Finding Thankfulness

72099801_1240224716149606_8410987073124696064_nThis Thanksgiving—

I don’t want to eat the turkey until full but fail to be filled.

I don’t want to gather with family and friends and fail to connect.

I don’t want to utter a thanksgiving prayer and neglect to be thankful.

I don’t want to count my blessings and not count myself blessed.

What I really need is to develop a thorough kind of thankful—one that spans each day and each year. One that outlasts hardship and withstands the fluctuation of mood and circumstance. A kind of thankfulness that is equally grateful for all that has been given and all that has been taken away. A deep and holy kind of gratitude that acknowledges I have been carried through much and recognizes it is well with my soul.

I understand this type of thankfulness doesn’t come without thought or determined effort. It requires putting away grumbling and complaining, developing a kind of thought fortitude which denies fruitless, habitual patterns of negative thinking. This kind of thankfulness is best developed by a fierce refusal to dwell in the past, releasing all expected outcomes and entitlement, and most of all, trusting God in everything.

72486084_1531083160367940_1117825707628560384_nWhen I am wishing things to be what they aren’t—wishing for situations or people to change—I am unable to focus on the good God has allowed into my life. When I complain about my circumstances I doubt the wisdom and goodness of God who tells me, “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When I worry about my future, ungrateful for today, I deny God’s ability to take care of me. It is nearly impossible to be thankful under these conditions.

When I lift my eyes to the heavens, my perspective alters. When I soak in God’s love and absorb his goodness, my attitude shifts. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” The keyword is all.

72665665_1138435393031985_1173636376688590848_nI can’t just be thankful when things are going well, when I’m on vacation, when I’m healthy, or when I get a raise. I need to fortify gratefulness by thanking God even when I’m working, unwell, or don’t know how I’ll pay my rent. When I can learn to be thankful in everything, I know I’ll have learned the key to thankfulness. Instead of a grumbling attitude, I’ll live out of a heart of gratitude. 

In this posture of thankfulness, I connect more fully in my relationships and am grateful for the people God has tucked into my life. My prayer life is richer when I appreciate all I’ve been given and that all God’s purposes are for good. I can count my blessings and truly appreciate that I am blessed independent of circumstances. I can even eat turkey this Thanksgiving, thankful for a full tummy, a full table, and the fullness that comes from the generous and never-ending portion of God’s love.

 

A Roomful of Love

71051079_388729618467623_1034085484717932544_nThis past Tuesday, a life-long dream of mine came to fruition. My debut novel was released. The very same evening a supportive crowd of approximately eighty family and friends gathered to celebrate my book launch. 

The scene was surreal. The room was full of people from all different facets of my life all gathered in one place. I was flitting around the room working hard to bury my nervousness.

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It’s one thing to write a book, but quite another to release it to the world. All the while I was tapping out words on my laptop, editing streams of sentences, and pouring over various details, I was secure in my creative bubble. Now the book was launching and would be in the hands of readers, I felt a little exposed. 

The evening flowed beautifully and the enthusiasm of the gathered crowd encouraged me. I explained the book’s inception, my writing process, and offered details about the characters and themes. I enjoyed reading excerpts and left time for questions. 

My publicist had encouraged me to take a moment at the launch to look around the room, soak it all in, and ponder the gravity of what I had accomplished. I was attempting to do that between conversations, photo ops, and a trip to the bathroom to pray! I finally managed to take that moment just before I began to speak. I scanned the room, seeing the faces of the seated guests, and smiled. How is it that they all came here for me?

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What struck me the most wasn’t so much my accomplishment, but how blessed I am to have these dear souls in my life. When you really think about it, what would anything big in our lives be without others to celebrate with? To laugh with, cry with, to be silly with, or to accompany us through the hard bits of life? The people in the room represented love to me. A packed roomful of love. 

And there was something else. When I finished speaking, I exited the room to make my way to the signing table. Seated just outside the room was our pastor. Having had another engagement that night, he had come late to the launch and sat outside so as not to disturb the presentation. I can barely explain how much comfort and support his presence offered at that moment, but seeing him seated there was so beautiful. 

It struck me as a picture of Jesus. I envision him sitting nearby, his steady, comforting presence celebrating in our midsts and cheering me on. And truth be told, he was there. His presence among my friends, weaving through our conversation, amid my whispered bathroom prayers, and on the empty stool as I read from the book he helped me write. And like my gathered guests and their show of affection, my book would be nothing to celebrate without my Saviour. 

We can do a great many things in this life. We may write a book, receive a special award, earn multiple degrees, reach all our goals, but for me, it would be empty and futile if I didn’t know Jesus. His sacrificed life saved me. His offered love changed me. His spirit helps me. His presence comforts me. 

He gave everything and in doing so gave me life.

I’m thankful for God’s grace, and all the dear people he has seen fit to tuck into my life. Those I’m honoured to journey with and celebrate life’s events alongside, and with whom I’m privileged to help bear a burden or who help carry mine. As hard as this life can be, there’s much beauty in our midst. Sometimes we just need to take a moment, look around us, soak it all in, and ponder its gravity.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

 

A Word of Encouragement for You Today

spring flowers

Life is full of disappointments, hurts and hardship. When our lives don’t unfold as planned, it’s easy to become discouraged. Below are a few thoughts to encourage you to not give up, to keep going, to persevere through whatever you are facing today.

I pray…

That you would always keep your joy and wonder.

That you would continue to dream big.

That you wouldn’t allow others to dilute your dreams,

Or let obstacles or disappointments crowd out those dreams—

Even when you must scale the mountain or take the long route around.

If some scoff at your goals—say it’s a long shot or that it can’t be done—smile, disregard their lack of faith, and keep going.

Someone needs to persevere. It may as well be you.

Nothing worthwhile comes without dogged effort. No effort is wasted.

Fight fear with faith.

Be brave; bring courage with you wherever you go.

Keep trying hard things.

If you fail, you’ve learned something priceless.

Love.

Be patient and kind to yourself and others.

Forgive quickly so you remain free.

Choose to remain positive—

Don’t allow the negative voices or treatment of others to detract from what you know to be true and good and right.

When hurt, embrace the hard work of healing.

Avoid comparison.

Use your unique skills, knowledge, intellect, voice, talents, and resources to help those around you, to influence and change the world for good, and to glorify God.

Keep your sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but be serious about your intentions and integrity.

Remember life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Not everything will happen instantly.

Keep your eyes on the finish line, but enjoy the scenery on route—

Life is composed of all the moments made while you move forwards and reach your goals. Don’t miss or mistake these moments that matter for distractions;

The main event is never really the main event; it’s all the bits between.

Be thankful for everything. Even the hardships—they make you beautiful, strong, and mature.

God is your help and is cheering you on.

He has a plan.

Trust Him in everything.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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  1. What discouragements are you struggling with today?
  2. Bring them to God, hand them over to him in prayer, and find his comfort, help, and peace in your time of need.

Beautiful Things

There are so many beautiful things in this life, each day bursting with beauty just waiting to be noticed and celebrated, all miraculous in their own way.

But sometimes I’ve missed the beauty—the holy moments—consumed by my own preoccupations. Sometimes I’ve failed to recognise that these simple moments strung together comprise my life—not a bit of which I prefer to miss. Beautiful things like a stranger’s smile, a tiny, chubby-handed wave, that first sip of morning coffee, the belly laugh of a child, and the birds’ chorus lifting in the air.

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So here’s my reflection of some other beautiful things I’m thankful for today:

latte art tirelessly created by the barista who smiles though the job has its not-so-nice bits

humans who are willing to give time, talent and resources to help others

the spectacular sun on my shoulders that gives life and warmth to our planet

my visionary husband, best-friend and biggest cheerleader, who I get to walk life alongside

my children, the great loves of my life, who have brought me untold joy and laughter and whose various talents I have the joy of celebrating

dear family and friends who crowd around to support and love me and who I get to love and encourage in return

the “prayer ladies” who have bolstered my faith and enriched my life

words to string together to create something from nothing

colours to mix and swirl together on a canvas

a quiet moment to reflect, chose thankfulness and make course corrections

beautiful books that challenge and change the world

flowers and plants to care for that add colour and texture my life’s canvas

the canopy of trees to offer comforting shade and life-giving oxygen

a body to move me to the places I’m meant to tread

arms to draw in another soul reminding them they are cherished

my next breath to inhale, providing another chance to live well

eyes to see all this terrific beauty

Christ’s love and sacrifice that changed everything.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

~ Colossians 3:15-17 (The Message)
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What are some beautiful things you’re thankful for? I love to hear them!

Finding Thankfulness

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.