This was the BEST Thanksgiving I have ever had, hands down. And deep down, I feel it was the most important.
It wasn’t because I necessarily had more time with my family. It wasn’t because the food was better or Cody had more time off work. It wasn’t because Heidi was older and a little easier to handle, or because anything particularly special happened.
No, this Thanskgiving was the best because I was thankful.
Seems kind of self-explanatory, yes? But I assure you, it’s not. As a Thanksgiving tradition, my family goes around the dinner table and lists one thing we are thankful for. Ironically enough, we forgot this year. However, it’s also fitting, considering what I’ve learned over the past few months. If we HAD gone around the dinner table over the weekend, I would not have said I was thankful for my husband, my daughter, my family, my friends, or my warm cozy home.
The ONE thing I am thankful for this year is gratitude. The daily practice of it has truly changed my heart.
Over the past few months, I have made more of an effort to be grateful on a daily basis. It sounds easy. We’re thankful for a roof over our head or food on our table or our healthy babies. But then when I hit rough days, it became harder. I felt bitter, my attitude was terrible, and I was angry about cancelled plans, spilled coffee, a sick baby, and lack of time. All I wanted to do was list everything that was going wrong. I was stuck on not getting what I wanted. On those days, my heart did not want to think about what it was thankful for. It wanted to wallow and feel sorry for itself. And I wanted to make sure everyone else know what a bad day I had. (We’ve all been there, right?)
Over time, and because of lots of encouragement from a good friend
, I kept at it. I wrote in the gratitude journal she gave me each night before bed. I listed everything from the day I was thankful for. And on the days I felt frustrated with whatever trial we were going through, I forced myself to list as many things as I possibly could anyways. Soon, the broad items on my list (food, shelter, clothing, family) turned to smaller things: Heidi’s laughter, her smiles in the dark when she wakes up in the middle of the night, clean towels after a bath, a husband who works hard for us and asks for text pictures of his daughter multiple times a day, grandparents who are close by, piles of books for my daughter to read, the ability to make healthy meals for my family, the blessing of being able to stay home with my daughter while pursuing passions of my own (freelance writing and editing), phone calls to my best friends, warm coffee every morning…and the list gets longer and longer.
I used to think it was a tad petty to thank God for tiny things like a lovely-smelling candle, a phone call, a warm sweater. I felt like He had bigger issues to deal with and more eloquent prayers to hear. But I am realizing more and more that these prayers of gratitude are the biggest ones we can offer. Because when we thank Him for the little things, we are acknowledging His presence in all things…that everything in our lives is a deliberate gift HE has placed there. The fact that God is surrounding us at every moment, giving small gifts…and the way we choose to SEE those things… turns our hearts to Him so that we trust Him even more when the rug gets tugged from beneath our feet.
I have noticed now that it’s become a habit. It’s easier now, more than ever, to be thankful for the smallest things. It’s actually becoming tough NOT to be thankful, even when a day takes a turn for the worst. Because the worst, sadly, could always be worse.
As I type this, my daughter is pretending my camera is a cell phone, jabbering way in the living room. She is climbing in and out of her tent, sharing her goldfish crackers with our dog, and laughing. She has been cutting molars lately, which would drive any parent crazy. But I found myself, in the midst of sleepless nights and a very whiney/clingy toddler, thanking God deeply that right now, molars are all we are battling. I thank God for Orajel and Tylenol and soft blankets and books that comfort and movies that relax. When we are eating a snack, watching Tangled at 2am for the umpteenth time in our bed because she is uncomfortable and just wants mommy and daddy, we hold her close and wrap her up tighter in her blanket.
Since this journey of gratitude, I have found I’m less jealous of others. I am less bitter, less inflexible (figure out THAT double negative, haha), less angry, and less wanting. Instead, I have more joy, more peace, and much more contentment with what we have. And I have less fear about the future. In fact, the more I count my blessings, the more humble I feel at all we have been given, red-faced at my ungrateful attitude sometimes.
This is why it was the best Thanksgiving. I’m not sad it’s over because I have learned to carry the holiday in my heart all year. And once we start counting blessings, even a year doesn’t seem like enough time to thank God for every single one, much less a day.
“It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear….
The practice of giving thanks….
this is the way we practice the presence of God,
stay present to His presence,
and it is always a practice of the eyes.
We don’t have to change what we see.
Only the way we see.” Ann Voskamp
Thankful for this crazy girl.