practicing thankfulness

Don’t panic. Even though the words, “Can we get together next week? The Friday before Thanksgiving?” might have been spoken today [What?! Friday before Thanksgiving?! Next week!! EEEK!], there’s still time.


Truth be told, in most other years, Thanksgiving would be next week. But this year, the holiday falls the last week of November. Which means December begins just about the time we finish leftovers from all the terrific cooking and eating and sleeping and eating.


Seriously, remind me to not beg tomorrow’s problems for today. It makes today go by too fast.

Rather than give into any pressures to feel stressed over what can seem like a time crunch, maybe it’s time to practice one of the simplest, yet challenging, but most powerful strategies to get our thoughts to land: gratitude.

Did you know that:

Researchers have found that people who regularly write down things for which they are grateful in “gratitude journals” have increased satisfaction in life, higher energy levels, and improved health. In one study, people who read a letter of appreciation to someone in their lives were measurably happier almost one month later. Performing acts of kindness or altruism boosts moods.

Even the simple act of smiling stimulates peace and contentment. According to researchers, “neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile.”

These are triggered by the movements of the muscles in your face, which is interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases these chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels. Faking a smile or laugh works as well as the real thing—the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way.[1]

I love that.

And I love that Thanksgiving is an actual holiday. AND that it comes before Christmas. It’s such a wonderful reminder to get our eyes off all we want/think-we-need and recognize all the good we already have. Especially when Christmas commercials and retail extravaganzas might tempt us to focus on getting instead of giving.

The youngest of my brood came to me yesterday, with website addresses for the stuff he had seen on t.v. – a little different than my own dog-earing of the Sears catalog when I was his age. I’d take the wish-list-catalog to my mom – or indiscreetly put it in her path so she could have a good idea of what I hoped for Christmas. He just handed me the website information for an easy click-buy.

He was so cute – “You know I’m a commercial watcher,” he said in his defense.

Aren’t we all – a little? Might not be on t.v., but rest assured advertisers have found their way to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and pretty much every social media outlet.

So, in the spirit of the holiday that promotes thankfulness for provision (provision that for the most part far exceeds our actual need), let’s start today. Practice thankfulness today. Then when we’re tempted by all the holiday stuff, we’ll be well hydrated/trained to focus (with gratitude) on all we already have rather than on what we could, would, or should have.

And if we feel caught in less-than’s – especially compared to what others might have, or our expectations, or … fill in the blank – may our thoughts travel to the Provider of the provision. The One who is known for giving immeasurably more than we could ask or imagined – as long as we trust that the Giver of all good things knows those deepest needs and just the right way to meet them.

God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.

—Jim Elliot

Thanksgiving points my eyes outward – away from me. It’s chock full of terrific opportunities to put into practice one of life’s secrets to contentment and joy and peace: less me, more others; a focus on what we have today, rather than worrying about tomorrow.

IMG_6939As if on considering-gratitude-cue, the commercial kid got in the car from school.

“Do you know about gravity?” he asked me?

“Yessss…?” I reply, wondering where he’s going.

“Well, earth has gravity,” he said, then continued. “It’s weird isn’t it. What if it pushed out instead of pulling in?”

“That wouldn’t be good.”

“No,” he said in all his elementary-school contemplation which ended with the conclusion, “it wouldn’t be good – we’d fall off.”

There you have it.

Then he added, “I’ll tell you one thing I’m grateful for – gravity. I don’t think I’d like much of anything that would come with falling off the earth.”

So yes, all day every day, every one of us has something for which to be grateful. Let’s hope that as we practice thankfulness we can see lots of things over the next several days for which to be grateful. But if not, we can take Jack’s lead and land on gravity.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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