All day. My son followed me around all day saying he had nothing to do and no one to play with. That wasn’t really true. He had community with friends at church, he played with our neighbor kids and we hosted small group so there were kids there too. What he really meant was that he didn’t get to do exactly what he wanted to do every moment of the day. Sorry little man, that’s just not how life works.
Let’s just say that by the time dinner started I was using all my self control to keep from losing it. At bedtime I was done, I had heard enough complaining for a week.
It was finally quiet and I decided to sit down and zone out to some browsing and surfing.
Already annoyed, I opened Facebook and there they are, all those posts. I’ve already seen them popping up but every other post was showing up this way. It is November after all, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving. You know the posts I’m talking about, “Thankful Day 3: Today I am thankful for…”
In my mind, this is a great idea. A tangible way to think through all the things we are thankful for. Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book about the beauty of being thankful and I wholeheartedly agree. Being thankful and numbering the gifts reminds us of the greater, deeper and everlasting meaning of life.
Yet this year, as the reminders have started to come, I have felt a little like pushing back. There is no one thing that has put me in this place but here I am. I just don’t seem to want to hear it. In the middle of my own crazy life all the thankfulness doesn’t seem very tangible to me.
Nothing like a little negativity about a very positive idea like thanksgiving to make me stop and think.
What is my problem? Why all the bad feelings toward blessings? Didn’t you just spend all last month finding the joy and giving thanks through the difficult?
So I’ve been sitting in these feelings for a few days. As I was outside raking leaves and watching my two older kids run around in the yard, it hit me.
Thankfulness, appreciation, gifts, giving, grace.
As I continue raking and sitting in these thoughts I begin down the rabbit hole. I think If we were just thankful all the time like we are called to be I wouldn’t feel this way? Shouldn’t we actually be having days of thankfulness during December when we are about to celebrate Christmas, wouldn’t that make more sense? And then this thought stops me, the thankfulness we share during this month of Thanksgiving and the thankfulness we celebrate during the month of Christmas are drastically different.
Thankfulness at Thanksgiving
The thankfulness we have around Thanksgiving is drenched in gratitude. Gratitude is the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Here in November we are showing appreciation for all we have in the present or those things that we have recently had in the past. We are grateful for how people and events and objects have made our life something we didn’t know it could be.
In returning kindness we point out people who have loved us and hopefully we have shown love in return. We manage to think through the simplicities of life that make it easy and with any luck we’ve used these same simplicities to return kindness to those around us.
Thanksgiving thankfulness is tangible. The ability to proclaim thankfulness in this month of thanksgiving does not begin with us, it always begins with someone else. An inventor, a friend, a creator. We are thankful for all that has already been done.
We are then kind in return. We say thank you to those who have given. We pass on the gifts we are steeped in. We give back to those that have given to us.
Thanksgiving thankfulness is what I feel for therapy and therapists and loving teachers and great schools for my kids.
Thankfulness of Christmas
Then the season of Advent and Christmas begin. We begin again to give thanks and be thankful, but in a whole new way.
If Thanksgiving is thankfulness through appreciation for what has been, Christmas is thankfulness through grace for what can be.
Grace at its simplest is unmerited favor, kindness we do not deserve.
It is a different kind of thankfulness than our numbered lists this month. It encompasses a different kind of beauty.
Thankfulness in grace moves beyond the physical gifts, the graciousness of others and the objects we appreciate. Thankfulness in grace thinks on forgiveness and compassion. It gives before it has received. It gives permission where it should be denied. It embraces where it should reject.
Christmas thankfulness is what I feel in knowing tomorrow is a new day for my son and I, it is what I feel and hope for our children as they learn and grow in beauty and grace.
Thankfulness in it All
So what about my bad attitude and negative judgments? What IS my problem?
My problem is that I have neglected to be thankful for all things. I have compartmentalized my days. In some seasons I have embraced the thankfulness of gratitude and appreciation, Thanksgiving. In other seasons I have celebrated and given the undeserved kindness of grace, Christmas.
In this season I mis-stepped. I put myself in the place of judgment and ranked thankfulness. Since I could not be genuinely thankful in my hard days, I was judging everyone else who could be. We can not rank the gifts. There is either thanksgiving and grace or there isn’t.
My response, humility and confession. I wanted to sit right there in the leaves and cry. I wanted to get out my journal and write all the things tangible and graceful that I am thankful for in this moment until I had no words left.
I finished raking the leaves but a different person entered my home then left it just a few hours earlier.
Please make your lists. Speak words of beauty and kindness and grace. As you do I am allowing my heart to be changed and softened and molded as you celebrate the beauty you are living.
Be thankful and give back. Be gracious and love first. Thankfulness in it all.
Linking up with Unforced Rhythms today.