gratitude1There’s a large sign on the wall in my living room.  Actually, it’s more a sign spot, because the spot stays put but the sign changes every season.  This month’s painted sign says, “be Grateful”. It’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving décor pieces because it is such a simple and yet important reminder of what this season is all about (and the older I get, the more reminders this feeble brain needs.) This season reminds us to hit pause and spend some time reflecting on things. To be grateful. William A. Ward said it well: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” The more time passes, the more I believe this. Gratitude changes perspective. Perspective changes everything.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my life and especially in the last decade or so, it is this: find something to be thankful for. Every day. (Yes, even in the midst of election season.) To put into practice the art of living a life of gratitude, during times of plenty and in times of want, because there will always be both.  Ironically, I learned this lesson best when I had the least.

This week I have hit the pause button. I remember a time when I was a single mom working two jobs that I would go to the bank on payday, every other Friday, and withdraw $40. And then hide it. This would serve as my back up plan for the following 2 weeks – bread, more milk, gas, whatever surprise expense the girls brought to me. I remember days, many of them, sitting in the corner of my green couch on Glasshouse Walk and shedding desperate tears over what would seem to be a dichotomy of emotions: worrying about how I was going to cover rent that was a month past due and yet thankful that my landlord was longsuffering. Worrying about negative lunch accounts and thankful for upcoming school holidays when my girls could eat cheap at home. Living from paycheck to paycheck definitely taught me how to strategize…and schedule vacation days.

I remember one time seeing a city worker walk past my living room window and I freaked out a little until it dawned on me what he was doing. Then I freaked out a lot. Like lightning I bolted out the front door and after a brief conversation that included some serious groveling and promising, he nodded in reply and left (I hope he didn’t get into trouble for that). Some other bill didn’t get paid that week but, funny thing, for the life of me I can’t remember which one, now.  I remember finding an extra folded up $20 bill in the secret compartment of my minivan and taking the girls to Posados for lunch after church that day. We had learned how to eat, all four of us, for $18. Clever us! I should probably go back and offer to pay for all of the free flour tortillas and honey we consumed. In those days, eating out was always a treat. Heck, a full gallon of milk in the fridge was a treat! Sigh…it’s the little things.

Those lean times served me well. It was during the lean times that my faith grew the most. In some ways, it was easy; God provided for my needs, over and over again. In crazy ways. Through unexpected means.  I began to see the inherent goodness of God, working over and under and around and through the core of my life, in ways I had never seen before. He didn’t part the Red Sea of my debt. Publishers Clearing House didn’t call. My knight in shining armor didn’t show up on my doorstep and whisk me away (well, he did, but that’s another story). And yet I learned my provision would come, somehow, because He was relentless in proving that to me. He was my Provider. I had no idea what method He would choose to use and in time, it didn’t matter, because He taught me how to get past trusting His methods and learn to trust Him. Somehow we always had enough. We survived.

Surviving is its own miracle.

As I sat on my couch drinking my pumpkin latte this morning, my gaze transfixed for the umpteenth time on that sign. Be grateful.  I really do love that sign.  I have so very much to be grateful for! For life, for my salvation, for eternity promised in Heaven. I am grateful for my husband and our home and for air conditioning that he lets me set on 68. I am grateful he doesn’t roll his eyes when I hide under mounds of blankets because the house is always so flipping cold. I am grateful for milk in the refrigerator and gas in my car. I am grateful for a car! I am grateful my kids are healthy. I am grateful for my tiny human and for other tiny humans who are sure to follow someday. I am grateful for godly parents. I am grateful for my eyesight …and the list grows, the more I get going.  As I went through my daily be-gratitudes, a different thought interrupted my flow. I heard something I’m not sure I’ve heard before.

Is that it?

Is what it?

I know you’re grateful. Don’t ever stop with that. But I want you to ask for more.

More? How could I possibly ask for more?

Because I’m not through blessing you.  I want you to ask Me for more.

 

As thoughts of wanting more (and it being ok!) began to unfold, I had to ask myself a few questions.

What do I want this next season of life to look like?

Where is my heart telling me to go?

What do I ask for?

What am I hungry for?

My tiny human came over recently for some Cowboys/pumpkin carving/supper together time. She flittered about to and fro and I guess picked up a snack or two in the midst of all the flittering, of which I may or may not have given her, so when it came time to sit down and eat supper (grilled filet and baked potatoes, no less) she wouldn’t touch her plate. She said it was all “too spicy”. That’s her go-to these days. It’s “too spicy”. Ha! The truth was, she wasn’t hungry. Have you ever tried to feed someone who wasn’t hungry? It’s a waste of time. Might as well pack it up and get ready for leftovers on Monday.

It’s ok to be full.  It’s also ok to be hungry again. And the truth is, I am hungry for more. A heck of a lot more! Hunger is an opportunity to experience God on another level. His word tells us that He responds to our hunger and thirst for righteousness, not to our bloated bellies of stagnant self-gratification. I believe that’s why He hates not only pride, but a proud look. A prideful person will never admit his need for anything, yet alone his hunger for something only God can make happen. Miracles are made from admitting our need to Him. In God’s economy, if you don’t need anything, you won’t get anything.

I’m pretty sure my time of reflection has led me to this place, today: be ever grateful, but don’t stop there. Keep going, keep asking. Recognize my need and hunger is a backdrop to His provision, once again. Send those stupid misguided feelings of guilt on their merry way and press on to what’s next.

Reflecting has been good this week. Cheers to pressing play!

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