Gratitude as a Practice

ThanksgivingCornucopiaIt’s that time of year again. The time when you are inundated with Christmas decorations at every turn, even though the Halloween pumpkins are still on your front porch. We all complain about it and wish it were different, but are we really doing anything to fix it in our own lives?

It is so easy to just be overwhelmed at this time of year with all the “doing”. There are meals to cook, travel arrangements to make, presents to buy. And if you’re still in school? Well, there are SATs, college applications, homecoming dances and championship games to prepare for. Let’s not forget semester exams and quarterly reports to navigate.

Somehow, in all the planning and doing, we miss the importance of that day in November when we’re supposed to just slow down and say thanks. Sure, we may stop for a moment that day and give thanks, but I would challenge that we need to do more.

Sure, the history of Thanksgiving is Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal, but isn’t the sentiment of the day more important now than ever? Shouldn’t we all be paying more attention to what we are thankful for, instead of just swimming in the piles of all there is to do?

Gratitude isn’t something that just happens. Gratitude should be an active practice and not just one day a year.

When my babies were little, I pulled them from their cribs every morning singing Psalm 118, “This is the day the lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Quite honestly, this was not some lovely maternal moment where I was trying to bring joy into their little lives. Rather, if I’m being honest, it was an attempt to shake off my tired, bad mood. I am not a morning person anyway, so being woken by a screaming baby, no matter how cute, usually left me a bit grouchy. I sang that Psalm in an attempt to not cloud my child’s day with my own bad mood.

You know what? It worked, for all of us. Most babies stop crying when their cooky mom arrives singing a song and what mom can stay in a bad mood when met with a toothless baby grin? That was my first glimpse into the active practice of gratitude. Starting each day with the reminder to be grateful about a new day set a powerful path for us to continue to follow as my kids grew.

Now, we all make sure to take time every week to reflect on what we’re grateful for. When praying, we try to add in thanksgiving as often as we ask for help or guidance. In the month of November especially, I try to stop every day, even for just a moment and find something to be grateful for.

It’s hard sometimes, but if you think about it, sometimes even the early Christmas Carols aren’t so bad with the right attitude.

 

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