Thanksgiving is upon us, and though a heart of gratitude is something we should strive to have everyday, people tend to focus upon it a lot at this special day that is devoted just to being thankful. But having a heart of gratitude all year can hugely impact the way you live your life, helping you to be content with what you have and teaching you to live in the present moment. The sense of peace this creates is wonderful. It frees you from the bonds of the consumeristic society that has taken over America and allows you to live fully to your God-given potential. A heart that's full of gratitude flows over into generosity, creating a servant heart and a focus on what's really important in this life.
So with that in mind, these are my tips to you for developing that heart of gratitude. It will take time and effort, and you will need to make a conscious choice each day to start to make it a habit, but you can change your mindset and your heart and learn to be at peace.
Give Thanks Each Day
"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." Col. 2:7
This one might be a given, but training your mind to recognize each day the things you are grateful for can help you come to realize how truly blessed you already are. There is always something to be thankful for each day. In any situation, in any time, you should be able to find something.
I was lamenting to my brother the other day about how much it sucks to be away from them during the pandemic. I was sad and frustrated that we wouldn't be able to see each other for Thanksgiving, and angry about how much I have missed with their new little one. Before the pandemic, our family gathered together every weekend... but now it's been months since we've all been together.
My brother acknowledged that it sucked, but he also reminded me to be thankful for our health especially when so many are not healthy. He's right, and it helped me to stop wallowing in my sadness and focus on what we do have.
Each night as I lay in bed, I thank God for the abundant blessings in my life. I always thank Him for the gifts of each of my family members, but then I might also add in a thank you for the time we had spent together that day, a thank you for the beautiful weather, or a thank you for the sweet snuggles of one of my little ones. Focusing on these each night before I go to sleep helps me to rest well and be ready for another day in the morning.
Remember: Of Dust You Came, and to Dust You Will Return
One of my favorite quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder is this one:
“She thought to herself, "This is now." She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”
I love it because it sums up how we feel most of our lives. We feel like things will always be as they are, our people will be as they are, and we will be as we are But this isn't reality, and it's important to recognize this. We don't really feel different from day to day, but as we look back we realize how much has changed.
I think it's important to focus in on this uncomfortable topic and to confront it head on. Things will not always be the same forever. Someday your loved ones will be gone and so will you. In an instant, everything could be different, and this is something you need to remember each and every day. When you think about life as being something that is fleeting and not to be taken for granted, what's important becomes incredibly more obvious.
Focus on Relationships, Not Things
When you get to that deathbed we were just talking about, what will you be thankful for? These are the things you want to invest in while you're living. When you're deciding what to do, think about how it can impact relationships. Focus your time and money on these things, as these will be the ones that bring you the greatest joy overall. If it takes away from relationships, it might not be worth your time and investment.
For example, watching movies together as a family can be a fun way to build relationships because we can talk, laugh, and joke together about it later. It becomes a problem when it takes our attention away from relationships and we avoid being with one another because we'd rather be with the thing than our family. Do you see my point?
We will be more grateful when we focus on how things and experiences bring us closer in our relationships than we will by buying things that will only bring ourselves a moment of happiness.
Remove Things that Clutter Your Mind and Heart
I have found that the less you have, the more you're grateful for. Things won't bring you happiness, so why do we keep buying more to try to fill that hole we have? Removing things from your life that don't bring you joy and happiness can be extremely powerful in decluttering your home and growing that grateful heart. You appreciate the things you have and the work they can do for you.
And don't limit yourself to decluttering your home- decluttering your mind is important too. Remove thoughts, people, and memories that make you angry or sad or push you towards poor choices. Most likely these things cannot be changed, so there's no point in dwelling on them. Doing so only takes up that precious space in your mind, taking away from opportunities to give thanksgiving.
So go out today and be grateful. Focus your attention on each moment, remembering you'll need to give thanks for it tonight with the Lord. If it helps to journal, do that! Sometimes it's nice to go back and read through everything that you were thankful for on the days when you are having a hard time finding the good.
What do you do to grow a grateful heart?
If this resonates with you, please share.
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