Every year, around the first of November, gratitude posts pop up on social media — those who engage in those posts commit to posting something they are grateful for every day of November. I participated in those once or twice, and was always surprised to find most of my family and friends who were also participating ended their days of gratitude on Thanksgiving; often, being a stickler for rules, I finished out the entire month, giving thanks daily.
Those challenges have good intentions — to bring to the forefront of the participants’ mind all the things for which they can be grateful in their lives. Throughout the years, as more people became actively involved, I started noticing criticisms of these challenges — that people were “humble bragging,” instead of truly giving thanks. Others have argued the daily giving of thanks creates a sort of fatigue, and the challenge loses its meaning.
A while back, during spiritual direction, I confided to our family chaplain that I abhor repeating myself, and when I thank God for the routine — my family, my friends, our health, and so on — I feel as though I’m just repeating myself. And, I could feel my blood pressure raise, because in my insistence, “God already knows what I’m thankful for!” Our chaplain chuckled, and recommended I get deeper with God, to get creative. He said giving thanks doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it also doesn’t have to be repetitive. One day, I could simply thank God for the bed I’m supposed to kneel at to say my prayers, or for having transportation to get me from one place to another, and another day, I can give thanks for the air conditioner in my house. He then challenged me to write about gratitude, and after some push-back, I began my weekly installment of The Gratitude Project on my personal blog.
The purpose and goal of The Gratitude Project is to highlight a moment which stands out the most to me, for which to give thanks. It’s a personal effort to remind readers and followers of my blog that, while life may be difficult and seem overwhelming at times, there is still always a thread — a silver lining — for which to give thanks. Sometimes, it is as simple as the rays of sunlight reminding me of Jesus’ presence. Or, the reason I felt the #MeToo campaign was a good social media campaign. Or, the small conversations with my five-year-old, and the times I see the world through my children’s eyes. The longer I have written this weekly series, the more I have noticed myself going deeper, and becoming more intentional every day, in finding moments for gratitude which don’t require me to repeat myself!
Nipping at the heels of Thanksgiving are two days of rapid consumerism, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When we give thanks for our blessings on Thursday and then go out and spend copious quantities, trying to purchase as many things as possible to complete Christmas or other gifts for the next year, we begin to buy into the consumerism which plagues our society. Relegating gratitude to one day of the year — to Thanksgiving — is doing everyone a disservice. We have a tendency to forget the reasons we were thankful only a day or few prior, because our focus has shifted to finding the best deals, and get the best bang for our buck.
Thanksgiving was last week, and we’ve already survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Yet, we are also now gearing up to celebrate Advent — preparing our hearts and homes for the upcoming birthday celebration of our Savior. Perhaps this year, we may all be able to take a step back and center ourselves past the designated day of the year for thanksgiving, and be intentional in finding moments of gratitude each and every day.
- Some people love Gratitude Journals, writing in them every night before bed.
- Others have their families pray nightly before dinner, adding to their dinner prayers something each member is grateful for from that day.
- Some, like me, search each day to find a moment, and at the end of the week intentionally make a commitment to thank God for the moment which sticks out the most.
- Others make Gratitude Jars, adding slips of an activity or moment throughout the year to the jar, and reading all of them when the next Thanksgiving rolls around.
- Some take their cues by reading the Book of Psalms, full of praise and thanksgiving to God, even during difficult times.
Our society likes to say we are busy. And we are! But at the end of the day, God has given us our existence. He has overseen our growth, literally and spiritually. He has challenged us at times, and through all of our trials and tribulations; He has blessed us amazingly.
While we like to be given an acknowledgement when we do something right in our days, or when we do a good job at work or in our vocations, God too deserves acknowledgement for the role He plays in our lives.
Don’t let the fire of Thanksgiving be extinguished within a week of the celebration. Add kindling to the flame of gratitude burning in your heart, and as we approach the Advent and Christmas seasons, be intentional about thanking God. It doesn’t have to be deep — it can literally be gratitude for having a bed to sleep on at night. It doesn’t have to get elaborate — it can be the transportation you have available to you from your house to the store. It doesn’t have to be eloquent — it can be a simple thank you.
But gratitude has to be given. For our God is an Almighty, wondrous God, who has done amazing things in our lives.
Let us remember to seek out, be intentional, and thank Him for His blessings – no matter how large, or no matter how small.
What will you give thanks for today?
Copyright 2017 AnnAliese Harry