Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Attitude of Gratitude

Well, I know we've all moved on from turkey and stuffing and are working our way through Advent.   But indulge me during this period of my life in which I'm always a few steps behind.  Because I need to write about Thanksgiving.  Or "the giving of thanks."

Showing off his homemade napkin holder.
During November, I really felt pressed to create an attitude of gratitude. And I'm not talking about listing the things I'm thankful for on Facebook. That's all fine, but not enough. And I think it can sometimes backfire. For instance, in this very moment, I'm thankful for the babe sleeping in my arms, the e.l.f. lip stain I discovered today that's ideal for non-lipstick types like me, and the old pair of jeans I started fitting back in to this past week. Sounds nice, right? Unless you're holding a screaming baby that hasn't napped more than 3 minutes all day. Or brushing unwashed hair out of your eyes that are still smudged with Sunday's mascara.  Or wearing the same sweatpants you wore yesterday, and the day before, and maybe the day before that, because they're the only ones that fit. So maybe it doesn't feel so nice. I know this. I've been there. And then I realized I was missing something. 

See, while I think counting your blessings is important, real gratitude goes beyond that.  It is, as Paul says in Philipians, being content in any and every circumstance.  Being thankful while holding a sleeping baby AND while holding a screaming one.  And I've found this to be much harder than I imagined.

This past year has been a tough one for our family, as well as many others that we know.  Over the past few months, there have been circumstances that have caused me to question God.  Not His existence, His power, or even His love.  Maybe just His wisdom.  Like, God, what are you thinking here?  Just this week I heard some devastating news that continues to weigh heavy on my heart.  I used to think I was a silver-linings kind of girl, that there was always something good in every situation if you'd just look at it the right way.  But lately, that thinking has been challenged.

I am learning that, while there are situations that I'm just plain not thankful for, I can still remain thankful in.  That God is sovereign, His ways are just, and as Job said, "There are things too wonderful for me to understand."  Pain, suffering, heartache--perhaps something good will come from them, perhaps not.  Either way, "I've put my hope in God.  I will yet praise him." (Psalm 43:5)

I'm thankful for my husband's good job, my beautiful, healthy children, and our cozy home.  But those are just things and they are not guaranteed for tomorrow.  Can I remain thankful if I lose one (or all) of them?  Can I create an atmosphere of gratitude that pervades every area of my life?  That is what I've been mulling over all this November.

So it stands to reason that I got to put this into practice (on a much, much smaller scale) during our Thanksgiving dinner.

Biggest table yet at our house - 8 adults, 3 kids, one babe-in-arms. 

Maple, orange, cranberry yams.
We announced to our family in October that we would not be traveling for Thanksgiving.  It just takes way too much effort to move our clan of six these days.  And with Christmas just a few weeks away, we decided the best thing to do would be to just stay put.  So we had Thanksgiving here.  I would say this is the first year I've hosted, but we actually celebrated the holiday at our house quite a few times while living in Virginia Beach.  My mom just made all the food.  This time around, I made the food... well, except for the turkey.  And Mom made the stuffing, because she likes that kind of thing.  And the pies, because that's her specialty.  And I assigned Uncle Micah to drinks.  And Great Uncle Carl and Mr. John brought appetizers.  But the rest was me, or Pinterest, rather.  Because we decided to branch out and try all new recipes this year.

Whipped cranberry butter and cranberry relish.

Balsamic roasted carrots and parsnips with feta and cherries.
And so, about five minutes into my feast preparations, the sink drain clogged.  It remain clogged until we sat down to eat.  Which meant no sink, no water, no dishwasher for the entire day of cooking.  It also meant that my husband had to spend several hours sprawled out under the sink, rearranging storage bins in our crawl space, disconnecting drainage pipes, scouring Lowes for necessary tools (thankfully, we had our dinner on a Friday and he could buy what he needed before dinner!), and freeing the pipes from (what he claims was) an 8 foot blockage of potato skins.

It was not fun.  But let me tell you, I was never more in love with my laundry room utility sink than when it was all we had for that day!  A broken sink was not a blessing.  It cost us precious time and money to fix, not to mention the huge inconvenience.  But it's much more difficult to be upset over something going wrong when you're spending the day focusing on those things that are good and right.  And that's just what we did.

Uncle Micah and Miss Carrie washing dishes in the laundry room.
Earlier in the week all our guests had emailed me three things that they were thankful for.  I printed them off, cut them in to strips, wrapped them in parchment paper, and rolled them up in the crescent rolls.  Then we took turns at dinner tearing our rolls, reading the paper, and guessing who was thankful for what.  Some were easy--apparently I was the only one in the room that was thankful for "new baby smell"??  Some were funny--Jack was thankful for "watching TV" and Jude was thankful for "Christmas."  Some were more serious, or sentimental.  But all did the trick--creating an atmosphere of gratitude.

Movies with Uncle Micah.

They spent all day sailing Legos around the thawing turkey.

Snow Dough sculptures with Miss Carrie.
I wish that bad things didn't happen.  I wish I could hold my kids close and never let them experience pain, suffering, and heartache.  I can't.  But I can teach them to give thanks despite what is happening around them.  To praise God for who He is, as well as what He's done.  To trust in His faithfulness, to rest in His peace, to hope in His grace.  Yes, we count our blessings.  But so much more than the things we have, I'm grateful for the God I know.  Happy Thanksgiving... last week and every week!

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