With Thanksgiving coming up this week, my heart and mind have been turned toward gratitude and all that I have to be thankful for this year. How different my life looks now from where we were a year ago! Last year at this time, we were in the throes of infertility, doubting that we would be able to conceive a second child and feeling very much defeated by this perceived reality. Last Thanksgiving, I was immensely grateful for my small family and the beautiful life we shared, but something was missing.
One year later, my arms and heart are full. As I type this, I have one sweet baby nestled on my chest while the other sleeps on my lap. From my spot in our office, I can hear my 4-year-old and my husband making breakfast in the gorgeous kitchen of our new home—yet another answered prayer of 2019. Our life is chaotic and loud and rather sleepless, but it is SO MUCH BETTER than anything I could have dreamed for myself.
In years like these, Thanksgiving is easy. My gratitude list is brimming with life’s blessings, and prayers of thanks flow easily from my lips. But I recognize that this hasn’t always been—and won’t always be—the case.
I recently came across a quote that hit close to home:
“Being thankful is not telling God you appreciate the fact that your life is not in shambles. If that is the basis of your gratitude, you are on slippery ground. Every day of your life you face the possibility that a blessing in your life may be taken away. But blessings are only signs of God’s love. The real blessing, of course, is the love itself. Whenever we get too attached to the sign, we lose our grasp on the God who gave it to us. . . . We are not ultimately grateful that we are still holding our blessings. We are grateful that we are held by God even when the blessings are slipping through our fingers.” – Craig Barnes
When we remember that God’s love is our ultimate blessing, it becomes easier to give thanks in the midst of our circumstances, and not just because of them. This is why God can command us to give thanks in ALL circumstances: because He knows that our circumstances aren’t the point. GOD is! Even when life is falling apart—especially when life is falling apart—we express our gratitude. And as our actions and attitudes shift, our hearts will too.
Science backs this up: psychologists tell us that practicing gratitude improves our health and our relationships, enhances our empathy, and increases our mental health and self-esteem. When we are grateful, we not only receive the blessing of God’s love, but also His joy and peace. We reap a plethora of rewards, both temporary and eternal.
Author Niki Hardy discovered this personally through her journey with rectal cancer. As the world fell out of her bottom (her words), she found that being grateful helped her to see things differently. She writes, “When our pain screams, our gratitude must shout louder to drown it out with praise. Then and only then can we truly discover that life doesn’t have to be pain free to be full.”
This Thanksgiving, whether your life looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting or more closely resembles Munch’s The Scream, I hope that you will join me in expressing gratitude for God’s abundant blessings—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the divine.