectations, if this concept resonates with you.

2. Put your phones (or any other distractions) in jail.

I mentioned the story above about how we gather up cell phones so everyone isn’t on them. However, that may not be your family’s bent towards distraction. Think back to past years and what kept people from interaction and remove any of those barriers as best you can.  

3. Do something (anything) together.

Just as we remove the things that distract, let’s add things to attract us to one another. Again, every family may be  different when it comes to enjoyable activities help you engage. Here is a list of a few things to get you started:

●     Play a game (bring your favorite games with you and ask others to as well).

●     Play Charades, Fish Bowl, or Heads Up (great for all ages).

●     Bring Table Talk cards (will help fill in those awkward gaps and keep conversation flowing).

●     Share what you are grateful for! Do a craft together or get outside and play football.

●     All hands on deck in the kitchen (unless you’ve been booted out).

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Being present at Thanksgiving isn’t something that will just happen; we have to put forth effort. But what I can tell you with great certainty is that you see a difference when you embrace one step at a time.

As you go on to plan how to help yourself and your people be more engaged during Thanksgiving, I want to commission you with Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Don’t be conformed to the way it’s always been. You have to let your mind change as you live a life that is holy and pleasing to Him.

Let’s go make our holidays sacred — holy and set apart. If you found this article helpful, we’d love to celebrate with you and see how you are applying it this year. Be sure to tag @sacredholidays and use #sacredholidays. You can also grab your copy of Sacred Holidays: Less Chaos, More Jesus by Becky Kiser, anywhere books are sold online and in Lifeway stores.


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Becky Kiser is intent that women would fall in love with God’s Word, then feel equipped and empowered to live it out. She believes that women can live out their own wild story, just like the ones we see of God’s chosen in His Word, as they love Jesus and love people. She is the founder and CEO of Sacred Holidays—a ministry dedicated to helping women find less chaos and more Jesus during holidays through Bible study, community, resources, and lots of fun! She is determined to help women keep all the whimsy of the holidays, but help make them sacred—holy and set apart.

Becky has a background in marketing and ministry, and is a certified Myers-Briggs life coach, bringing each of those experiences into her writing. Becky and her husband, Chris, live in Houston, TX with their three girls.