Updated: Nov 27, 2019
The holidays are officially upon us as of this week. As I write, Thanksgiving is only 2 days away, and the fallen leaves and the crispness of autumn are in the air. I only just last week pitched our jack-o-lanterns, which were getting mushy on the porch, and I have made zero moves towards Christmas shopping or decorating. At all. She's definitely not an overachiever, you might be thinking. You would be correct. Don't tell anyone.
I am making effort to just enjoy (and not pull my hair out because our family life is always crazy) where we are at right now. Enjoying the fall, trying not to rush into the Christmas season. Sometimes the daily life is just busy enough that I couldn't start to get ahead of myself if I really wanted to. To be honest, just getting this "newborn" blog up and running has had me scrambling around to get all of the other life related stuff done. Mostly done. We have actually--for real, I mean it--have run out of toilet paper, as in NONE in the house a while back. Six family members and no toilet paper is a crisis, y'all. And not to try to impress you or anything, but I did it AGAIN two weeks ago. I say that as a caveat--this is not the blog in which you will find how to complete all of your daily tasks by 9 am every day, complete Halloween costumes by June, all of your Christmas shopping by the end of August, and buy and address your Valentines by Thanksgiving. There are amazing blogs out there with how-to's for all of that! I like to read them to see how the other half lives, but I can't pull that off.
Sometimes I drown in the daily, do you know what I mean? Sometimes I have a hard time getting finished with the chore-type things of my day (ahem...usually every day). And then I don't spend the time appreciating what it is that I AM doing.
I read recently that when you begin to think differently about what you "get to" do, rather than what you "have to" do makes all the difference in the world when it comes to reframing your mindset to experience joy each day.
Gratitude turns the world upside down. This does not mean holding up your fancy coffee and super cute blanket scarf and tweeting #blessed. Your attitude toward gratitude is what changes everything. I get to do laundry, because I have a family who gets to wear clothing. I get to cook and clean the kitchen because we have the resources to feed our family every day. I get to (shout at my kids to get in bed *oops* and then) tuck them in, because we get to have cozy beds and a safe home. I get to wake up early to get everyone off to school because the sun came up again today and we have wonderful schools nearby for them to attend.
Perhaps you noted that I didn't say happiness back there. Maybe you are chasing kids around or reading in the car-pickup line and didn't catch it. I used JOY. Joy is not the same. Joy is the transcendent--it is recognizing the blessing of a God who shows us grace daily. It is not the fleeting feeling of happiness that disappears once the situation shifts in an aggravating/annoying/uncomfortable way. Joy is not dependent on the circumstances. It is far beyond them. You can have joy, and be unhappy with your situation.
A while back, a dear friend gave me a book called One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It is a tremendous book and was a NY Times non-fiction Bestseller several years ago, so it may not even be a new title for you. If you never have, I have to encourage you to read it--it was challenging and beautiful, and very poignant, no matter where you are in your life. If you read it in the past, take a few moments this holiday to revisit it. The author keeps a journal in which she is planning to write down one thousand things she recognizes as gifts. She begins to see beyond her home and family, which are wonderful gifts, of course, that even the simplest things--something like noticing even the wonder of seeing singular pieces of lint float in the ray of sunshine streaming through her window--are all gifts from to her from God. His way to remind her of His love.
Maybe you didn't even know God does this for you. This might be new news to you. Before you tune out and say, um, lint is not exactly a loving gift, note that the gifts she receives are not the same gifts God would give to YOU. Yours are entirely YOURS, because God knows what would speak right to your heart, and the types of things that you notice in the universe and appreciate. But you have to start writing yours down, too, so that when (not if) life hits a rough patch and circumstances ARE ugly, you have the reminder of how faithful God has been to show you those things. And you get to experience his love even during all of the mess of life.
How often do we feel gratitude for all that we have? I know I am guilty of sometimes bearing my blessings as if they were burdens. And by that I mean my hubby, kids, mountains of laundry and dishes. That is definitely NOT living with gratitude.
Ancient literature tells us that you CAN take every thought captive. Meaning, just because you think the thought, you do not have to feel the feeling that might naturally occur with that thought. You can take hold of that thought, and turn it around. You can start to connect a NEW thought with it, so when the initial thought rises up in your head, the new one can replace it. So by being grateful for what I get to do, instead of grumbling about what I have to do, I have the power to change my feelings about whatever it is. If I can change my thoughts to thoughts of gratitude, even in the less-than-stellar circumstance, I can experience joy.
This Thanksgiving, among the turkey and stuffing and conversation, look around the chaos and mess and remember that your attitude of gratitude is what will increase your joy. It isn't always easy, but it is a simple change. And make a few notes of those little gifts you begin to notice...you may need reminders of your blessings for the long car trip back home....
xo, Ann Marie