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I admit that giving thanks doesn’t come naturally for me. I have a tendency to live with a mindset of scarcity, always keenly aware of what I don’t have. Thanksgiving is a hard holiday to celebrate when you live with such a mindset. Year after year, Thanksgiving reminds me to count my blessings, but I often do it much like a chore. I admit that sometimes the practice feels forced, even mundane. With Christmas just around the corner, it’s too easy for me to focus on feeling that I don’t have enough: not enough money, not enough gifts, not enough time, even that I am not enough. All to easily I find myself wishing for more and neglecting the habit of appreciating the good things right in front of me.
Living Thankful Beyond A Yearly Ritual
In her bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp urges us to adopt a lifestyle of counting gifts. I appreciate her book and it inspired me to start my own practice of counting gifts. But I confess that the list didn’t last long after I turned the last page of the book. Just as with so many past Thanksgivings, I fell trap to a duty of counting gifts rather than learning to engage the gifts. To enjoy them. To fully embrace them before I sincerely say thank you. Which of course, was the point of her book.
Every Thanksgiving, I’m tempted to count gifts without really seeing or savoring them. If I don’t slow, to taste and see all that God prepared on this table of my life before me, then I keep chasing more. I don’t learn the lesson of Thanksgiving, which of course, is to live thankful.
Learning to Live Thankful
But there is a different exercise that I learned several years ago that gave me a taste of living thankful beyond a simple list taking exercise. When I feel myself chasing more, I’m often reminded to return to this simple practice.
Shortly after my husband, Steve and I were married, we moved to his hometown on the promise of a dream job. We hoped to put down roots and start a family. The job seemed a shoe in, so on faith, I found a job close by and we moved there before the job was truly Steve’s. Months passed and Steve still remained unemployed. And while initially, his cute hometown, just shy of 2,000 people, offered an idyllic life in a small town, it soon began to feel cramped. And I found myself wrapped up in fantasies of a different kind of life. A way out from the perpetual waiting of a dream job that would never come to be. Eventually we came to terms with the reality that this life we had envisioned would not pan out. To my relief, Steve began to search for another job.
I began to hope for a fresh start in a different place. Steve applied to jobs locally as well as some back in our college town. I secretly hoped and prayed for the jobs back in our old college town. The grass was looking greener where once it had seemed so dull. As we waited through the period of applications and interviews, I became increasingly angsty and restless. I was still waiting for us to settle down and start our lives already. One morning, God interrupted my daydreams with this: “While you wait, focus on the present. Be thankful, and enjoy. Every day. Right where you are.”
Be Thankful and Enjoy
Now I admit, sometimes God gives me a word and I’m not very good about putting it into practice. But I clung to this phrase and it became my mantra for the next four weeks. I didn’t keep a journal of blessings or gifts, but kept the tape on repeat: “Be thankful and enjoy.” I lived focused, noticing the gifts and entering into my life more fully. It was the perfect medicine for the waiting and unknowing. It centered me in the present and relieved the anxiety of the not knowing what came next.
After a month of waiting, Steve was offered two jobs, one in his hometown and one in our college town. When the news came, I realized that I was no longer waiting for my life, but had already begun to live my life. Had I not engaged the practice of being thankful and enjoying my life, I still would have still been waiting to start my life. But by the time he received the offers, I had so enjoyed and found gratitude for my right-then life that I didn’t want to leave anymore. I found myself wanting to stay in the place I had previously deemed “not enough” simply because I had become thankful for it and enjoyed it. When Steve chose the job that moved us away, I appreciated (and grieved) much more deeply what we had in that little town.
A Thanksgiving Benediction
This Thanksgiving, perhaps you are waiting for a different season, a different place, or a different kind of life. It’s easy to feel that our circumstances are not enough and to miss the life that’s happening right where we are. I hope that my story has helped you know that it’s possible to live your life fully, right where you are, even if it’s not ideal.
This Thanksgiving may you be thankful and enjoy. May you dig your hands down deep into the soil of your right now life. Breathe in deeply the aroma of your current circumstances, pleasant or painful. And after you receive and embrace the gift of what is, may you give sincere thanks to the God who gives it all.
What are you thankful for and enjoying today? Please share with me below in the comments.
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