It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving. One college kid is home, another arrives on Tuesday morning. Because of past turkey defrosting timing mishaps, the bird is cooked and awaiting its gravy bath so it can return to the freezer for a few days. The house is clean, the menu planned, the groceries in the cupboard. It is a good time to consider Thanksgiving.
Having recently seen Hamilton, the Founding Fathers are on my mind. I am thankful they fought for independence and worked to create a new, democratic government. But I feel like there’s more.
Gratitude Is Everywhere
Gratitude has become a thing. We’ve learned that being thankful increases our happiness and positively affects our health. A lot has been said and written about the importance of being grateful for the myriad of blessings in our lives. I could write a lengthy list including my family, home, health, friends, but it would only be interesting to me.
Gratitude is a ubiquitous word and my fear is that, like other times when society gloms onto an idea, it will get over-hyped and become lessened. It will be a catch phrase and we will forget what it is and why it is important. Or if we remember, we will attach it to worldly ideas that do not matter in the long run, things that do not play well in the end game.
When we consider what we are thankful for, does it go deeper than a home, a car, and food? Is it more than family and friends? Is it more virtuous than health and happiness? These things are good and worthy of our gratitude. We should take nothing for granted because everything, every single thing, is a gift from God. But I have this feeling there is more to be grateful for and if I slow down, Jesus will clue me in.
What Am I Really Thankful For?
What has come before me that matters?
I am thankful for a solid year when I had no idea where I was going. I am thankful for the sadness and loss and frustration and anger; the confusion and uncertainty, and finally the culmination because without that experience, I would not have learned more about trusting Jesus.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11
Those words bring profound comfort in a time of question marks.
I am thankful for that dark time in which God made me realize that Jesus is the light; more than just realize it but get it; not just read or hear it, but understand it. I learned to feel it in my heart. Jesus is the light.
“I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
I am thankful that when I was brought to my knees I learned I can do nothing without Jesus. I heard it and it made sense but when I can’t do anything, when I get stuck in a sloppy pile of life’s mud, then I begin to understand just how great my reliance on him is.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”John 15:5
I am thankful for the times I have been mad at God—not because I was justified in my madness and convinced the Almighty to see things my way—but because he showed me his unconditional love and mercy. I raged, and when I crawled back to him in supplication, he dusted me off and forgave me. I certainly did not deserve it.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.”Psalm 145:8
I am thankful for my life. In the collision of those two cells from my parents, I was created because God willed that I should exist. I am his beloved daughter and he is teaching me to believe that.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”Psalm 139:13-14a
I am grateful for the people who aggravate me because it gives me a chance to remember my own imperfection and practice love.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”Luke 6:36
I am thankful that sometimes the only thing I can do for someone I love who is hurting is pray because it reminds me that I am not the one who can fix things, it is God, and my prayers are sufficient.
“And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”1 John 5:14
What Are You Thankful For?
Did something happen this year that on the surface seemed bad, but turned out to be a blessing? What did Jesus teach you in your suffering and trials?
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Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. She loves leading small faith groups for moms and looking for God in the silly and ordinary. She blogs and writes for her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.