By far, one of my favorite days of the year.
I love all of it; the company, the football, and the food that leaves me in a so-full-I can’t-eat-another-bite food coma.
Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. It starts a month of time when people are more gracious, more loving, and more grateful.
Of course, Thanksgiving also marks the moment when consumerism is at its highest and people get nasty fighting over parking spots. And despite meals where we sit together and discuss what and who we are thankful for, many of us lose the holiday spirit before we even walk into the first Black Friday sale. People were so intent on SAVING money, they forget to be KIND getting in the door.
I mean, get out of my way, I have gifts to buy!
How silly is it to run over someone else so you can buy a GIFT for someone else?
The holidays can be a stressful time, as people have full schedules, year-end quotas and financials to meet at work, gift buying and budgets to keep. As women, some of us are guilty of taking on too much, and being stretched far too thin because we want to do it all. And some of us also slip into the consuming black hole of perfectionism; we want the perfect gift, the perfect party, the perfect Christmas photo card.
With the holidays looming, a meal where we mention what we’re grateful for isn’t going to prepare me for the long haul to make it with grace through January.
Thanksgiving isn’t a meal with turkey, it’s an attitude.
One that isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t easy to achieve.
It takes work to train your mind to be grateful. To stop worrying about your own rights and desires and be thankful for where you are now, what you have, and who you’re with. This year, our family will start focusing on gratitude NOW.
This way, when the holiday stress and busy-ness kicks in, we’ll be well-versed in the practice of gratitude.
All of us.
It is my desire and hope that our intentional focus on gratitude will become habitual; that we will continue to focus on gratitude more and more, right through the end of the year and on into 2015.
Forget the New Year’s Resolution…I’m suggesting making the change before the high stress time sets in.
There are 3 practical ways we will increase our awareness of gratitude:
1. Replace Complaints with Prayers of Gratitude
Simple, yet powerful. I can take no credit for this idea; it was suggested today at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) by our teaching leader, Cheri Cameron.
Pausing to be grateful in circumstances that produced complaining gives a complete change of perspective. It doesn’t mean our problems won’t be there when we’re done, but it does mean we rely on God more, and recognize His presence. We take some of our emotion out of the situation, close our mouths, and instead of perpetuating grumbling or hours on end, we say thank you to our creator; for walking through a trial with us, for giving us wisdom, comfort, peace, and people to come alongside.
What does this look like? Here’s a few examples.
- Complaint: My daughter was up twice in the night last night, waking my son and I, and now we are all TIRED and CRANKY.
- Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for this little girl, that I get to be her mom and help her go back to sleep when her teeth hurt. Thank you for the extra snuggles that I don’t usually get during the day and thank you for the hours of sleep that I DID get last night. I have done with far less sleep
- Complaint: I have so much to do, I’m just overwhelmed. I feel like no one even notices the work I am doing.
- Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for being here with me today. Thank you for SEEING my efforts and helping me to do the work you’ve given me. Help me to prioritize and to focus on you while I work. Nothing makes the work seem lighter than when I do it while praising the Lord.
When I am grumbling in earshot of my children (sigh, yes it happens), I will confess my poor attitude and pray out loud so they can learn by example. I want them (and me) to stop the pattern of complaining, and to replace it with gratitude.
When our children are complaining, we will help them pause, recognize what is happening, and pray their own prayers of gratitude. This is one skill I want them to learn now.
2. Actively Encourage and Express Gratitude To Others
This month our family will focus on thanking those people who make our life better by being in it. We will actively seek ways to encourage others in their walk of life. We will practice being SPECIFIC on what we are grateful for, not just a generic THANK YOU.
We will thank and lift each other up as a family. Intentionally.
I am too often guilty of the critical-tongue. Things escape my lips and I immediately regret the complaint. It is my goal to internally THINK before I speak and change my complaint into encouragement and thanks.
I am not saying it will be easy. I think it is going to be quite hard! But, I will give it my best effort and ask in faith the Lord to honor it and bless it.
3. Keep a Record
I am not sure what type of record we will be keeping, but I’m hoping to make a gratitude tree (like this one from http://jonesdesigncompany.com/) or a Daily Gratitude Journal (like this one from http://www.stratejoy.com).
Whatever type we choose, there will a visual, written record. We will record what each member of our household is grateful for each day in November. I hope to do this all year, but we’ll see how this goes.
On Thanksgiving this year, our family will sit down and read these records together, and celebrate the what God is and has done for our family this November.
Since September, I’ve fallen off the wagon on my gratitude journal. It’ time to pick it back up. I miss it. I miss the perspective it gives me when I’m starting my day. I’ve committed to write each day in November, recording the ways God is showing me the blessings in my life and in scripture as I study His word.
Will you join us?