This morning I woke up with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It’s a stark contrast to the mornings I wake up feeling like a 500 pound weight is resting on my chest. Those are the days I feel I can only be thankful for the 150 milligrams of happy to help me cope.
It’s hard to keep your heart in a constant mode of gratitude, but it’s one of those attitudes that produces contentment and joy, something the world could use more of. Instead, we are under a constant state of blitzkrieg with messages of items we simply must have. We need to upgrade the old. We need the biggest and best. We need fast. Consume, consume, consume. We never have enough. Sometimes I feel like I never have enough.
During the Thanksgiving season, when I was in high school, teachers would ask students what they were thankful for. Everyone would go around and name something, usually big ideas like family, friends, or a huge material possession they had just acquired. And when it came to me, I always had to be weird. I would think up something stupid like my pillow. And I would share that. Friends would snicker at the idea and teachers would think I was being obnoxious, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Most people probably don’t think to be thankful for a pillow. It’s something most of us have always known. But have you ever tried to sleep without one? It’s not fun. I imagine the multitude of homeless right here in the States. People who don’t have a bed to sleep in. Somewhere to lay their weary heads. Yes. I’m thankful for my pillow. Usually we are told to focus on the big picture and not get lost in the details. But isn’t the joy in life in the little things? And if we’re so caught up in the big picture, sometimes we miss the details. And sometimes we need to focus on those details, because they can produce immense joy.
About four years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts and began keeping a journal of my own beautiful moments throughout the days. Seemingly dumb things to be thankful for. I recently went back and looked at what I wrote on the first few pages. Many of them I can vividly see, smell, hear, taste, or touch.
Classical music in ears on Sunday mornings.
Ketchup cornered smiles.
Brown sugar shampoo
Dancing raindrops on pavement
And some of them I don’t remember what they mean.
Ace of Base winks from Jesus
I don’t doubt that in that moment I must have felt confirmation or assurance about something going on in my life. I’ve always believed God to speak to me in ways other than church, the Bible, prayer, or friends. Sometimes I hear him in the rain, or a breeze across my face. Sometimes through music (which this apparently was). He talks to us in a multitude of ways if we are willing to listen. And often times a grateful heart will open those windows for us to be receptive, because we aren’t so tangled up in our own selfishness.
Gratitude. It’s hard. It’s even harder to instill this in the hearts of children, especially when most have an overabundance of selfish nature. But the best way to shift their focus onto what they have instead of what they have not, is to model it ourselves. Yikes. Not an easy task.
My family prays according to Acts (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), and when we say our family prayers at night before bed, we spend the majority of our time moseying around in the “thankful” portion. We thank God for the seemingly mundane, the things we take for granted. The things we just assume will always be there: our house, two working vehicles, food in the pantry, bicycles to ride, clothes on our backs, and pillows on which to rest our heads. I love hearing my daughter thank God for all of these things. It’s a good reminder to me when I get into the slump of desiring more. Don’t get me wrong, wanting and having nice things is not evil. But if we don’t balance that out with a grateful heart, we flirt with our selfish desires a bit too much. We become egocentric. Our hand becomes a fist instead of an open palm. It’s an ugly, scary place to be.
So today, what am I grateful for?
Toothless gummy bear smiles
Whispering winds through tree branches
Raspberry lime scented candles
Texting dates with childhood friends
Morning first sips of coffee
Each of you who continue to encourage me