I have decided that Thanksgiving is probably my most favorite holiday. I am 49 years old and just realized this. Some of us like to take our sweet time when it comes to self-reflection. 😏 Besides the obvious “blessing” of a holiday celebrated mainly by gorging oneself on a flood of carbs and high-fructose corn syrup (this year it occurred to me that my sweet potatoes and my pecan pie had essentially the same ingredients), I decided that I really enjoy the chance for my thoughts to revolve around what I am thankful for.
In the past few years it seems that there has been a general push in the world to make the practice of gratitude a regular part of our lives. Look around for words like “grateful”, “blessed”, or “thankful” printed on wall decor or pillows. Sometimes we throw it around without much actual consideration on Facebook and other social media venues. In light of all that, I have to admit that I don’t always make living with an “attitude of gratitude” my top priority.
When I looked up “grateful” and “gratitude” in the dictionary (OK… when I googled those words — same thing), I became aware of a tiny but huge difference between these words.
Gratefulness is a feeling, while Gratitude is more about the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness as a result of that feeling. I can be grateful in my heart all day long for the people I love and God and even the hard stuff of life that causes me to finally grow up. But my expression of that gratefulnesss, both verbal and non-verbal, is called gratitude.
If we want to fully benefit from a life lived in a constant state of “thanks-giving”, the outward expression of what’s in our hearts is mandatory.
And one more quick thought on Thanksgiving. A couple days before the official holiday, I read an entry in “Jesus Calling” that reminded me that at any given moment, we all have something to be grateful for. However, at an given moment, we also have a few things that we wish we could change or even eliminate from our lives entirely. Pain, suffering, heartache and disappointment are always close at hand. The author reminds us that God has given us the gift of a new day, every day: This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). God is basically saying that “to protect our thankfulness, you must remember that you reside in a fallen/broken world, where blessing and sorrows intermingle freely.” Too often we “walk through a day brimming with beauty and brightness, seeing only the grayness of our thoughts”.
In other words, we have a choice as to what we focus on. There is always ample opportunity to choose to be grateful or grumpy. This was especially powerful for me because, I was reading those words while in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving. Our visit was a pleasant gift because we got to spend a week with my in-laws and my two baby boys ( 23 and 19, but still babies to me). A beautiful blessing. My daughter wasn’t there because she was in Israel with my mom and the rest of my husband’s side of the family. Also a beautiful blessing. But “intermingled” with that, my father had been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer, which is what triggered our trip and allowed my daughter to take his place on the trip to Israel. Doesn’t feel like a beautiful blessing at it’s root, but some of what has come out of it has been exquisite and could have been experienced in no other way than through what could be viewed as a curse from God and the universe by those not willing to dig deeper.
Every day, every minute of every day, we all have the choice to not only choose to acknowledge what we are grateful for (including the gifts that can come from tragedy, frustration, long-suffering, etc), but to live out that “attitude of gratitude” by letting it be the driving factor in how we interact with everyone we come in contact with. This is the best way I know to express my love to God-by loving and caring for his kids.