Do you feel thankful this holiday? I am feeling conflicted this season. In the big scheme of things I am quite thankful- for my faith, my family, my health and all the material blessings I have. Yet in the microcosm of my life, I am not too grateful. I find myself grumbling, complaining and disappointed that my life is in the pattern it is.
I realize that I need an attitude adjustment. I need to learn contentment and gratitude. I need to learn how to give thanks.
I was doing my daily Bible reading and came across these verses from the book of Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
It dawned on me. Perhaps I am not overly pursuing a life that reflects a love of money (or at least not intentionally) but I am most certainly trying to manipulate my future to go my way and when it doesn't, I find that I get annoyed and cranky. Part of the sin of loving money is that in its pursuit we forget that we are not in control. I wasn't leaning on God and trusting Him with my thoughts, dreams and plans. I was allowing my focus to be on the smallness of my life and all the "slights" against me causing me to try and handle it all myself like the Little Red Hen. I was idolizing me.
I came across an article in the November issue of "Real Simple". It was suggesting how to be grateful (when you really don't feel like it). I liked the ideas because cultivating gratitude lifts our thoughts from ourselves and can help shift our attitude to being thankful and grateful for our circumstances. It is then we can recognize contentment in whatever that situation might be. Below are some of those suggestions as well as my own:
- Gratitude can be simple and subtle. In Hebrew the term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means "recognizing the good". A reframing of our attitude might be to "reorient ourselves around things that we should already be grateful for". So, it might not be so hard to "find" gratitude rather look for the small things which already occur- e.g. a garaged car that keeps the windshield free from frost and the daily morning scraping that non garaged car neighbors have to endure.
- List your blessings. Focus on the big four- food, family, health and shelter. If you have to break them down to the smallest item, e.g. breathing without oxygen assistance, then do so.
- Cultivate a grateful eye. I was raking the leaves in our yard the other day. There is a neighbor's tree that drops the smallest sliver of leaves possible onto our front yard. The tines of the rake cannot pick them up. The only way to collect them is to use a gasoline powered mower. In the back of our house there is a HUGE sycamore tree on the adjacent county property. Not only is the tree big and drops limbs but the leaves are the size of dinner plates. As I was picking up the sycamore leaves I thought, "I am so grateful that the small tree is in front and the larger one is back here" as I had to pick up by hand the large sycamore leaves as they had fallen over the pebble walkway around our potting shed and pond. If I used a rake or any other type of machinery I would also denude the path of pebbles.
- Look at the way you say thank-you. Is it automatic or can you look at the way someone is helping you with a cost-benefit eye? Notice not just the money spent but the time and effort and energy it took. "Thinking about everyday kindnesses like that will make you way more grateful."
- Share your thanksgiving/gratitude stories with others. Here are some conversation starters for the Thanksgiving table:
- What's the nicest thing that anyone has done for you this year?
- What the nicest thing that you've seen someone else-friend, coach, family member, teacher- do for another person?
- If you had one super power that you could use to make a difference int he world, what would it be? What would you do with it?
- What are you most grateful for that doesn't cost money?
What about you? How's your attitude this Thanksgiving holiday? Do you need an attitude adjustment? What can you do? Have you ever counted your blessings? Actually written them down as assets? Have you ever shared your feelings of gratitude with others?