From Gloomy to Grateful
There's been plenty going on since September 11 to fill us all with despair. Six thousand plus deaths in one unthinkable day. Deadly anthrax traveling through the mail. American troops in dangerous locations. Countless refugees on the verge of starvation. I started watching the news as I get ready every morning as a way to stay informed in these uncertain times, and many days have ended up a tad depressed or anxious.
So, as an antidote to all the gloom and doom, I've dug out my Thanksgiving journal, one of those books in which you jot what you're thankful for. I bought mine years ago when Oprah made them popular. It wasn't Oprah who swayed me to buy it, it was the concept. Being thankful in a daily, deliberate way sounded like a great idea — as well as a biblical one. Countless times throughout the Bible, right after God did a mighty work among his people, he commanded them to build an altar or make a pact as a way to commemorate this great work — and to help the people remember. As one who can't remember from one moment to the next where I've left my keys, I totally relate to the need for tangible reminders of God's involvement in my life. And that's the role this journal has played in my life.
Off and on over the past several years I've recorded in it things large and small for which I've been thankful. When I dug the journal out again recently, from the bottom of a stack of to-be-read-someday books, I thoroughly enjoyed reading back through these entries.
I smiled at some of the simple pleasures I'd recorded: blueberries, a particularly vibrant autumn tree on my way to work, payday, pesto, allergy medicine, Sunday afternoon naps, a fun new CD, wool socks, air conditioning, yummy leftovers from eating out, a beautiful full moon, clean sheets.
Other things I'd written now hold more significance. A couple years ago I jotted down that I was thankful for being able to call my grandma and wish her a happy 81st birthday on the actual day. Since she's now in an Alzheimer's health care facility and usually doesn't recognize me when I visit, this memory now holds a special place in my heart. Another entry makes me smile — the joy of my then-new tradition of making banana-chocolate-chip pancakes on Saturday mornings with my roommate. Since she's now in Mongolia teaching English through a Christian missions organization, I treasure those times we shared even more.
There are thanksgivings for lunch or coffee with new friends, people who are now some of my closest confidantes. I was surprised to see that I'd scribbled in my joy over phone calls or dinners out with various guys over the past several years. And once, a couple years ago, I simply wrote: "I have a boyfriend!" Just when I'm tempted to think I've become invisible to the opposite sex, it's good to read reminders that at least a few men have taken notice of my existence.
Overall, I love how jotting down things big and small that have blessed me each day helps me focus more on what I have instead of what I don't — such as a spouse, a house, or a new SUV. As singles, it's so easy to see the glass as half empty instead of savoring what God has chosen to heap on us in the areas of our life that are so full. In fact, when I choose to focus on the positive, I realize that, more often than not, my cup runneth over.
I've also learned something about God in all this — that he's definitely involved in the details of our lives. He's the one who made sure I had $83 dollars in my purse when I bought $82.53 worth of groceries. He's the one who brought each of those now-treasured friends into my life. He's the one who provided me a glimpse of that breathtaking tree, allowing me to admire his handiwork.
This truth about God gives me hope in these tough times, because I know the God who's intimately involved in the details of my life is also intimately involved in the lives of each soldier, world leader, grieving family member, and hungry refugee. This comfort will give me plenty to be thankful for this November 22 — and beyond.