People are blogging about gratitude; whole books are being written about the topic, and gratitude journals abound…a quick google search yielded 80 options available for purchase and then I stopped counting because I noticed I was on page 4 of 18 pages of journals.
Even Wikipedia has a gratitude journal entry:
"A gratitude journal is a diary of things for which one is grateful. Gratitude journals are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives."
This definition is followed by a lengthy summary of current research citing the benefits of keeping some sort of written record (a place to document one’s reasons for gratitude) as well as studies examining the most effective methods:
– How often to write it down – daily? weekly?
-How many examples to include – (Most studies investigating gratitude journals have found that including 3-10 items in each gratitude journal entry yields the most beneficial results.)
And as I read and reread the above article and others, I noticed a glaring omission regarding the second half of the word, the “giving” part of thanksgiving. As I read social media lists of "thanks for my family and my friends and all this food…” it seems as if most of us are grateful in an inch deep “hooray for my stuff” kind of way. We're blithely using the word “thanksgiving,” saying what it is for which we are giving thanks without acknowledging to whom we are giving thanks.
This Christmas I am giving a basketball...
I am going to give a piece of my mind...
I will be giving $1000...
The question begging to be answered is “to whom?” Am I giving the basketball to you? Who is the unfortunate one on the receiving end of a piece of my mind?...(a piece which I'm sure I'll miss and which will likely cost me my own peace of mind…but that’s a different post.) Who will be the lucky recipient of $1000?
To whom are we giving thanks?
Is our focus mostly on the gifts, or are we looking toward on the Giver?
When we're giving thanks and the list is "my family, my food, my houseful of stuff,"
– are we just feeling smug that we've got all this, are we glad that our kids are so amazing, are we proud of ourselves and pleased that we've managed to accumulate all this stuff? Is that it??
And furthermore, when it all goes bad, or some portion of our ship is sinking - which, one way or another, seems to happen to all of us along the way, then what? Are we off the hook? No need to be thankful, and nothing for which to be thankful?
This is not what I want, this is not who I want to be.
I do want to live a life of gratitude. I want to move forward, to embrace deep thanksgiving, every day. So, this month, I'm taking a closer look at...
A gratitude journal. I’ve been keeping one for years, and I won’t stop now. I am living out the benefits every day – reduced anxiety and depression, increased resilience, a perspective that helps me see what is good in every (hard) day! But I don't want to lose track of the Source of these amazing gifts.
Thanksgiving Day celebration? I want to say “Yes!”
- yes to gathering with those I love,
-yes to remembering and being grateful for loved ones who aren’t here,
-yes to enjoying family traditions (My part will probably be hickory nut cake and baked corn as usual) and
-yes to laughter and camaraderie around the table.
But underlying all this,
I want to restore and strengthen my foundation of gratitude,
from whom all blessings flow.
for the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17)
And for the other gifts, the ones I can’t see as perfect or even good?
For those gifts I will also trust the Giver, and give thanks, for He makes all things beautiful in His time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
So what will go on my list today, first day of the month of November, beginning a season of gratitude?
All day, every day. No. Matter.What.
On days when turkey smell wanders like a good memory through every room -
gratitude for The Presence.
And on days when I wander, room to room, grieving for reasons I cannot explain -
gratitude for The Presence.
For God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
God chooses to be present,
and I choose to be grateful.
Not only for the gifts, but even more, for the Giver.
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1 RSV
1. The promised Presence.
2. Glory shining through imperfect leaves.
3. Hearing good words spoken regarding a hard situation, and knowing God is in it.
What's on your list?