yesterday my cell lit up at work.
it was a call from my university, a call that soured my mood.
apparently i have a balance on my account.
i’m one month away from finishing my bachelors and credential.
i just have one more assignment and one more test to complete.
“i’ll have to take care of it at the end of the month.” i assured the woman on the line. i start panicking, picturing this debt coming back to bite me. what if i can’t get my degree? what if i can’t pay for the test? what if i fail my assignment? these thoughts zip through my mind while i raked through our online bank account.
overwhelmed, i click the x to close the window. now i’m thinking about the promise i made the kids before i dropped them off that morning. i reminded them of our weekend plans to see Wonder. i am totally giddy about this movie because Evan devoured the book this past summer. i too, read a lot of it aloud and we all fell in love with sweet August’s character. plus reading the book before the movie is pretty much the coolest, most awesome feeling when you got your popcorn and you finally plop down in your comfy theatre seat on the day of its release… eeek! it’s like you’re somehow in on the secret.
so as you can imagine, my heart sank when i realized i promised something i don’t think i can deliver. we just don’t have the funds this month, nor the credit. my schooling and unemployment pretty much raped us the past 2 years.
fear and regret are my go-to emotions.
anxiety wells in my chest and steals my joy again.
i come home from work angry.
scowling, actually, at my husband.
blame is my other go-to.
a convo about money ensues while i’m burning hamburger buns.
just before we sit down to eat, i manage to blurt out,
“this is not the life i planned!”
please tell me wives, you… you’ve been there? sigh.
the next morning i feel ashamed.
i feel like i spit in God’s face after all he’s done to provide for us.
after all He’s done to redeem this family.
it’s easy to be thankless.
on the flipside, it takes work to have a thankful heart.
but what is a thankful heart anyway?
i get in these funks — even though i know they’re wrong.
i guess i will always struggle with my rebellious nature to some extent.
i guess i constantly need to be reminded of what really matters. and that is certainly not stuff, as most of us would agree. so then why the funks?
oh i don’t know, gulp.
W.T. Purkiser once stated, “it’s not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, that is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
we all know the difference between saying and doing, right?
so hear me out, i can spout thanks like the best of ‘em. and most would agree that is a good thing. no?
but can i live out thanks in my heart day after day even if i feel deprived and/or entitled?
the answer is no.
consistent genuine thanks requires so much more of me.
it requires action.
but mostly, it requires humility.
i can almost guarantee my thanks is robotic if…
:: i want more and more stuff
:: i continue to complain and grumble about life
:: i compare myself or my kids or my hubby to the Jones’
:: i’m short with my kids
:: i act deserving
:: i put God on the back burner
:: i bicker about my husband
:: i’m lazy
expressing thanks and appreciation and gratitude and all that good stuff is not just about sharing with the world the happy feelings in my heart. that’s kinda like entirely missing the point. wouldn’t you say?
no, the core of a thankful heart is a deeply humble person.
and i am not this.
which is why i struggle.
which is why i’m writing this.
to reorient my heart.
because here i am, again. sigh.
and it’s nearly Thanksgiving.
so am i just fooling myself when i say i’m thankful for…. fill-in-the-blank?
like the verbs love and faith, to know it’s real, it must prove itself with action.
but i can’t do this kind of thanks on my own, in my own strength.
i have to ask for God’s help and for an attitude that strives to respond to God’s love.
you see, it’s never about thanking God/the universe in exchange for a warm fuzzy feeling,
or because we should,
or because He commands it,
God doesn’t want robots.
that is religion and that is blasphemy to Him.
when i can finally say “wow, this is amazing! thank you, God. how can i respondto your love?” i have learned the posture of true thanks.
of course. it starts with realizing how much God has given me by expressing my thanks, but if i don’t respond with action, my “thanks” is false, fake, phony baloney.
anyone can talk the talk.
but can i walk the walk?
in my gratitude notebook i scribbled down the many things i have come to call “gifts” (i.e. blessings):
-a car that gets us places
-endless food aisles at the grocery store
aside from simply expressing thanks, how can i givethanks for those things, truly?
give being the action verb.
let’s take endless food aisles at the grocery store. i wrote that down as a “gift” at one point. now how do i show thanks for all the amazing foods we have immediate access to?
saying it, sure. “thank you, God.”
but with these too: stewardship. contentment. giving back.
these three things truly validate thankful heart.
let me explain with a non-example.
here’s what a thankful heart is not:
off to the grocery store i go…to get more…to be annoyed with every person there – ‘cause it’s crowded and they’re all in my way … to ignore the checker without even so much as a smile… to leave my shopping cart there to bang into someone else’s car… to drive away in a hurry not even realizing what a blessing it is to walk into a store to get food, or anythingfor that matter any time i want. oh but i wrote it down somewhere that i am so very thankful for the endless aisles of food at the grocery store.
pause for a minute with me and really figure this one out. i can say i’m thankful, but is that really thankfulness? my actions are not in line with my words. if i really appreciate the many varieties of foods at my fingertips, how will my actions show it?
stewardship: i would probably use what food i have first before purchasing more.
contentment: i wouldn’t buy unnecessary items.
giving back: i would try to put food in the mouths of those who don’t have it as readily. i would treat the people at the store with kindness. i would help make their job easier by putting my cart back and finally yeh, i would thank God for living in a country that is so well off.
-if i am thankful for my mom, i will value her by calling her, attempting to see her more often, deepening our relationship.
-if i am thankful for time to write, i will use it wisely – not frittering it away on unproductivity or meaningless tasks.
-if i am thankful for water i will use it sparingly, and give back to those in need.
-if i am thankful for my health, i will eat healthy and work out (ha!) — be a good steward of my body. i will be content with what God gave me, and i will give my body/mind over to use for God’s purposes.
counting our blessings is a start, but beyond that i must define thanks with a humble heart as a good steward of what i have been given, as a content receiver of such grace-filled gifts, and as one who is generous, the way God is with me, finding ways to give back.
i can assure you i haven’t gotten any of this down yet. so good thing for grace! in fact, these ideas have had time to marinate as they were written over 6 years ago on my previous blog! and would you believe i still fight myself on behalf of real thankfulness. surely it’s different this time. since i’m in a different place. but the struggle is always birthed via my thoughts. it’s in my attachment to needing a “normal” family with normal family routines. my feelings of depriving my children from a movie. my entitled attitude about our finances.
what i fail to see is, i am blessed.
why am i blessed?
so i can bless others.
that is what the heart of thanksgiving is.
does it ever make sense that we keep taking and still God keeps giving?
we gotta learn how to respond, and not robotically with mere words.
but genuinely with action.
because in the end (thankful) actions speak louder than (thankful) words.
Do you struggle with thankfulness at times, please say I’m not the only one?
What are you thankful for? And how can you show genuine thanks?
Leave a comment, say hello.