a table in the wilderness

“I have not forgotten you. I did not lead you into the wilderness to die.”

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I imagine the first Thanksgiving, whether at Jamestown or Plymouth, had a lot to do with celebrating survival.

Only half the pilgrims at Plymouth had made it through the journey, a harsh winter, desperate hunger, and life-taking illness. There must have been some grief — no matter how stoic –when they looked around the table.

I keep thinking about that. How Thanksgiving may be less about gratitude for what I have and more about gratitude for God bringing us through suffering, pain, loss … a nuance, but one that turns my thoughts from material blessings, and even the fellowship of friends and family, to a deeper sort of thanks, made deeper by the suffering. By realizing my utter dependence on the Father for breath.

And the food on the table, the corn and meat that made up the pilgrim feast? A token of love, not unlike the manna and quail provided from heaven, that said, “I have not forgotten you…I did not lead you into the wilderness to die. I will take care of you.”

Losing a job, fighting illness, loss of a loved one, broken relationships, injustice, anguish over your addict’s choices… Sometimes, that’s all Thanksgiving can be.

A respite from pain. A table in the wilderness. A deep breath of grace.

a harvest of gratitude

. . . I don’t mean just the big THANKS. I mean the little thanks — for everyday things. The things that we have to dig into to find a reason for being grateful. It’s a whole lot harder than it appears.

I tend to try to change everything about my life all at once. 

Time to get healthy? I take vitamins, drink the right amount of water, cut caffeine and/or sugar, drink raw apple cider vinegar and green tea, attempt exercise . . . and then, when I feel better, I never know what did it.  Plus, do I have to keep up all these things?. . . and then I fail, because I really can’t keep up with so many habits foreign to my nature.

I like new and different. Routine loses the thrill after about a week.

So my latest kick is self-discipline — because I lack it. (Again, *two thumbs pointing to self* bored with consistency.)

Just general, over all self-discipline. Which may sound like CHANGE ALL THE THINGS! and biting off more than I can chew. But isn’t, really, because I’m starting small.

My usual self would, at this point of decision, print out a schedule, a chart, a list — and organize my life. I love doing that. I get excited about new organizational things. HOWEVER, doing and then sticking with it is an entirely different matter. It’s not that I need to be more organized. It’s that I need to be more disciplined.

So I’ve started small. Or maybe big. 

Because sometimes, I complain . . . okay, often. I often complain. And I am lazy about gratitude.

So, my “big” self-discipline for November is that I am committing to start each day with a grateful thought and post it on Facebook and Twitter . . . like a whole lot of other people. (Hey, some trends are good trends.) I’m no Pollyanna, believe me. I could really use a little less grumbling. And I know an ungrateful attitude is a whole lot of why I often struggle with being content.

And I don’t mean just the big THANKS. I mean the little thanks — for everyday things. The things that we have to dig into to find a reason for being grateful. It’s a whole lot harder than it appears.

I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts in January — loved it — and when I read her journal plan, I thought, Writing down three gifts a day? How hard can that be? I made it to 45 gifts. Forty-five! And my last journal entry of three simple gifts was at the end of March. So it’s actually hard. For me, anyway. Because of my apparent allergy to consistency . . . and maybe gratitude.

So I love this from One Thousand Gifts:

Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.” But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.

Little nails and a steady hammer can rebuild a life . . .

So I’m doing it.

I’m going to attempt to share a harvest of gratitude for small things and big things.

#30daysofthanks

Because I need to remind myself that I have so much to be thankful for.

And my bet is, it really does change everything.

Praise for the LORD’S Goodness.
A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High ;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night . . .
For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands. Psalm 92:1-4

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What about you? Have you seen simple gratitude change your outlook on life? Want to try #30daysofthanks?

Read more about gratitude from enduring and after

the gift of gratitude

all I ever have to be

but for the grace of God