By Janice Hildreth
Christmas remains the favorite holiday of most people, but Thanksgiving is my personal favorite – for many reasons. Sure, a lot of those reasons revolve around food. I’m a foodie at heart, and Thanksgiving is an epicurean delight. But it’s also my personal favorite because it doesn’t demand anything except appreciation for all we have been given; and that has a way of giving us even more.
Gratefulness isn’t visionary. It dwells in the present; it accepts what is instead of longing for what could be. Expectations, a “to do” list, future goals – none of these are on the agenda of a grateful heart. It accepts today, exactly as it is, in our present circumstance; it rests in contentment. It may remind us how blessed we are to do laundry in the comfort and convenience of our own homes, instead of lugging piles of dirty clothes to the laundromat. But it may just as easily remind us how blessed we are to do laundry in a laundromat, instead of pounding dirty garments on the rocks of a river bank.
Unfortunately, too many of us have begun to focus on the negativity. It’s understandable, to a certain degree. After all, unwelcome change has been prevalent in the last few years. Studies on human behavior since Covid-19 show that gratefulness helps us accept and survive change in a healthy manner. It’s a matter of perspective, those who saw the good in being homebound, the blessing in having more time for themselves, emerged at the end of the quarantine in better health than when it began.
Be aware that gratefulness cannot dwell in a heart filled with bitterness. Like internal smog, bitterness obscures our spiritual sight. It keeps us from enjoying what God has given us. As long as we allow bitterness to dwell within, we can never be grateful for such things as the laundromat because we feel we deserve the washer/dryer in our home. We’ll assure ourselves we’ve been cheated. Instead of counting our blessings, we’ll begin to list all the ways life has shortchanged us.
However, when we pray Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me,” we allow the Holy Spirit to wash the windows of our heart. We bring awareness of God’s presence and the understanding of all that He, the King of Kings, has bestowed upon us. That’s when we begin to see all God has done to bless us; that’s when we begin to relax in His provision with a heart of thanksgiving. And thanking Him for His presence while going through tough times is what carries us through the troubles.
Like everything, being grateful is a choice we make every day. Think of it as an emotional vitamin – once a day for continual health. It requires us to continually open our eyes to the abundance of good things that are in our lives – the ordinary and sublime: the hug of a spouse; the smile of a grandchild; the embrace of a friend; the way sunbeams dance upon the walls.
The good news is, once we begin to look for things for which to be thankful, they come to us in waves; and, as time carries on, they grow and change as we do (thankful we can walk one minute; thankful we can use a cane, the next).
In that, there’s no time like the present to change our perspective – to practice a life of gratitude:
- Keep a journal. Record your blessings and record your disappointments, as well. When you’re discouraged, reading about past hardships are sure to encourage you – for you will see how far God has brought you. If He’s done it once, surely He can do it again.
- Make it a point to tell someone why you are thankful they’re in your life every day. It doesn’t have to be a different person every day; each day, telling your spouse or your child another reason why you are thankful is affirming.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Take the time to appreciate the beautiful world God has created for us. Take a walk and concentrate on the foliage, the flowers in your neighbor’s yard, the way the sky paints Bronco blue and orange at sunset. We just have to enlarge our perspective.
As the Thanksgiving holiday reminds us, a grateful heart is the best emotional vitamin. It has the power to relieve stress and improve physical and mental health. It draws us closer to God; allows us to enjoy all blessings (not just the biggies); it gives us peace; it makes the continual adjustments we inevitably face a little easier to handle.
In other words, as we head into a season filled with gifts and adornments, the Thanksgiving holiday reminds us, thankfulness – a grateful heart – is a gift that keeps on giving.
Janice Hildreth is an Idaho native, retired pastor’s wife, and author. She is the author of two Q&A books and the first four books of a seven-part inspirational romance series set in the Pacific Northwest. You can purchase her books on Amazon. She has ministered to pastors’ wives for over two decades with her blog PastorsWife.com. She retired from the Idaho Statesman after 20 years. She and her husband live in Emmett, Idaho and enjoy every minute they get to spend with family, especially the grandchildren.