Hi friends! Thank you so much for joining me as we celebrate Thanksgiving in 2020. Really, I am just so thankful that you’re listening to my podcast, for the encouraging words that have been left in the reviews, for the messages and emails…I’m just so thankful for you!
But today, I want to tell you about a time when I was anything but thankful. It was a time when I felt the most angry and resentful for my circumstances. I’m hoping this might help anyone who is struggling to find thankfulness in the middle of pain.
I remember the day I stood in the middle of my house and just had a melt-down. I remember mourning the loss of everything. When there is a death of a loved one, there are a thousand little deaths that follow. Death of dreams, death of material goods, death of a joyful heart. Then you have to do things like get rid of a closet full of clothes your loved one wore. One more death. Or get rid of your loved one’s garage full of power tools. Another death. Throw away the design plans of the home we were going to build. Death everywhere. Death, death, death. So much loss. So much death all around me that just never seemed to stop.
Then we had to officially close down our family business. When Brian died, so did his business. The business was him. So, when the business died, so did my income. If it wasn’t bad enough to lose the love my life, I lost my financial security, as well. I’ve said before, in a previous episode, you’ll know that something is an idol in your life by your reaction when it’s threatened or taken away. Well, I freaked! I realized then that my financial security, my bank account, was my idol. And the comforts and pleasures of this world were, obviously, supplied by my idol…that was now gone.
Now let me tell you, I was angry. Like really angry about my circumstances. They say anger is one of the steps or phases of grief. Well, that’s absolutely true. I was mad. So mad that I couldn’t find anything to be glad about. And just three months after Brian’s death, was Thanksgiving. And I’m so angry and resentful that I was having a hard time being thankful. Honestly, I knew there were precious things to be thankful for, like my three children, but passed that, my hurt heart couldn’t find anything to be thankful for!
Years ago, a friend gave me a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts. In her book, she encourages her readers to begin a life-changing discipline of journaling God’s gifts in their life. It’s funny how God orchestrates things, because – in the midst of my lack of thankfulness - I saw this book and said to myself, “Wow, this book was a gift given to me many years ago and I have never even cracked it open.” So I pulled it off the shelf and put in on a pile on top of the 10 other books I thought I’d also start reading.
But God clearly knew that gratitude was a path to my healing, and He would use this book to get me started.
As I journaled, I recall writing down all the big, important things I was most grateful for, like my children, my dear friends, the roof over my head, my two little four-legged companions, my job, my car. But then each day I had to add to that – without repeating. Like I had to come up with at least 10 things each day to be grateful for. Well, as you can imagine, after several days of this, I had to start looking for things to be grateful for. That’s when the magic began. I started to be grateful for the blinds in my window that kept the sun out in the morning; for the convenience of paper towels to wipe up a mess; for the bendy straws in my glass of tea; all the way down to the paper clip that held my journal together. And because I knew I was going to have to be writing something down in that journal every day, I was purposeful about looking for things to be grateful for all day long. Everything changed about my day. When I got in my car, I found myself immediately being grateful for having a car that was in good, running condition, with gas in the tank. Somehow, that actually changed my attitude as I was driving on the road…with all those other crazy drivers.
So, I was really curious to find out why being grateful for having a car and a full gas tank would actually help me be more patient and kind on the road. Come to find out, gratitude generates an atmosphere of positivity inwardly, but also extends outward to others. Psychologists find that, over time, feeling grateful increases psychological health, even among those already struggling with mental health problems. That’s because, to be grateful, you must use positive, affirming words. Learning to be perpetually grateful decreases the use of words that are connected with negative thoughts and emotions – like resentment and envy. It is then genuinely changing the chemistry in your brain. Gratitude also increases your physical health. People who are grateful feel less pain, less stress, suffer insomnia less, have stronger immune systems. So gratitude positively impacts the mind and the body, as well as the spirit.
Gratitude changed everything about my day, and eventually the way I viewed my life. I was being changed mind, body, and spirit just by being grateful. I came to realize that every little thing was a gift; every possession, every opportunity, every pleasure, every comfort. Everything that I had been able to experience in my life was a gift given by the Giver. Every beautiful thing I’ve ever possessed was given to me by my heavenly Father who loves His children so deeply and perfectly. I also believe that a grateful heart moves God’s heart. I think of it from my parental perspective: If I were to give something to one of my children and they took it as if they were entitled to receiving it, that would make me a little upset – though I’d still give it to them…because they’re my child and I love them. But better, if that child said thank you as I handed them something, I would be pleased that at least they learned their manners. But still, their response would be perfunctory – mechanical, done simply as a duty. Now if the child turned to me after receiving the thing and looked me in the eyes and showed their love and appreciation, my heart would melt. Do you doubt that I would be eager to give something more to that child? In Matthew 7, Jesus says, “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” So, since God is a more perfect parent than I am, the way He gives is exceedingly more abundant – more than we could ever dare to ask or dream.
Then I’m reminded that God wants to pour out more and more good things. And I do believe that gratitude brings more blessings. In my journal, I wrote what I thought God was saying to my heart. Here it is: “Tricia, my beloved, why are you hanging on to the “beautiful”? White knuckled, you’re griping it so tightly so as not to lose it…or be without it. Why? Have you forgotten? The “beautiful” has been a gift, not an entitlement. Let it all go. Release your grip and open your hands to receive the next beautiful thing. Do not worry, child. Trust Me!” - Lovingly, Abba
Now I look back at all I had with a different lens; not the lens of entitlement – like I deserved it; but the lens of gratitude. I appreciate what God has allowed me to enjoy in the past. I’m opening my eyes in wonder to all the little gifts all around me now. And I hold out my hands for the good gifts He may want to give in the future. And in it all, I will be grateful for the gift of having experienced it at all.
Friend, I pray that if you are struggling right now to be thankful, that you’re able to see the good around you; that you feel the love of people and your heavenly Father who knows how to give good gifts; and that thankfulness fills you up so much so on the inside that your heart is made whole again. God bless you! I am thankful for you!