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The Art of Being Thankful

Posted by on November 23, 2016

Yesterday, you may have heard, I had a frustrating experience. Someone snuck into my car and sprayed perfume all over the place. As a person who doesn’t wear perfume myself (because it gives me headaches), this was a discouraging discovery. The ride home felt longer than usual, and even after we got home I smelled perfume on the kids, in our hair and on our clothes, on my new coat, and on the anniversary gift I bought for my husband. I parked in our garage and rolled the windows down for the night. Later, Nathanael went out and told me the whole garage had filled with the scent.

I spent a good part of my evening alternating between feeling hurt and being angry. I wanted to know who did it, and why. I wanted an apology. I wanted help getting the smell out of the car. I wanted to yell at that person, “Do you have any idea how busy I am this week? How much I have to do? I don’t have time for this!”

So often, this is my reaction when such things happen. It may be a disagreement with a friend or family member, it may be a personal health struggle or financial worries, it may be a disappointment in church or school situations, or concerns over issues that extend to our government and even beyond our own nation. Whatever the particular event, my reaction is often to let the negative consume me. To allow it to push more immediate and important priorities out of my mind in order to give it the room its needs to fester and grow.

Paul gave advice to the Philippian congregation that helps me greatly in times like this. He says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (4:8)

I find it interesting that he uses the word “meditate.” I don’t know why my natural inclination is to remember the bad things in each day, but this passage reminds me it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. I have a choice when it comes to where I place my focus, what thoughts I allow to play over and over in my mind, and what I choose to meditate on.

I’m reminded of the day, many years ago, that I asked my mom why she didn’t keep a journal or diary. She just laughed and said, “It’s because I don’t want to remember all that stuff!” At first I was confused. But later I understood when I reread my own journal and found a record of hurtful or embarrassing experiences that I’d do better to forget.

I still like to journal, and to record specific events and occasions in my life, but the passage above has helped me understand how to better do this. Instead of keeping a regular journal, I now keep what I call a blessing journal. It’s a very simple record of the praiseworthy things that happen in my life. At the top of each page I write “Thank you, God, for…” or “I’m thankful for…” It’s my way of meditating on such things, as the Bible instructs me to do. Here are a few samplings from my journal from the last few years:

  • Seeing Noah’s after-bath foot print on the bath mat
  • Fleece blankets with silky edges
  • Spaghetti
  • A phone call with Dad
  • A husband who reads to our sons
  • Valentines from Rebekah
  • Naps in the sunshine
  • Being brave enough to cross the rope bridge at the Children’s Museum
  • Luke and Katie home for the summer
  • Minnesota song birds in the morning
  • A snow day!
  • Barney Borth stopping by early to plow us out
  • Light up Christmas pens
  • A massive migraine wasn’t exactly a blessing, but having a loving family to care for me was.

Journaling this way has proved just what I need to keep my perspective on all the blessings in my life as opposed to those things that cause discord. Obviously I still have days like yesterday where it’s a little harder to do. The Devil knows just how to use my weak and sinful flesh against me. Those are the days I remember the Philippians passage and challenge myself to find something good that happened, however small it may be.

Last night, before bed, I thought, What do I have to be thankful for today? The perfume incident shrunk away as I realized how many ways God had blessed me throughout the day. He gave me a safe ride home…encouragement and humor from friends…a husband who had a hot supper waiting when we walked in the door…a phone call from Luke, and another from Katie…hugs from the Kindergartners at school…and bubble bath, just to name a few.

There is always – always — something to be thankful for, something to meditate on that gives glory to God. I have come to believe that the art of being thankful has less to do with saying the words and more to do with opening my eyes to see my blessings in the first place.

Lastly, even when I am hard pressed to find something good, I can still rely on the promise of my God: “…all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! May you rest in Him when life has you down and may you trust that His plan for your life will always result in blessings!

10 Responses to The Art of Being Thankful

  1. Ann Duncan

    What a good reminder that the things to be thankful for greatly outweigh our gripes.
    Maybe the garage will actually smell nice when the scent fades a bit.
    Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you and your family and Pastor Mayhew.
    I sure miss you guys but I guess you are having fun in the snow.

    • Debra

      We definitely miss you and Bill, too! You are never far from our thoughts. God bless you both with a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family!

  2. Louise Mayhew

    That is really a good perspective of thankfulness. That Philippians passage is one of my all time favorites. I had to get a chuckle out of the second item on your list!:)

    • Debra

      Thanks, Mom! I love that passage, too. And you know how I love my silky blankets! :)

  3. Cathy C. Hall

    Did you read my Muffin post, Deb? ;-) All I can say is great minds think alike.

    Yes, I’m talking about you and me. :-)

    (Y’all have a great Thanksgiving, Deb, and love to all the Mayhews!)

    • Debra

      No! I didn’t! I’ve been really bad at catching up on blogs lately. (You may have noticed. :)) I’ll get over to the Muffin and check it out. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, too!

  4. Eileen Tiefel

    Thank you, thank you, thank you……

  5. Linda O'Connell

    How did I miss this wonderful post?!
    A gratitude journal brings life into perspective. Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season.

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