I should be in the kitchen right now, throwing together some dough for the pie crusts I’ll need later today. The shopping is almost complete, but I do have to make that one last pesky run to the grocery store for the extras I forgot. And of course, there are several seasonal additions to our schedule for this Wednesday before Thanksgiving. But for just a minute, I’m going to sit right here and center my heart. If I skip that part, everything else is meaningless.
This year, the holidays came barreling at us like a stampede of wildebeests. We have been counting down days to Christmas break when our daughter will be able to come home and spend time with the family again, but we seem a bit blindsided by Thanksgiving. My mother in law recently passed away, our teenage daughter is living a continent away from us this year, and we are under the daily pressures of learning a new language, navigating crises and trying to reach out to the refugee community in our city. Living outside the USA makes it easy for us to skip over the American holidays and traditions we came from, and believe me, it’s very tempting to simply let them go at times like this. Granted, many of our Americanisms have already been released to elsewhere since we have stepped into life in Germany…but Thanksgiving? That’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
Because without gratitude—without Thanksgiving—we’re bankrupt. Cultivating thankfulness actually creates a good life that emanates outward from the soul, affecting everything we do, coloring our world with heaven’s perspectives. Without gratitude at work in my heart, I drift toward the default setting of negativity, self-pity and lack. I know where that leads because I have gone down that road before, and I’m done wasting time there!
I want my life to be full, passionate, joyful and fun—doesn’t everyone? But I’m old enough to know that abundant life isn’t a one-stop-shop. Abundant life is the product of plugging into the Source of Life, and actively training my soul in His ways. I have to submit my negativity, selfishness, pride (and the list goes on), and open up to be filled with the Spirit. I have to tune my heart to the frequency of His voice. I have to commune with Him—converse, listen, sing, pray, cry, and just be—soaking in His comforting, personal Presence.
The key to opening the gate of communion with God is THANKSGIVING. We begin to see a glimpse of God’s Kingdom, His beautiful reality, when we train our souls to thank Him.
Think you’ve got a sum total ZERO to be thankful for? You’re just not trying hard enough! Start with the easy stuff:
- breath in my lungs
- sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell
- indoor plumbing
And go from there. It can be anything that you could say, “Thank you, God, for _________.” Anything! From the cosmic down to the microscopic–there are endless numbers of things to be thankful for! Pick a notebook and designate it as your “Gratitude Journal” or whatever you’d like to call it. Then set a goal for yourself: write down 10 things every day that you are thankful for. Maybe it should be more like 25 or 50 a day. You decide. The great thing is, once you prime the pump on your gratitude, it starts to flow more easily. Maybe you’ll even start going past your daily goal and keep on writing…maybe you’ll need a second journal!
After a few days, you will feel different. After a few weeks of faithfully writing down your thankfulness, you will see differently. And after training your soul in gratitude for any extended time, you will be different—you will have flipped the switch from negative/lacking/depressed to positive/overflowing/joyful.
God knows what our hearts need. He is intimately involved in the details of your life. He loves you and wants what is best for you—even more that you do for yourself. Trust Him—He knows how your heart works, and His prescription for gratitude will heal you from the inside out.
Here’s my list for today:
- Annoying family members
- Non-annoying family members
- Framily–friends who feel more like family
- Friends and family members who live with integrity and compassion
- Running water
- Cheddar cheese
- Deviled eggs like my Gramma made
- Pumpkin pie
- Pie crusts from scratch
- The feel of dough in my hands while baking
- Mulling spices simmering on the stove
- Christmas music
- Comfy pillows
- The smell of books
- Spekulatius cookies
- Candy corn
- Maple syrup
- Elf movie
- Gut-busting laughter
- Coffee (yeah, it gets at least three spots today)
- Old friends
- Good as gold friends
- Spiced tea
- A complete set of markers
- Spiral notebooks
- Chip clips
- Paper towels
- Flower boxes
- Lap dogs
- Wagging tails
- Someone to sing with
Why not try it? You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose, and practically everything to gain. I pray that this Thanksgiving holiday will be your moment–a first step into a new life of gratitude.