Friday Findings #3: A Thanksgiving Challenge

[box] One of my personal challenges in life is to keep learning and trying something new. This series is a documentary on some of the things I am learning, whether it be as a child of God, wife, mother, homemaker, teacher, friend. I invite you to learn along with me![/box] Happy November! So what's all these random pictures of food doing on here, you wonder? 

food2I was reading this morning on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience. The train of thought went like this: November is the month of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving makes me think of the book One Thousand Gifts, the author Ann Voskamp, and then her blog. Which is why I ended up here today for this week's Friday Findings.

I read this book over a year ago and was intrigued by it. I know it tells us "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thess. 5:18). Several phrases in this verse stand out to me:

  • "all circumstances": none are to be excluded. Every situation, good, bad, happy, sad, beautiful, ugly and everything in between, is included here.
  • "the will of God": it is God's will for us to give thanks in all circumstances. He desires it as the best for my life, even when I cannot see anything worth thanking Him for, or even when I am unhappy with my circumstances. It is His will. It is a response that is line with His desire, His plan and His purposes. It is a response that brings Him joy because it is what He in His love deeply desires for us.
  • "for you": Not just the next person, my child, my friend, those I meet, but for me. Right now. Right here.

It is so easy to be thankful when things are going well, when things are happy, when life unfolds the way you like or plan. But to be thankful when life isn't?

In her post this morning, Ann Voskamp shares that statistically, November is when depression rises, hitting its high point mid-month, right before Thanksgiving arrives. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the feeling that the year is dying. For me, the change in weather does it. Maybe it is also when we are told we need to be thankful, and being the rebellious souls we are, we feel guilty when we do not. It could be the official beginning of the holiday festivities begins this month and the thought of hosting a dinner, making another pumpkin pie, and interacting with the ornery relative again is weighing down on our souls.

food1But she also shares an anecdote: learning to give thanks. (That is what she is known for, right?) In fact, she cites a study that suggests that those who write down five things they are thankful for each day are 25% happier. Now I am not saying that's a magic formula to psych yourself up. But I also am not surprised, for gratitude is God's will for me. And even if it is a hard place to be in, it is the best place.

The thing with thanksgiving, at least for me, is that it is not a natural response. You too? A thankful heart is borne out of a heart that has been trained to see the hand of God. There is a discipline involved, a purposeful intentionality in cultivating a habit of thanksgiving. Sometimes I will not feel like giving thanks. However, training myself to look for reasons to be grateful helps to develop a heart that sees God's hand alive in the world around me, one that sees Him as greater and bigger than the problems I may be facing at the moment. And that is the goal, not just being happier.

This week, our homeschool moms group had a discussion about cultivating thankfulness in our children and it seemed to come back to one thing: we need to be thankful in our own hearts even as we encourage our children to grow in this grace. And yet, how often do I set the tone in my home by complaining and grumbling?

So, this morning, I took Ann's November Joy Dare, which she also shared in her post today. (You can find a copy for yourself too!) Today's challenge was to give thanks for "3 things eaten." How often I take it for granted that I have food to eat! And because this was a new discipline, I didn't take photos of everything. But my daughter and I thought about this together and came up with several:

  • A delicious bowl of Honey Vanilla Oatmeal for breakfast: tasty, filling and inexpensivefood4
  • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mini Loaf from Starbucks enjoyed at a morning getaway with a girlfriend
  • Snacks, provided faithfully by the MOPS moms my daughter serves each week
  • My husband's yummy original chicken salad grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch
  • Grapes--I can almost eat them like candy!
  • And leftovers, so I don't have to cook tonight at the end of the week.

What I noticed today just by letting that little prompt into my consciousness, I began to look more closely for things to thank Him for. Otherwise, I would probably not even think about it. None of those things (aside from the Starbucks treat) are really different than what I usually eat. But by purposing in my heart to thank God for the food He sets before me, I can learn to open my eyes to the many ways He is faithful.

Throughout the month, I am going to invite my kids to join me in this hunt for God's goodness. My goal is to share the day's prompt at breakfast, and then join together to look for things that we can thank God for.

food3Some may think this is artificial, but for me, if I wait for myself to naturally grow thankfulness, then I probably won't because thankfulness doesn't come naturally. Until I grow into that, I need to utilize artificial means. What I like about this is that it gives us a focus and stretches us to go beyond what is obvious. Of course, we can always add other things as we see them, and I hope we do. But the prompts give us a start.

This will be one of my goals this month, and I trust that the Lord will use it to begin transforming this crusty grumbly heart into one that is full of wonder at His grace.