The art of being grateful.
This Thanksgiving, hundreds of thousands of people will sit around tables and make long lists of what they are grateful for. Many others will partake the Thanksgiving morning ritual of making a list of 100 things they are grateful for before breakfast. Giving thanks is one of the simplest ways we can have more joy in our lives, build our relationship with others, and build our relationship with God.
Yet, even though we might have fun with a game of seeing who can get to 100 things to be grateful for before breakfast on Thanksgiving day, the other days we might be doing good if we consciously think of three things which spark love and hope in our hearts before we get to lunch.
Because we aren’t actually grateful for the things on those lists. They almost always read something like this: family, friends, food, home, car, computer, running water, freedom, hope, public sanitation, and etcetera. Yet, go back and look at just that little list and be brutally honest with yourself about the first thing that comes to mind for each of those categories.
I’m as guilty as anybody. I know I should be profoundly grateful for the place where I live. It is warm, convenient, and secure with great hot water and a level stove. Yet, when I think of my apartment without a prompt to actually be grateful, the first thing that comes to mind is the mystery leak in the bathroom. It is in the ceiling, and nobody can figure out where it is coming from – so the best solution was to leave a whole in the ceiling so that it drips out and doesn’t accumulate water and mold.
Yep, in the big scheme of things, with all the things I could be grateful for, my mind brings up the annoying hole in the ceiling. I could find a hundred reasons why I should be a better person that that, but that’s where I’m at right now. I bet you have your own story. Whether it is yelling at your family member for not putting the lid all the way on the pickle jar, cussing when the internet buffers right before the great scene in the movie (the one you’re watching on your huge TV through your ultra high speed internet), or being bummed when the that totally out of season produce you’d like for the Thanksgiving meal is less than awesome – everyone has a story.
So, what’s a person to do? How about actually being thankful for what you are thankful for? Start with something little and very particular. I know, it sounds too simple, but it is a great place to start. If you are reading this, you probably take the floors in your house for granted, so it won’t work to say, “I’m thankful I don’t step in mud when I get out of bed.” That’s probably true, but you’re heart isn’t in it. But, you might be thankful for the slippers that feel like little clouds of heaven when you get out of bed. Or, maybe you’re thankful that you woke up in time to turn your alarm off so that you didn’t have to listen to the buzzer. Perhaps the little one slept an extra twenty minutes at nap.
Just start with what you are actually thankful for, and acknowledge God’s grace in the situation. It will grow. After a couple months, you might find yourself truly being thankful for things like road construction and public toilets with paper strewn around the bottom. But, that’s not the goal, and if you don’t get there, it really doesn’t matter. The goal is to actually be thankful, right now, in this situation. Being grateful for anything will help your spirit feel love, and that will make you more open to see how God is working to bring grace, love, and new life. Seeing the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life will make you more grateful and the cycle will continue!
So, try it. Start now and see what happens. Perhaps even make it your Advent practice to be really, really, really thankful for one thing or person each day.
Here’s mine for today: a clean window. As I write this, I’m sitting next to a window, which happens to be clean. From the time I sat down, I admired it’s clarity and way it allowed me to view the beauty of the tree while being sheltered from the strong winds a chilly temperatures. Had I not been thinking about gratitude, I would have probably noticed it and then gone on without much thought, but when I was thankful for it, my admiration grew, and I was able to see the beauty of God’s creation more fully, which brought even more room for joy in my heart!
May you have a truly happy thanksgiving and may your giving thanks make you happy! And, may your eyes and heart be open to see the Joy that God takes in you.
Rev. Amanda Esping
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.