Write Brilliant

Something is burning in my heart that one of you needs to hear and be encouraged by.

Maybe your Thanksgiving gathering is perfect–no conflict, no issues, no concerns. If so, Whoohoo You! 🍗🎁

But for the rest of us, Thanksgiving can sometimes feel more like Dreadsgiving, as we try to navigate awkward moments, chasms of differing perspectives, decades of baggage and hurts, or that particular person who tends to hijack the conversation and mood with political rants.

All of this can seem like too much, especially if this is the first Thanksgiving you’re walking through since someone you loved has died.

I want to encourage you that you are not alone. Many of us feel them, too. But with some itsy, bitsy preparation, you can be ready to steer the conversation toward more life-giving topics and moments of healing.

Tactic #1: Pray, pray, and pray some more. If possible, pray for each person who will be present at the meal. Ask God to bless them, strengthen them, and fill them with joy. Ask for supernatural grace and wisdom and wit to navigate the conversation and time together.

Tactic #2: Preload with humor. One of the great redirection techniques for any uncomfortable moment is a good laugh. My friend Carolyn recently shared the antics of Siegfried and Joy with me (they’re knockoffs of the famous Las Vegas magicians, except their magic tricks are so ridiculously silly, it’s hard not to laugh).

Jump online, look for funny memes, knock knock jokes, LOL lines from a favorite comedian–anything that makes people laugh. Grab a box of kids’ popsicles and invite others to read the joke at the bottom of the stick. What did the baby corn say to the mama corn? Where’s popcorn? 😂

Tactic #3: Bring some around-the-table surprises. This is much easier if you’re the host, but even if you’re not, you may be ask for permission to include them. If you know everyone around the table, consider writing a short sentence or two about each person, noting what you appreciate about them most. Keep the notes in hand for when anything feels awkward around the table to lighten the mood.

Or consider taking an idea from the Taste and See Bible Study and place a small bowl of olive oil on the table. Ask each person to take a drop on their fingers and share where they’d most like to experience healing in their lives or in our world.

Or invite everyone to participate in offering thanks through the alphabet. Go around the table beginning with A, then the next person B, and the next C, until as a group you’ve found things to be thankful for with each letter. Some will be silly and that’s part of the delight.

Tactic #4: Come with great conversation starters. Take a screen shot of this email on your phone so you can refer to some of the following:

+ What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?

+ What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

+ What the best television show or movie you’ve seen recently?

+ What’s the number one item on your bucket list?

+ What’s your go-to winter comfort food?

+ What’s your best dance move? (bonus points for demonstrations!)

+ What’s a hidden talent you have that would surprise us?

Tactic #5: Look for every opportunity to be a peacemaker. If someone’s going on and on about a divisive or toxic topic, wait for them to take a breath and then redirect by saying, “Well, I know one topic we can all agree on–getting rid of daylight savings time!”

Or look for ways to get the person talking about themselves. For example, if the person is expounding on the topic of student loan debt forgiveness, ask them to share a favorite memory from being in school.

Tactic #6: Remember you’re a grown-up, even if others forget. If someone says something hurtful or or goes on a ridiculous rant, you don’t have to engage. You can simply say “OK” and move on. If they continue to press you, just say, “I’m already ready for dessert, anyone else?” Not engaging with the controversy will help bring the conversation to an end.

You can simply stay silent, or you can come to someone else’s rescue if they are on the receiving end by redirecting the conversation.

After the moment passes, excuse yourself to the bathroom to regather yourself if needed. Take a moment to stretch your legs, play with the family pet, refill the water pitcher, or check on the kids. Along the way, look for any standout family photos that can help transition the conversation to a lighter tone.

Tactic #7: Look for one person to build up during Thanksgiving.Prayerfully consider who God wants you to make feel seen and loved. Speak words of life and hope and blessing into them. When you look to love well this Thanksgiving, you could find yourself well-loved.

With these tactics, you can overcome the sense of Dreadsgiving and truly engage in Thanksgiving.

Know I’m praying for you and cheering you on. Don’t forget to send me your funny jokes and videos!

I love you.

Happy Thanksgiving,


P.S. Don’t forget!  Everyone who orders their James Workbooks direct from our store before December 19, 2023 will get a SIGNED copy. And we’re going to be shipping early (no later than December 3).

P.P.S. Advent starts December 3. If you want to grab a copy of Celebrate Wonder and Joy: 25 Devotions for Advent and Christmas, slip your order by Friday. It’s only $9.99 (regular 15.99).

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