November’s word theme is “Thankfulness”. Seems kind of like a no brainer with Thanksgiving at the end of the month and all. But there is another, more personal reason I chose it. This November I will turn 50 and I’ve been cancer-free for ten years. Two big milestones to be thankful for.
It wouldn’t be hard to write a 10,000 word essay on all that I appreciate. I live in a first world country, reason enough for the majority of those thanks. I’m grateful for a loving husband, two happy and healthy kids, a fluffy dog (even if I am over all the dog hair), a supportive extended family, good friends, and the list goes on. And, of course, I’m ever so thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice and my salvation.
Oftentimes I find myself focusing on the negative. I have become cynical and whiny and it seems almost as though I enjoy the feelings of bitterness and sadness and “O, woe is me.” These emotions beget more of the same and it can turn into a never ending cycle of complaining.
Here’s the problem as I see it. It’s really hard to exemplify Christ when you’re being a Wendy Whiner. When I’m in that downward spiral, whatever fruit the spirit has bestowed upon me starts to shrivel up. There’s very little in the way of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control.
The conversations in my head can go either way:
I’m so tired of being overweight. I’m embarrassed to be around anyone. I don’t want to go anywhere.
I’m so tired of being overweight, but I’m thankful for my health. I’m thankful for my family and friends who love me regardless of my size.
I hate all these scars. I’m so ugly. I just want to look like I did before all the surgeries.
I don’t like these scars, but I’m thankful for the surgeries that saved my life or made me healthier.
I’m so tired of this messy house. The clutter makes me crazy!
I’m thankful for a well lived in home.
When I turn my focus to all the extraordinary good in my life and in this world, the dark cloud that hangs over my thoughts begins to lift.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8
My husband, Todd, recently took me to Bar Harbor, Maine to celebrate my 50th birthday. As a novice photographer, Acadia National Park has been on my “Someday” list for quite a while. Our trip had its fair share of setbacks – Todd fell on the stairs the day before we left, resulting in a minor concussion and whiplash; we left the bag with his medications at home; my CPAP machine stopped working; I wrenched my left hip and lower back climbing over rocks to get the perfect shot… I can’t help but think things would have been a lot different if it had been, say, a 30th birthday celebration. But 50 is supposed to be the new 30, right?
Despite all the obstacles, it was a marvelous trip. Without exaggeration, coastal Maine is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. Simply stated, it’s lovely.
As I stood alone on a promontory, trying without success to capture the raw beauty of the rocky shoreline, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. All my “problems” melted away. Or maybe they just shrunk in comparison to the glimpse of God’s glory I was saturated in.
Being thankful sometimes becomes a means of survival. Without thankfulness we become bitter and pessimistic and no good can come of it. When we follow Paul’s advice and think on things that are true and noble and lovely, etc., our minds are turned toward God. And when our minds are turned toward God we can’t help but be filled with thankfulness.