Let our lives be full of “thanks” and “giving”. Breaking down the word “Thanksgiving” into two separate, distinct actions has given this season of gratitude more meaning and focus for me this year.
These words have been posted on a blackboard in my kitchen for the past month, so on this Mindful Monday I want to be purposeful and intentional about embracing this Thanksgiving week with both “thanks” and “giving.”
I also would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude to every one of you who read my weekly posts and offer words of support and encouragement. You mean the world to me!
1) SHARE THE STORY
Whether you are a history buff or not, I think it is interesting to revisit the origins of Thanksgiving and why we celebrate this holiday here in America. Reading Lincoln’s original Thanksgiving Proclamation is one way to gain some perspective that we may have forgotten over the years.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States.
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
2) SPEAK YOUR THANKS OUT LOUD
One of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions, as we gather around the table, is to give everyone a chance to speak their gratitude out loud. Sometimes it is hard to think of something when all eyes are on you, so I found these ribbon napkin holders that provide thoughtful questions as conversation starters. You can use these or make some up of your own!
- Name five gifts from God that you can see from where you are sitting right now.
- Name one aspect about the way you were raised for which you are grateful.
- What has God changed in your life for which you are grateful?
- What “little things” are you thankful for today?
- Think of someone who has an attitude of gratitude and tell about him or her.
- Describe a friend who has influenced your life for good for whom you are grateful.
- Being grateful is not always easy. What makes it so difficult at times?
- Why do you think God tells us to be thankful in all things?
3) SERVE OTHERS IN NEED
My local church has a yearly Thanksgiving basket drive where they hand out Rubbermaid totes and ask us to fill them with all the necessities for a Thanksgiving dinner. We fill these bins up with turkeys, stuffing, pies, rolls, vegetables and all the fixings so local families in need can enjoy their own Thanksgiving feast. It is a small way to give back and to remember the daily blessings that many of us take for granted.
You can do something similar by donating food to a local food bank, serving Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, or just inviting someone over who may be without family to celebrate with you.
4) SEEK GRATITUDE IN THE MIDST OF STRUGGLING AND SUFFERING
Sometimes the holidays can be difficult because of loss, pain, and disappointment. Gratitude may be hard to even think of let alone express. You may be celebrating for the first time without a loved one, you may be far away from those you love, or you may be suffering physically, emotionally, or financially. How do you give thanks when it hurts? I found this beautiful prayer written by Cindi McMenamin that might help those of you who are struggling to say thanks for the hard things.
“Thank you, God, for the times You have said “no.” They have helped me depend on You so much more.
Thank you, God, for unanswered prayer. It reminds me that You know what’s best for me, even when my opinion differs from Yours.
Thank You, Lord, for the things you have withheld from me. You have protected me from what I may never realize.
Thank You, God, for the doors You have closed. They have prevented me from going where You would rather not have me go.
Thank you, Lord, for the physical pain You’ve allowed in my life. It has helped me more closely relate to Your sufferings on my behalf.
Thank you, Lord, for the alone times in my life. Those times have forced me to lean in closer to You.
Thank you, God, for the uncertainties I’ve experienced. They have deepened my trust in You.
Thank You, Lord, for the times You came through for me when I didn’t even know I needed a rescue.
Thank You, Lord, for the losses I have experienced. They have been a reminder that You are my greatest gain.
Thank You, God, for the tears I have shed. They have kept my heart soft and mold-able.
Thank You, God, for the times I haven’t been able to control my circumstances. They have reminded me that You are sovereign and on the throne.
Thank You, God, for those people in my life whom You have called home to be with You. Their absence from this earth keeps my heart longing for heaven.
Thank You, God, that I have an inheritance in the heavenly places…something that this world can never steal from me and I could never selfishly squander.
Thank You, God, for the greatest gift You could ever give me: forgiveness through Your perfect Son’s death on the cross on my behalf.
Thank You, God, for the righteousness You credited toward me, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a righteousness I could never earn or attain on my own.
Thank You, Father, that You know me, You hear me, and You see my tears. Remind me through difficult times that You are God, You are on the throne, and You are eternally good.
And thank You, Lord, not only for my eternal salvation, but for the salvation You afford every day of my life as You save me from myself, my foolishness, my own limited insights, and my frailties in light of Your power and strength.”
~Cindy McMenamin, Author
5) SAVOR THE BLESSINGS OF FOOD, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS
In the midst of our busy and stressful lives, let’s not forget the simple pleasures of sitting around the table with those we love and enjoying a good meal. Whether your mouth waters for the roasted turkey and stuffing, decadent mashed potatoes, your aunt’s famous green bean casserole or your Grandma’s homemade pies, savor each bite and morsel. Eat, drink, and be merry remembering that every perfect gift is from above!