It is here again! Beautiful Thanksgiving time. My holiday season does not officially start until I watch the Garfield Thanksgiving Special DVD Eric bought me years ago. He truly knows the path to my heart.
Do you ever get worn out with all the Thanksgiving hype on social media and with the people around you? Not that Thanksgiving is unimportant, but do you want to ask, “Why are you suddenly so thankful for everything? Because a holiday dictates you be thankful?” Most of us are guilty of speeding through life without thinking too much about all our blessings, until something like Thanksgiving shakes us up and reminds us.
Though I cannot speak for everyone, I believe many of us want to be more aware of our blessings – in February, in April, and even in the heatwaves of July. Sometimes a simple thank you can change the course of our entire day. There is power in gratefulness.
Thankfulness can save relationships. Sometimes the difference between one partner walking out the door forever and turning around in a tearful hug is a small gesture of appreciation. “Please don’t go. I am terrible at showing it, but I am thankful for all you do and all you are to me.” Choosing to be thankful changes us, and when we change, we treat our partners differently.
Gratitude can save lives. I recall a pastor relaying the story of a lady who was locked in her closet, threatening suicide. Her husband called their pastor in a panic, the pastor rushed over, and he challenged her to think of 100 reasons to be thankful. He told her he would leave her alone and let her follow through on her plan if she could not come up with 100 things (ideas, people, events, objects) for which to be thankful. She began listing items, and before long, she emerged from the closet in tears. A life saved by the power of thankfulness.
If you wish to live a life of thanksgiving all year long, consider implementing the tips below!
- Let grateful words be the first you speak each day. “Lord, thank you for the rest you gave me in this bed with which you blessed me.”
- Fill the air with God’s Word. After thanking Him, pull out your Bible and read. Thank Him for His promises and His faithfulness. I love the song, You Have Been Good, by Scott Krippayne because it reminds me that if God never blessed me again, He has already blessed me far beyond what I deserve. Speak His truth out loud. Let it fill your ears and then your heart.
- Spend time with children. The natural innocence of children and their propensity towards laughter helps us adults appreciate the world more. When I spend time with my friends’ children, my mood improves, and I usually find myself giggling at something. If nothing else, those toothless grins and bear hugs are heart-healing.
- Spend time with the elderly. They are so full of wisdom, and their stories are often inspiring and hilarious. These people have lived, and we are wise to take a page from their books. Hanging out with a retired crowd reminds us to slow down and enjoy each day for what it is because every single one of them would tell you, “The years fly by. It seems like I was a kid just yesterday.”
- Acknowledge the people who have been there for you through thick and thin. It is all too easy to get busy and forget about the people who got us where we are today. Parents, relatives, friends, teachers – we all have influencers who helped shape us. Try to think of at least one person per week to acknowledge and thank. Send him or her a note, email, or card saying, “I remember the time you ___________. Thank you for investing in my life.” I had a former advisee Facebook me and tell me about getting his dream job. It meant so much to me that he took the time to inform me and thank me for the small part I played in his life.
- Volunteer on the regular. The best way to overcome self-pity is through serving someone else. It takes the focus off my problem and places emphasis on someone else’s needs.
- Adopt a family – openly or anonymously. You can provide them a Thanksgiving dinner or prepare a Christmas celebration for them. You can adopt them for one holiday or for a year (like a secret pal). There is a family in need near you and you can turn their year (maybe even their life) around with some kindness and sacrifice.
- Give thanks at mealtime – every mealtime! Many of us pray over our food, and while doing so, we can think of something new to thank God for before we eat. Additionally, we can thank our dining companions for something as well. Maybe not every time, but occasionally. Who does not like hearing a sincere “thank you”?
- Monitor your social media. Are you more anxious than usual? Do you feel negative after spending time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter? Sometimes, it is good for the soul to push the phone away and fill your eyes and ears with goodness – the Bible, positive podcasts, an uplifting conversation with a friend, or worship music. The temptation to compare is strong with social media, not to mention there is so much negativity. Even just a few hours away might be helpful, but a few days is even better.
- Send cards to people. There does not need to be a specific reason. Thinking about you cards are the best! “You are so special to me, I decided to send you some fun mail just because I love you.” What is better than that? Maybe a greeting card with a coffee gift card? Though the card is meant to brighten someone else’s day, writing and mailing it brings out the thankfulness in us.
- Talk to yourself every day. We get in a lot of trouble listening to ourselves. Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). I shudder when I see well-meaning art and t-shirts spouting the phrase, “Follow your heart.” No, please do not. Follow the truth! Tell yourself the truth. Regardless of your feelings or the messages you want to send yourself, tell yourself the truth – and the truth comes from the pages of God’s Word. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13, ESV)
- Pull out that gratitude journal. A habit of showing gratitude is wonderful, and yet we still tend to forget all the ways God has blessed us. If we take a couple minutes to jot down our experiences in a journal each day, we can always revisit proof of our blessings when we are down and discouraged.
- Get rid of stuff – even stuff you like! Seems counterproductive, but sometimes getting rid of the clutter makes us more thankful for what we have. When my home is bogged down in stuff, it discourages me. I feel less productive and more discombobulated. A clean and organized space helps many of us breathe a little easier, and our discarded items might bring a huge smile to someone else’s face.
- Give a Thanksgiving gift to show your host appreciation. Whether it is your mom, sister, girlfriend’s parents, or a co-worker, bring your host a small token of appreciation. Next time you are invited to someone’s home for any occasion, bring a small thank you gift. Giving unexpected gifts brings out the joy and gratefulness in me. Does it have that same effect on you?
- When your loving feelings begin to wane, show gratitude towards your significant other or spouse and watch those feelings reappear. Be specific. The beauty of love is that it is a choice. We can feel feelings all day, but until those feelings are translated into actions, they do not mean much. When you stop feeling love towards the special people in your life, start giving to them. Do something kind for them. Think about all the ways they bless your life and let them know.
- Get lost in nature. Something about trees blowing in the wind, the sun on my face, and the smell of freshly cut grass makes my heart so happy. Go outside. Run on a trail. Visit your nearest lake or river. Nature helps us clear our minds of negativity and focus on the beauty in the world.
- “Go look at the Berkey!” One Christmas, Eric surprised me with a Berkey water filtering system. He spent a lot of his blow money on it as it exceeded our agreed upon gift allowance by several hundred dollars. Shortly thereafter, I was complaining to Mom in jest about something Eric did, and Mom replied by saying, “Go look at the Berkey!” Remembering the good our sweethearts do for us helps us show grace when they are not at their best.
- Write down why you are thankful for everyone in your circle. Hopefully, the day will come when you can tell each of them what they mean to you. In fact, make the day come.
- Fill your home with Scripture. Consider it thanksgiving art. No matter the Scripture, God’s Word encourages us to be grateful because there is no greater gift than the salvation He offers us. Those constant messages seep into our minds and then into our hearts. Surrounding ourselves with truth reminds us of God’s faithfulness and all the reasons we have to praise Him!
- Let grateful words be the last you speak each day. “Lord, thank you for another day. Thank you for your protection and favor. Thank you for this warm, dry home you have given me, and for the rest I am about to receive.”
About twenty years ago, I was hanging out with my friend at her grandmother’s house. Without much transition, as if she talks to the Lord all day long (which she does), her grandmother began praying. She did not ask for much, but she thanked Him. She thanked Him for the first responders. She thanked Him for all who work with the sick. She just kept thinking of reasons to thank Him and it was so precious to my young heart. That is the kind of believer I want to be. The kind who looks for more and more reasons to give thanks to the Lord.
So, pass the corn and give some thanks – to God and to the family around you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118:1, ESV)
What are you specifically thankful for about each member of your family? What are three reasons you are grateful for your significant other or spouse?