I love the month of November. Love fall colors, watching the leaves change, the crisp cooler air, breaking out the sweaters, jackets, and boots, and, the whole idea behind in the best-holiday-of-the-year, Thanksgiving. Each year I try to find a new way to express gratitude. One year I spent an entire morning prayer time just thanking God for His blessings. In 2012, I invited guest authors, friends, and relatives to share on my blog in what I called a month of praise. In 2013, I titled my blog Be Humbly Grateful, not Grumbly Hateful. Last year, I posted 30 Days of Gratitude on Facebook. Gratitude lifts me above the pesky messes swarming around my head, jerks me out of the I-want-more mentality Wall Street fosters, and points my heart to contentment and peace.
Let's be clear. Gratitude is not a feeling. It's a choice. I can't take credit for the Humbly Grateful title. That came from a friend who told me I can choose one or the other. Pretty hard to be depressed, grumpy, critical, hateful, or impatient, when I practice humble gratitude.
Thanksgiving brings the joy on. And that's what I need in this year of hurricanes, fires, terrorism, earthquakes, flooding, and political bad taste. I'm talking about the disasters in my own little circle, as well as in the news. But I don't have to camp out in the land of broken relationships, grave illness, divorce, financial despair, and impending old age. I don't have to dwell in the chaos. I can choose my focus.
So this year, I listed ways to put gratitude into action. Every day this month, I'll delibertately choose some way to express how thankful I am.
Want to know what's on my list?
Embrace the imperfection of myself and others. When I give myself and others permission to fail--when I accept failure with grace and forgiveness--I free up my brain to grow. Believe it or not, the brain optimally thrives on failure. It's a terrific teacher. (There's science to back up this claim, BTW.) Focus on lessons to be learned from imperfection. Where is God in this situation? Expect failure. (I'll never be disappointed that way, will I?) Learn to laugh at myself instead of taking myself so seriously. It's true that God is perfecting me, according to Philippians 1:6, "...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..." but I'm not there yet. I'm a work in progress. If God accepts me just as I am, I can learn to accept myself and others, too. I can refuse to be offended or critical. I can seek out the positive rather than key in on the negative.
Dive into service. Pretty hard to be grumpy, complaining, and critical when I focus on helping another person. This moves me out of the center of the universe. Gets me out of the spotlight. Giving without expecting acknowledgment or expectation of reciprocation frees me from self-absorption. Reminds me how much I already have. All I have is all I need. Matthew 10:8, "...Freely you have received, freely give." Whatever kind of service I choose, I can do it with gratitude and humility. Hand-written thank you notes, buying groceries or cooking meals for somone in need, listening to a friend who is struggling, accepting interruptions as opportunities to serve rather than as annoyances, driving someone who doesn't have access to transportation, offering gracious hospitality whether my house is clean or not, (or whether I have the best house on the block), hospital visits or visits to shut-ins--the list is endless. Give with a cheerful heart. "...for God loves a cheerful giver." Romans 10: 7. Always be on the lookout for ways to serve others.
Rest in my reality. Get acquainted with my real self, not the version of I'm-fine-everything's-fine I habitually display. Share my authentic self. It's always appropriate to be real. There is huge freedom and community to be found in authenticity. Others identify with what I say better.
Look for things to be thankful for. There is always always always something to be thankful for no matter how dark the night looks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "...give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Yup. All circumstances.
Bet you can come up with many more ways to put gratitude into action. I'd love to hear them. Please leave a comment today. And have a joy-filled, humble, real Thanksgiving this year!
In my latest boook, THE ROAD TO TERMINUS, Mabel Crowley yearns to be useful and needed. When a street urchin's plight strums her heart strings, Mabel turns to a life centered on service. And through their twisty-turny, often messy, journey to California from St. Louis, an attitude of gratitude fills her being. Service is the essencial ingredient for putting gratitude into action. Pick up a copy on Amazon today. Right now!