Sunday, November 29, 2009

Practicing Gratitude

*photo credit: yellow goat designs

In my post Thanksgiving stupor, I found it difficult to sleep. Turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes collided with champagne cocktails and the regular family tensions. I was awakened at four by my niece who was hitting the WalMart for deals on Black Friday. She kept flicking the light on and off trying to find her jeans, a nightmare of disco strobe lights. When I finally told her leave the light on until she found them I realized I'd be awake the rest of the night.

My mind turned to my worries. Darkness has a way of making our troubles crawl out of the crack in the closet door, turning them into to veritable bogeymen of the adult life. I felt restless and thankless, despite the family exercise earlier of sharing what we were most thankful for.

When it was my turn, I chose to give a glib reply to keep the cycle moving and get the focus off me. But as I blinked into the darkness (after the kid left the room, having shut off the light), I felt disappointed in my answer, and in myself. I preach to my kids the importance of being thankful but I had not walked the walk as they say. I won't let any Christmas stuff into the house until December. I rail against the marketers who push their purchasing agendas on us. I don't want us to shuffle past this day of thanks without pause, especially since truly considering Thanksgiving should turn our minds to a proper attitude for Advent.

Advent, in case you're wondering, has nothing to do with Christmas shopping, or Black Friday, but that's a soap box for another day.

One can only toss and turn for so long before one must confront the reasons for worry, the darkness that frightens. I started ticking off my concerns, and challenged myself to find its converse and found that indeed, there is much to be thankful for.

Worry about money turns to thanks for a warm bed and a full belly.
One kid struggling with a tough school year turns to praise for a great school and active teachers who love her and care for her.
Blended family newness and all it's awkwardness becomes a bigger, more joyful family with more stories, more life, more experiences, more to love.
One family members' struggle with depression gives rise the thanks for doctors, medicines, therapists, and relationships that potentially heal the hurt.

My list went on and on and for every half empty glass, my mind found a fresh source to fill it. I found that as I ticked the yuck off my list, I fell into a sense of peace. I remember reading a devotional years ago that asked readers to practice an attitude of gratitude. This kind of thanks is so much more than the pop-culture, Oprahology that some practice. It is an intentional remembering of the source. It is a reminder of the words of the apostle Paul who exhorted Christians to "be thankful in all situations." He did not say be thankful FOR all situations but in all.

This is why I can find the silver lining, the half full cup. This is why when I practice an attitude of gratitude, it does more than illuminate the half fullness. It in fact, brings it to overflowing.

*I LOVE these earrings. Just in case you're wondering what I'd like under the tree...just saying.


  1. Great post, Jen. I think many of us who grew up in the church missed Paul's important word choice: thankful IN, not necessarily thankful for. It's one of the things that maybe makes us grumpy toward God as we get older and life's challenges become more real. How can we trust a God that expects us to be all thankful for life's biggest blows?

    But, of course, he doesn't expect that. He expects exactly what you exercised your sleepless night. Thank you for illustrating it so beautifully.

  2. Thank you friend, for your faithfulness is reading my words and taking the time to comment. Now I'm on to thinking about why we're always so surprised when He does what He says He'll do...