We have so much to be thankful for.
It seems like such an obvious statement, but it’s sad how often I need to hear it.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to be ungrateful. To see the shadows rather than the sun. To complain rather than to praise. To always be seeking more instead of being content with what we have.
But in reality, every breath we take is a testament to how much we have to be thankful for.
I have bittersweet feelings toward Thanksgiving. There’s nothing wrong with the holiday itself. In fact, it’s a wonderful reminder for us to slow down and really count our blessings. But I also wish that we didn’t need a holiday to remind us to do that.
Speaking from experience, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the monotonous stresses of daily life, and forget to give thanks. It can be very hard to praise God for His gifts when we’re struggling to provide for our families, or worn down from sickness, or missing a loved one.
When everything seems to be going wrong, it’s hard to remember to focus on what’s right.
Some people are naturally better at being thankful, no matter what’s going on in their life. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve ever been one of those people. Yes, if I stop to think about it, I’m very grateful for all the blessings in my life. But I do have to intentional about focusing on them, and not letting my mind wander toward all the things I dislike or dread.
The past couple of years have not been easy (another obvious statement, right?). And early on in the chaos, I realized that I had two choices going forward. I could sulk, complain, and allow my grief and frustration over the loss of normal to make me bitter and hold me back. Or I could intentionally focus on the One who never changes, and remember all the ways I could see Him working in the midst of the hardships and losses.
This has been tested every single day. Over and over. Will I curse Him or praise Him? Will I remember His blessings or forget them? Will I be grateful for His gifts or unimpressed?
And though I haven’t always made the right choice, gratitude is always better. Always.
This isn’t to say that being thankful will take away all our problems, or somehow makes them any less real. I know better than that. I’ve personally experienced many painful losses, none of which have magically disappeared when I remember to say thank you.
But being thankful takes the focus off of all our problems and fears, and places it right back where it should be; on all our blessings – and most of all, on the Provider of them. Because no matter what is changing around us, He is unchanging. No matter the hurts and scares and hardships, He’s still with us every step of the way, and nothing will pull Him from us.
My heart’s never in a better place than when I’m being thankful.
So I am.
I’m thankful for my family. For each and every one of them. For all the things we’ve laughed and cried, played and suffered, relaxed and fought through. For every conversation, smile, joke, hug, and prayer. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
I’m thankful for my friends. For the way God’s brought each of us together to bless and strengthen and encourage one another in different ways. For the memories and the lessons learned. For the chance to share the love I’ve been shown with others. That’s a gift.
I’m thankful for my work. For the opportunity to provide for myself and those around me. For the chance to bless others by giving my best effort and continuing to show up. For my employers and coworkers, and for the skills I get to learn. I shouldn’t take it for granted.
I’m thankful for my writing journey. For the highs, because they’ve motivated me to keep going, and for the lows, because they’ve pushed me to learn and grow. For the stories in my heart and the opportunity to tell them. For all the people that have helped, encouraged, and challenged me in the process. I’d be a very different person if I didn’t get to write.
I’m thankful for my home. For the fact that I have one in the first place. For the warmth in the winter and the refreshing cool in the summer. For the memories, most of all. There are too many fond ones to count.
I’m thankful for my pets. For the sweet fluffball of a dog that’s either lying around for hours or running hyper circles around my feet. For the lovable oaf that has yet to meet a stranger and likely never will. For the cats whose names I can never remember, but who are too cute not to love. Animals really can be family members.
I’m thankful for music. For the way it can make a day better and speak to my heart in a way often nothing else can. For the lessons that now allow me to make music of my own. For the variety of songs, styles, lyrics, musicians, and sounds that make me think Heaven must be a bit like that. There’s almost always a song in my head.
I’m thankful for nature. For the beauty and intricacy that never fail to amaze me. For the countless, breathtaking variations of weather, landscape, wildlife, and foliage. For the way being outside makes me feel closer to God than anywhere else. As much as I might complain about it sometimes, I wouldn’t change anything.
Most of all, I’m thankful for my Savior. For His love and sacrifice that allows my salvation. For His patience and refusal to give up on me though I deserve it countless times over. For His constant presence and provision, and His promise to be with me always. Only because of Him do I have anything to be thankful for – and because of Him, I have everything to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for so many things. Big and small. Eternal and fleeting. Majestic and intricate.
I’ve learned that if I don’t think I have anything to be thankful for, I’m just not looking hard enough. I’m not staying focused on my blessings, but on my hardships. And I’m probably going to miss all the beautiful things God is doing through the struggle and confusion.
And that’s why I’m trying to always be thankful. Even when I don’t feel thankful, those feelings often follow after I’ve decided to fight the bitterness and praise anyway.
I’ve often regretted not being thankful, but I’ve never once regretted praising the Lord.
So now, as we move past Thanksgiving, through the remainder of the year, and into the next, my prayer is that we’d all stay thankful. Not just for the easy things, but for the hard things too. We never know how God’s working through even the most painful of situations to bring about goodness we couldn’t have imagined.
We have so much to be thankful for.