“Thanksgiving creates abundance.” – Ann Voskamp
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, usually a time of peace, familial bonding, and stuffing our faces until we get sick and have to loosen our belts. But this year has been anything but peaceful, and now we are being told not to gather with large groups of family . . . WHAT!? How are we possibly able to remain grateful when we live in so much uncertainty and fear these days?
Years ago, I read One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. It’s a beautiful yet humbling challenge to find gratitude in the mundane; to be thankful for boring, everyday life, and to even be thankful for pain and suffering. I’m not going to lie -- I read the book description and rolled my eyes. Who could really learn to be thankful for hardship and work and brushing your teeth for crying out loud, let alone want to read about it?
A million. Over a million people have read this New York Times Best Seller. I dove in with a less-than-open mind, but I emerged humbled and grateful . . . and a bit disturbed. I’ll warn you; her writing is a little flowery. At one point, she describes emerging as an infant from a “tearing ring of fire”, and no, she was not talking about Johnny Cash. You’ve been warned.
My mama says (did you just read that in Waterboy’s voice? well, you did now.) there will always be someone better off than you, but there will also be someone worse off than you. In One Thousand Gifts, Ann challenges us to keep a “gift list” where you write up to 1,000 gifts to be thankful for. Coming up with 1,000 gifts seemed like a tall order to me.
Except it’s not! She began to describe how she filled notebooks upon notebooks with things she was grateful for. Things you would never think to notice, like “morning shadows across old floors”, and there lies the beauty. I can be thankful for hardship because it can teach me a valuable lesson. I can be thankful for work because it allows me to provide for my family. I can even be thankful for brushing my teeth because it means I have teeth to brush, and access to a toothbrush and toothpaste when so many don’t.
When you start to see ways in which you might be better off than others, it breaks you and uplifts you. You realize how blessed you are, while becoming more sensitive to those who must go without. I don’t know what you believe, but I am personally striving to be thankful for the hard times because they bring me closer to my Savior who longs to rescue me and draw me close. Whatever you believe in, I truly hope you can find joy in the ordinary, blessings in the mess, and hope in the dark times.
All we really have to do is look around us to see that although we might not have much in the way of worldly standards, if we have an attitude of gratitude, we will find that we are blessed in some way. If you’re in a dark place this holiday season, first off, I’m so, truly sorry. Secondly, I hope you know you are never alone; you are beloved, and I care about you. It’s my prayer that your needs are met this season, and that you are able to find a spark of joy and peace in the midst of the sorrow.
I am thankful for each and every one of you! Let me know what you’re thankful for. Feel free to even send me a prayer request. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!