I confess. I wrote a thanksgiving post. But I didn’t publish it.
To be honest, it felt generic. Both in writing it and in re-reading it.
I do appreciate that we have a day set aside to honor the tradition of thanksgiving. To sit and break bread with those we love and give thanks. To lift up God in appreciation of all we have and all He’s done.
Let’s face it. We have a lot to be thankful for. Despite the feel that the world is coming down all around us, we still have a lot to be thankful for.
But sometimes, I get hung up over Thanksgiving. As in with a capital T. Because really, we should be thankful every day. In all things. In all ways. In all circumstances. So having a day set aside is great, yes, especially in a world that seems less and less thankful. I want that day to remain on the calendar.
But in my own heart, I want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude every day. And I felt like just talking about thanksgiving the week of the holiday felt, well, generic. Yes, I realize I said that before.
What I want to get better at, and the way I really want to live my life, is from a place of gratitude. In all things and in all ways and in all circumstances. I’m not writing this and telling you that I’ve got that part down. The Bible says we should be thankful in times of trial. And that, can be very hard.
That despite your circumstances, whether in the world or in your own life, we have much to be thankful for. That even if it feels like there’s so much against you, there is still air in your lungs and a heart pumping blood. And when we focus on what our eyes tell us, the enemy can sneak in and steal our gratitude. Which is kind of what happened to me last week as I was writing my generic post. I was feeling like I am so thankful for many things, but yet the voice would come in the back of your mind, reminding me that there are still circumstances against me so why be thankful for the other stuff? That sounds ridiculous even saying it, but it’s true.
What that looks like in real words is that I can find myself praying about something in my life, some sort of circumstances that are challenging, sometimes for me and sometimes for someone else. When I start my prayer from that place, rather than from a place of gratitude, my focus would be on the circumstances, rather than gratitude and praise. Instead of feeling grateful for all that I have, I would end up thinking about what I’m praying about, which might be something difficult or challenging. And that would erase my words of thankfulness. A real-life example of this happened about a week ago. I found myself thanking God for the massive amount of hand-me-down clothing that was given to my daughter, but in the back of my mind, I was being reminded that I skipped the electric bill that month. Thankful, yes. But not thankful enough.
I’m not sure if my explanation makes sense or not. Perhaps you are much better at expressing your gratitude than I am and cannot relate.
So perhaps that’s why I just couldn’t hit publish on my post. Because I felt like my heart, while trying to cultivate gratitude, wasn’t completely where it needed to be.
I’m not even close to being good at being thankful. It’s something I have to continually remind myself of. To not even put words to what I want to pray for, but to start with a heart that’s thankful. Don’t get me wrong. I lift up thankfulness daily. But sometimes I can forget just how fortunate I am to have the life I have.
I want to be in a spirit of gratitude everyday. That I wake up in the morning, thankful that my feet are hitting the floor without pain. That I have a warm shower, kids who cozy up to me, a full day ahead to spend with them, breakfast on the table (and a dishwasher for after), clothes on my back (and a washer to clean them with), and on and on.
I want that spirit to carry me through my day, that when my mind goes to my circumstances, I shut it up with a prayer of thanks. So when I think of all I have to be thankful for, my perspective shifts to that, rather than what my eyes might see in front of me.
Because even if there’s things that aren’t going our way, whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, or financial pain or fill-in-the-blank pain, there’s always something we can lift our hands for in thanksgiving. We just have to find it. And name it. And speak it aloud.
I won’t lie and say that it’s a breeze, because my flesh tends towards my circumstances. As I was driving to pick up my kids from their musical practice at church the day I wrote my gratitude post, I found myself wanting to pray about something else, something that I wanted peace about, but instead I started offering up thanks. Thanks for a gas tank that didn’t yet need to be filled, for the heat blowing in my face and a car that didn’t need to be serviced, for my warm coat and that all my kids have coats and hats and gloves, for a church where my kids are able to share God’s love through a Christmas musical, for warm shoes and shoes for all my kids, and on and on. When my focus shifted to being thankful, my heart was more at peace, even for the words that weren’t lifted up.
I’m not saying don’t ever pray about the hard stuff. Of course not. I’m just saying when I start with a heart of gratitude, my focus in prayer is different. I’m reminded more of who God is. And what He’s done. And I bring that with me into my prayers.
Being thankful in times of trial isn’t easy for me. But let’s face it. There’s always something we’re dealing with or something someone else is dealing with and our hearts can shift easily to what our eyes see. When things are good, it’s easy to be thankful. But when things are challenging, and none of us are promised a life free from those times, it’s easy to want to self-focus. But for me, when I close my eyes and lift my hands and words of gratitude, it puts my focus on where it belongs. On Jesus. Who gave me life, who gave me air in my lungs, and a heart pumping blood.
So I’m writing this after our national day of thanks. Because I’m determined that I will give thanks daily. Whether I feel like it or not. Whether in good times or trial. I want praise and thankfulness to ever be on my lips.
What about you? How do you cultivate thankfulness?