Gratitude. It’s such a simple and easily understood word and most can find things to be grateful for, but what does it really mean to be grateful, and to what extent are we truly grateful for the things we have?
Around this time of year, when the temperatures slowly drop and the leaves start to change, families gather around a big table and fires burn in the fireplace, it’s easy to say what we’re grateful for. We’re grateful for the food being served to us, the smiles we share with our loved ones, the afternoon naps, the crisp weather, and the twinkling lights adorning every bush and tree. It’s easy to look at the most picturesque sight and show gratitude for it. It’s easy to see what’s right in front of us and find beauty in it, but what about the journey that we all took to get to this place where everything is joyous and simple and in peace. What about the many paths, and the twists and turns that led us to these points in time that will remain perfect in our memories like a beautiful postcard?
Everyone has their own story, everyone has their own reasons for where they’ve ended up and how they’ve gotten there. Everyone has their own highs and lows, our tragedies and triumphs. I believe that those things are what’s worthy of being grateful for, just as much as granny’s pecan pie and the turkey with tenderly rising steam. Those low moments in our lives remind us to be grateful for our highs, and our highs remind us that what we desire is achievable even when just moments before it seemed all for naught. Those things are what make the outcome and destination so much more worthy of being grateful.
It took Abraham and Sarah over nine years to receive their blessing of a child and it may have seemed like a lifetime of waiting, but that’s all the more reason to be grateful. Without that waiting, without the twists and turns in their journey that led to those miracles and blessings, they might not be as grateful and might not cherish what they had to its full extent.
Some couples might be in the same situation of tirelessly waiting for a child they can adopt when they themselves could not conceive, and the amount of joy it brings them, on top of the faith to hold out and wait and not give up makes it so much more worth it.
A birth mother hearing the most reassuring and hopeful news that a loving couple is ready to adopt her soon-to-be-born child, and the joy it must bring her because of that uncertainty, are the things that bring so much value to the miracles taking place. How her eyes must light up knowing that just months ago she might have been so uncertain and fearful of what’s to come from this growing child inside her.
Life can change for the better in an instant, life can change for the unexpected in that same moment as well, and there is beauty in both the waiting and the instantaneous miracle that our Father is working on for each and every one of us. It may not have been the unplanned pregnancy that became someone else’s joy, it may not have been the inability to conceive to one day receive that child, it could be anything in our lives that require our Father’s divine intervention.
Anything that’s worth having is worth fighting and waiting for, and that’s what makes it worth it in the end, knowing first and foremost that God is faithful before we understood what true faith was.
Just like the food being prepared that took so many hours of preparation, and time, quests to the grocery store and markets, handling the tantrums of our little ones when lines seem to go on forever, we can be that much more grateful because of those hardships no matter how small or how large they are, no matter how hidden they are or how public.
So this Thanksgiving season, let’s be grateful to our loving Father who has been there every step of the way on our journeys that require the unyielding faith just to make it each and every day. Whether we’ve received our miracles or are still patiently waiting, we must remain in that state of gratitude during our highs and our lows. We must remind ourselves whether we’re surrounded by the abundance of food and family, or having a simple meal with one or two of our loved ones, that everything that is worth having is worth being patient for. Remember to have the unrelenting faith to see it through and remain steadfast in pursuing the blessing worth the long and perilous journey, until it can one day be that beautiful memory we can cherish forever.
Below are some recipes I’m sure you and your growing family will love, and it would be a great opportunity to get them involved too.
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls With Cinnamon Butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 packages instant dry yeast
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 3/4 cup scalded milk
- 6 tbsp softened butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 5 cups flour
- 1 beaten egg
- 15 pecans halved for 30 in total
- 2 sticks softened butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 tsp cinnamon
- In a small bowl, mix yeast, warm water, and sugar.Next, combine scaled milk, butter, sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Add in yeast mixture before adding in the egg.Gradually add flour and knead until combined, let rise 1 hour in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap in a warm and dark place like the microwave.Divide dough in half, and roll into 18-inch logs, cut each log into 15 pieces for a total of 30 balls of dough.On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, equally place the balls of dough so there’s room to rise a second time. Using a sharp knife, make 8 cuts in the dough around a third of the way in, making sure to not cut all of the ways through. Let rise for another 45 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350º.Brush rolls with beaten egg and place a pecan half partially in the center to resemble a stem. Bake at 350º for 9 - 12 minutes.To make cinnamon butter while rolls are baking, simply mix the ingredients together, and voila! Feel free to add a teaspoon or two of pumpkin spice to the mix, nutmeg, or cloves to really get that holiday feel. If you really want something special, you can cream the softened butter and sugar until it's fluffy before adding in the spices. Whipped cinnamon butter for the win.
Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese
- 1 small butternut squash diced, about 3 cups, you can use frozen squash if it isn't available whole
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or you could swap out with chicken stock for added heartiness and flavor
- 1 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 3/4 tsp salt and black pepper
- 1 lb pasta of choice I recommend the classic elbow, shells, or spirals to hold onto as much of the yummy sauce as possible
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 4 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs crush some garlic croutons for added flavor or even cheesy snack crackers
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375º and bring a large pot of water to a boil.Combine squash, veggie broth, and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for around 10 minutes until squash is able to be pierced with a fork. Remove from heat. Cook pasta per instructions and mash the saucepan mixture until smooth. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, 2 tbsp parmesan cheese.Coat a 9x9 inch baking dish with olive oil spray and scoop in the mixture. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp parmesan, and oil before sprinkling over pasta.Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp. This could take between 20 to 40 minutes, and it’s ready to eat, no rest time required.
Caramel Apples & Candied Walnuts
- 8 lollipop or wooden craft sticks
- 8 Granny Smith apples or apples of choice
- 22 oz caramels, unwrapped
- 4 tbsp heavy cream
- 3 cups chocolate chips or candy melts be creative and try white chocolate or candy melts which come in a variety of colors so you can really get creative
- 2 cups assorted toppings try anything from MnMs, to snack-size pretzels, mini marshmallows, or even gumdrops
- 2 tbsp oil use vegetable or grapeseed for a neutral flavor that won't affect the flavor
- 4 cups walnuts or preferred nuts like almonds or pecans
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper optional of course, and adjust the level of heat to taste
- Scrub apples under very hot water to remove any wax coating and dry well. Line baking sheet with wax paper and insert 1 stick into stem end of each apple. Microwave caramels and cream in a large, microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute and stir. Microwave in 10 - 20 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth, making sure not to burn it. Dip each apple into the melted caramel and place on the sheet, then chill for around 30 minutes until set. Heat candy melts in the microwave according to package directions and prepare assorted toppings.
- In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add the walnuts, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat them. Add the sugar and spices, stirring constantly for 8 minutes until the nuts are well coated and the sugar has caramelized. Be careful not to burn and adjust the heat as needed. This a great recipe to get the kids involved. Whether it be unwrapping the caramels, keeping an eye so they don't eat them all, or simply having fun decorating their own apple and getting creative with the different colored candy melts, even using spoons or forks to draw and make patterns. Not only is it tasty, but it’s also a simple and fun activity to get everyone involved and make some memories.
Pumpkin Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 stick softened butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 eggs
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree or pumpkin pie filling
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp salt
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup cream cheese
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350º Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl, then add the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Combine dry ingredients and add half to the wet ingredients. Add pumpkin and stir in with a wooden spoon and complete with adding the rest of the dry ingredients. Feel free to adjust the spice ratio according to your preference. Line cupcake tray with liners and scoop an adequate amount, making sure to leave some room for rising and tapping on the countertop to pop any bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cooking times may vary. While the cupcakes are cooling, combine frosting ingredients and top cupcakes. Sprinkle with cinnamon, sprinkles, pumpkin spice, or even candied walnuts from the previous recipe to keep things interesting. Keep the remaining cupcakes in the fridge and enjoy later.