These are, according to our world, the magic words. They just might get the salt passed at the table, they just might make someone feel good about holding that door a beat longer to let you in behind them, they just might be the words every parent conditions into their child wondering endlessly if they’ll ever actually be said back to them without being prompted. I’ve been saying the magic words my entire life (with an exception to a particularly sassy phase in my mid-teens) and despite my usage of the words I must admit, I have never seen any resemblance of a magical outcome. Because really, the waitress is going to bring you your drink whether you say please and she’ll refill it even if you don’t say thank you.
Lately I’ve found myself thinking about thankfulness a lot. I like to think I’m an appreciative person. I know the blessings that fill my life, and as best I can, I give thanks for them. I have always had such a pet-peeve about people who are ungrateful. And honestly, I used to compare myself to them, validating that I’m far more grateful for the things I have than they are. They, are the brat who hardly acknowledges the $200 pair of jeans that just came perfectly wrapped under the christmas tree. I’ll admit, I was a judger. Recently though I’ve come to realize that often people aren’t just “spoiled” or “ungrateful”, rather, they are unaware, and I’m one among them. It’s always been so easy for me to look at someone who clearly has so much and think, they have no idea how good they have it… and their not even thankful for it! And now I think, how many people have been looking at me and saying the same thing?! And worst of all, I think of how God must look into my heart and see the things I’m thankful for and think… is this it?
The other day Clint and I were in the car when we passed a bus shelter. It was a chilly, wind-filled day. The kind that stings just a touch with each deep breath. Your hands feel tight, as if you couldn’t straighten them out or ball them into a fist. You back gets tense as the chills rise up your spine. When I saw the people standing under the sorry excuse for a shelter I was brought back to all those times in college where I stood shivering, shaking, and covered in snow from the top of the pom-pom on my hat to the toes of my insulated boots. I can so vividly remember the cold mornings and even colder nights standing at a bus stop just wanting to scream, cry, and fold in on myself as the winds tumbled into me, and doubting if the bus with the scrolling yellow words POP 105 would ever come to rescue me. As the growing warmth of my seat warmer brought me back to my current reality I thought of how thankful I was to be in the car at that very moment. As we drove on, I found myself thanking God for this car, at that very moment. I was thankful for that warm mode of transportation that took me only to my destination and I could literally feel the thankfulness pouring out of my heart straight up to God. I voiced to Clint my thankfulness for his car, and it felt so nice, to knowingly, vocally, acknowledge something that we’ve been blessed with. Generally speaking I’m thankful we both have cars, it would be a much different lifestyle if we only had one, or even none. But I realized on that particularly cold day, God doesn’t want us to just acknowledge our gifts in a general way, He wants us to acknowledge them every single day, in every single way. I now have prayed, spoken, and written my thankfulness for that one single moment and as my life finds more ways for me to show that thankfulness I shall do just that, be thankful.
You see, I’ve realized, as aforementioned, that most people aren’t truly ungrateful, they are unaware, I am unaware. As much as I like to tell myself I know my blessings, I’m so unknowing of all the things God has specifically blessed me with. I doubt I’ll ever truly know how much I have to be thankful for, many of us won’t. But I now know how much I want to be made aware. I want to be aware of all the things I have to be thankful for, from the people to the things themselves. If I came face to face with Christ today I would thank him for everything I have, from the loving relationship with my husband, to the fan that gently keeps me cool as I sleep each night, and every last thing in between. While I likely will not being coming face to face with Him today, He thankfully is in my heart, which is even closer, even more intimate, and even more important.
So how do I go about actually becoming more thankful, more aware? Well, this was kind of step one. Today I read,
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples!”
-1 Chronicles 16:8
Part of being thankful to the Lord is sharing that thanks with others. Each day I want to sit down with my journal and write something I am thankful for, I’ll force myself to be aware of my blessings. And every so often I’ll share them with you all. In doing this I hope it does two things. One, I hope it pushes me to realize my blessings on a more day-to-day level. Two, I hope it allows others to open their eyes to their surroundings and blessings and create an atmosphere of thankfulness. Today, the Lord also directed me towards this verse,
“Give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:18
Life is made of valleys and peaks, and most of us, myself included, live in a state of in-between. It is all too easy to thank God for the promotion when it finally comes. It is too simple to thank God for what you do have while you slowly lose what you’ve always had. The time it’s hardest to say thank you is when you’re just living life, day by day, moment by moment. Not many of us want to say, “Thanks God for this horribly long commute each morning on the way to work.” But I contend that if you thank God for that hour-long drive of time alone He just might use it to your advantage. We’ve all been there before, the moment someone thanks you, truly, genuinely and without any convoluted intentions, and you find yourself wanting to do more, and give more to that person. We were made this way, in a reflection of God. He is faithful, and He is able to give us everything.
Another way I hope to create a more thank-filled lifestyle is to vocalize my thanks more often. When God blesses me with great conversation at dinner with my sweet husband, I want to thank Him for it, and I want to say it. I won’t lie, this is going to be hard for me. While it may be surprising to hear from someone who writes a blog (and has more than once written about my faith) it’s hard for me to vocalize my faith to other people. I didn’t grow up that way and it’s not something that’s been easy for me to develop. There are certain people I feel comfortable discussing my faith with and others where the thought is already making me cringe. But, nobody ever got good as something without trying. While not everyone in my life may share the same beliefs as me I am held in the arms of a God who will equip me with strength and bravery. I’m sure it will offer up a few awkward moments, but Jesus died a sinners death on a cross wrapped in nothing but God’s love, if He could do that for me, then I can risk adding a few more awkward moments to my life for His glory. After all, if I find myself becoming the person who people think of as the “God-thanker” I think I’ll be just fine.
The thing about things is this, we often forget we’re not entitled to them. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we’ve all been caught up in stealing his credit. For me, it’s about time I started doing more than just saying those magic words, it’s time for me to start living them.