Thanksgiving is a bittersweet holiday for me. I adore that our nation takes at least this one day of the year to thank God for how incredibly blessed we are. But, I am saddened that it's only one day. Because we were created to praise our God - continuously and without ceasing.
I will be the first to confess that this is a weakness of mine personally. I get so wrapped up in the busy and the "more" of life that I forget how God's blessings overflow in my life.
For example, a few weeks ago, I received a job offer for after graduation. It was an offer from a prestigious company doing pretty awesome work. But it deviated from the plans I had made for my life. So after the initial wonder wore off, I began to find little things to complain about - first the salary, then the location, and the list went on and on.
Then, I had several more amazing opportunities come up in my life. I saw the hand of God in all of it - as if He laid out a beautiful buffet of opportunities and promises for me. "I just want you to be happy, my love. Here is everything you ever dreamed of and so much more. Go and do. You have My blessing."
But like the people of Israel standing on the brink of the Promised Land, I continued to point out the negatives.
People in my life commented in awe how amazing all of this is. I was miserable. I can't even imagine how hurtful my lack of gratefulness was to God. And through this opportunity, I found a deeper problem: it was me. Over the years, I somehow became a pessimist. Some days, I remembered to thank God for the blessings in my life. But most of the time, it was a laundry list of thanks that was more routine than genuine. I didn't feel the thanks deep down to my bones. My praise was empty and shallow.
Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect time to start a new chapter: a life filled with thanksgiving every day - for the little blessings and for the big moments.
To hold myself accountable, I've been doing several things:
Start a gratitude list. I'm currently using the Day Designer, which has a space on each daily page for the daily gratitude. I've been trying to force myself to record something new in that space every day. I have also had my eye on Val's Gratitude Journal. Although, you can totally just buy a cute small journal of your own to use for this purpose.
Start your prayers with giving thanks. Although I grew up being taught this, too often my thanks was a blanket, vague thanks for everything. Now, I'm trying to actually genuinely spend several minutes listing out specific things and people I am grateful for. I try to dig deep into the day's happenings so that I'm noticing and thanking God for things as they happen. I also try to pray at least three times a day: starting my morning with a prayer, taking a few minutes mid-day, and then ending the day with a longer prayer. This is difficult and takes a lot of discipline, but it's so worth it!
Build up a vocabulary of praise. Memorizing Scripture that illustrates praise and giving thanks is one of the best ways to learn to speak with thanksgiving on your mind and on your lips. The Psalms overflow with verses that are easy to memorize. Below are some of my favorite verse to cling to when I need to change my mindset from being negative to giving thanks:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing, know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. -Psalm 100
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. -Colossians 3:17
I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O most High! -Psalm 9:1-2
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. -Hebrews 13:15
O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You. I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. -Isaiah 25:1
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God. -Psalm 50:23
Memorize some (or all!) of these verses and recite them as often as you can. Personally, I like to write down a different verse each week on either post-it notes or on index cards which I then stick to my planner, computer, or bulletin board where I know I will see it constantly. Once you start adding these verses to your memory and recalling them often, you'll see giving thanks in prayer and in conversation became so much easier with the right phrasing and vocabulary.
Give praise publicly. My dad is so good at this. He finds the positive angle in every situation and he says "Praise God" dozens of times a day - regardless if he's talking the cashier at the store or one of my little siblings. Recently, I've tried to channel that into my own daily conversations, but it's harder than it seems. For example, we seem to be naturally prone to complain. When someone asks how your day is, we often jump to complaining - we're busy, stressed, tired, fine, etc... Things escalate quickly from there, and we forget to share the blessings in our lives because we're so busy complaining and gossiping.
One tangible way I've tried to change this in my own life is to answer "Praise the Lord, alive and well" when someone asks me how I'm doing. Another way is taking the chance to share the small (and big!) testimonies of God's work in my life - I'll bring it up in conversations, post it on Instagram or simply praise God for it in my prayers. At first, it may seem a bit unnatural, but with time it blossoms into something beautiful both in your life and in the lives of those with whom you share those little testimonies.
How do you build a life of thanksgiving that lasts beyond this one annual holiday?
PS. We will be taking next week off to encourage you to spend time with family and friends in this season of thanksgiving!