Probably each of us knows someone who just oozes gratitude and thankfulness. I'm talking about that person in your life who never seems to focus on what he or she doesn't have, but is always grateful for the gifts and blessings of his or her life. Even in dark or difficult moments, this person has an attitude of gratitude that often surprises us and leaves us in awe.
Although I've met many people like this in the last few years, one stands out. She came from what many people would consider humble beginnings, and she lived with energy and enthusiasm, loving life no matter what the circumstances. She'd often punctuate her sentences with a "Praise God" or "Thank you, Jesus." For her, each moment-- whether positive or negative-- was a gift from God, drawing us closer to Him. Even during a struggle with illness, she remained positive. Clearly, gratefulness was not something she put on occasionally like a jacket or hat, but it was part of the very fabric of her being.
As I get older, I long for that same kind of gratitude to run deep into the core of my being, to be ingrained into my DNA so that I might be grateful without thinking about it. I'd love to be focused not on what is missing, what I don't have, what could be better, or what needs to change, but on the gifts God has given me, no matter how small.
I don't have all of the answers, but I think the key is what (or whom) you're looking at. As long as my eyes are focused on the gifts, it's easy to become negative and disheartened during those times when the gifts don't seem to be flowing my way. However, if my eyes are focused on the Giver of those gifts, and my heart is focused on the way He loves me, then everything becomes a gift, whether positive or negative on the surface.
As for our kids, it becomes pretty obvious that giving them the "gratitude gene" isn't something that can happen during the last few days before Thanksgiving (although it's never too late to start!). Gratitude can become part of the family DNA over time through a daily focus on "thanks giving" that becomes part of the family history, and by keeping the family's focus on the "Giver" and not the "gifts."
- What are those big family milestones with which God has blessed us?
- In what ways has God brought healing to our family? Happiness? Sustenance? Joy?
- How was God present during our difficulties? Where was He in the midst of the storm?
- And most importantly, How has God promised to care for us and be faithful to His promises? How has He demonstrated His love for us?
Bringing these reflections into family prayer time regularly just might help our children develop the gratitude gene.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and God Bless You.