Y’all, I love Christmas like the next girl, but I am one of those people who holds out until after Thanksgiving to start celebrating it. After all, we’re in the season of falling leaves and everything pumpkin! Who wants to rush that?!
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)
So while the rest of you are hanging lights and playing Christmas music, I’m over here trying to squeeze every last drop out of Thanksgiving! I love the food and the smells and time with family. I love the focus on gratitude— I love finding reasons to be thankful. And I love all the traditions that come with special holidays.
What our your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?
Our family has a unique tradition. Each November, after we set out the pumpkins and scarecrows, we decorate our dinner table with the same tablecloth.
There’s nothing really special about the cloth itself. It’s not particularly attractive or aesthetically pleasing. It didn’t come from Pottery Barn… in fact, I think we probably bought it at Wal-mart!
(Let’s just say it’s not something Chip and Joanna would have in their home.)
It’s simply a plain old white tablecloth with a border of tacky brown leaves in the middle and some scripted words around the bottom.
Not exactly Instagram worthy, I know.
What is special about this tablecloth, though, is the tradition which surrounds it.
Each year on Thanksgiving day, we set out a bunch of Sharpies, and everyone gathers around the table to write what they are thankful for. Among the entries are:
- Mommy and Daddy
- Family and friends
- My Little Pony
- Our new puppy, May
- Playing X-box
- That Charlotte is cancer free!
- Unicorns, pigs, and uni-pigs (Yes, I know, our kids are super weird!)
(Tik-Tok, soccer, and Disneyworld have also made it onto the tablecloth!)
We add the year to each entry so we can remember how old the kids were when they wrote it. It really is fun to look back at all the things we were grateful for!
Friends, we all tend to focus on being thankful around Thanksgiving, and there is nothing wrong with that! But if we want to develop an attitude of gratitude, it is something we should learn to practice all year long.
So, here are five reasons we should focus on being thankful all year:
1. Gratitude turns our focus away from ourselves.
Let’s face it, we live in a self-centered world. We come into the world focused on our own needs, and our social media culture has multiplied that tendency by a bazillion. Being intentional about gratitude requires that we take our eyes off ourselves and turn them to the Giver.
2. Gratitude helps us focus on the positive instead of the negative.
In a year like 2020, it is so easy to wallow in all the things that have gone wrong. We have sacrificed celebrations, milestones, vacations, jobs, and more because of COVID. But when we focus only on what we’ve given up, we miss out on so much! There were also many gifts during this time: uninterrupted time with family, new traditions created, and an appreciation for things we often take for granted. Where we direct our focus has a huge impact on our overall attitude. Gratitude enables us to embrace a positive perspective on life!
3. Gratitude teaches us to learn from difficult situations instead of complaining.
I led a Gratitude Challenge in my Facebook group this month, and one of the prompts I gave them was, “What are some difficult or challenging experiences you faced that you are grateful for now?” Time has a way of bringing perspective. Circumstances that are painful in the moment can eventually lead to great self-discovery and a strengthened faith. The more we take time to look back and glean the good from our difficult experiences, the more we are able to recognize those types of blessings and lessons in the moment. Choosing gratitude helps me embrace whatever the Lord desires to teach me through my circumstances. And that benefits everyone a lot more than just complaining!
4. Gratitude grows our faith.
Being thankful requires recognizing the gifts we have received. Being the receiver of those gifts requires acknowledging that there is a Giver. Most of what I am grateful for I have not earned; I have simply received it. As we focus on the many ways God has provided for us, we learn to trust in His future provision. We learn to trust His ways and His timing, even when they don’t align with ours. Focusing on gratitude becomes an expression of faith.
5. Gratitude is contagious- it spreads to everyone around us!
Have you ever been around someone who has a grateful spirit? It’s contagious, isn’t it? People who intentionally choose an attitude of gratitude have learned to not take the little things for granted. The more we are around someone like that, the more we begin to treasure and appreciate the little moments as well. And the less we take things for granted, the kinder we tend to be to those around us.
That sounds like something our world needs a little more of right now! I want to be the kind of person that other people want to be around. I want my gratitude to be contagious. How about you?
So, as you stuff the turkey (does anyone actually do that anymore?) and bake the pies this Thanksgiving, make sure you take time to be mindful of all your blessings. And then, when this season is over and we move into the next one, don’t leave your gratitude buried beneath a pile of leaves. Keep it going!
We have so many reasons to focus on being thankful. Let’s develop an attitude of gratitude that will last us all year long!