Every November the landscape changes just a bit. I’m not talking about how the trees start to shed their glorious leaves but rather the fabric of our thoughts and conversations start to alter. We begin to share the things we are thankful for on social media. We talk about abundance of food, family and good times. We anticipate the joy of the holiday season heading our way. This may be one of the reasons it’s my favorite time of year. I love the contagious joy and intentional thoughts of goodness and appreciation.
This morning as I was reflecting on all those things I was reminded of what a journey the Lord has taken me on, cultivating a heart of thanksgiving in me. Not just in November but all year long. It’s been a process for sure and there are times that my heart forgets some of God’s goodness in the shadows of life’s hard, or things that make me anxious. However when I look back, it’s a gift I will never stop giving thanks for, that gift of perspective. Part discipline (Ann Voscamp, teaching me how to count my gifts) and actually making myself do that, and part revelation.
When life gets hard and ,the way we envisioned it would always be, ceases to even exist we have two choices. We can become bitter or we can press into the Father. We can hop back up on that potter’s wheel and say, “Fashion me into the vessel you want for your glory.” It’s a choice we make, not one time but again and again.
The season of hard we began walking through started almost 3 years ago, but as the Lord has promised us, He went before me teaching me the discipline of noticing the year before that one. I read the book One Thousand Gifts,by Ann Voscamp and took up the joyful task of giving thanks for even the smallest of things that might have gone unseen before. The light glinting off a cardinals wing, the laughter of my children, the smell of coffee brewing all caused my heart to sing with renewed joy. The practice of noticing and giving thanks shifted my focus from the little things that used to rob me of my peace to all the tiny drops of grace the Lord was showering my days with.
I began to pray more for him to reveal to my heart how great His love is.
“ I pray that the perception of your mind my be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the glorious riches of his inheritance and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.” Eph.1:18-23
Life got even harder. When life gets hard, your world becomes smaller. It takes all that you have to take care of body and soul for you and your family and the way you invest in others has to be in the form of prayer rather than constant physical interaction. This too can be a lonely time or a time when you press into the Father once again. He shows you beautiful things, the heart of a man sitting alone in a cancer waiting room and He gives you His words to drop into that man’s spirit. He shows you ways that He alone is ministering to your spirit; Impromptu prayers of strangers over you in hospital corridors on a day you just want to be in church, selfless love radiating from your surgeon and the many nurses. Friends who prepare a room for you to stay in during treatment, a home away from home.
When you begin practicing the presence of God, it opens up a whole new world of sight. It is this perspective, this seeing with new eyes that allows you to walk by faith. What once was impossible is now the only way. The only way to move forward in joy is to give thanks with each step. When the big things are taken out of your hands it’s easier to let the little things go. So you do.
Cultivating the ground is a process. It’s breaking the hard outer shell of earth, it’s stirring up the soil adding pockets of air to the earth to make it moveable more suitable for planting. The ground is better prepared for the seed, that becomes the plant, that bears the fruit for the harvest.
Cultivating a heart of thanksgiving is a process, but we have a good gardener and the harvest is so worth it. I pray that the perception of our hearts are enlightened during this season of “giving thanks”and after..Ask the Lord to help you notice some things today you may have formerly passed by, and give thanks for them. Share in the comments below.