Thursday, October 24, 2013

Falling into Thankfulness

Fall is in full swing right now. We had our first snow early this week. Leaves everywhere are turning different shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. The wind whips them up high in the and they spin around and around. The crisp cold air is refreshing to breathe. Where before drops of dew danced on blades of grass every morning they now are sprinkled with tiny crystals of frost. A warm cup of tea or a freshly poured coffee mug melts the coldness out of my fingers each day. It is beautiful, I am thankful for fall.

I sip and I think, usually skipping breakfast until my brain is awake again. Kids run around, sometimes my coffee gets cold because we are busy. There is no time to slowly enjoy my little moment of happiness. Too many spills to wipe up, lost mittens or hats to find, or little arguments to settle. Sigh. Mornings are not exactly easy here. Six little feet run up and down the stairs and around our little home and I only have two. It is exhausting. Sometimes it is overwhelming. The busyness swallows me up like rushing water in a river. Maybe that is what drowning feels like?

And yet I can still breathe. My lungs still work. Somehow we get through it. A couple of tears hidden maybe here or there, but we make it. Sometimes there is yelling or tantrums. Slightly scarred or rattled, but off we go. To school, to work, to the store. To wherever life demands we go. Hi-ho.

It is enough to make me laugh with insanity sometimes. They say laughter is the best medicine. When you drop a glass bowl and shards go everywhere. All because in your rush you were clumsy. You laugh when your kids leave sticky paint foot prints on the couch, the doormat, and the front door. All because you had this great idea to let them paint but didn't specify right outside the front door. When you lose your keys and you were supposed to leave 5 minutes ago. You laugh. A big belly laugh. All of these happened yesterday. I am not making this up.

 It makes it hard to be thankful when busyness fills our lives.

A wise woman (one with more experience and years under her belt than I have) once told me that I shouldn't assume after kids things get less busy. Oh how I was disappointed, I hoped one day I wouldn't be busy. She explained to me that with children gone there are jobs to be done, relatives to visit, friends to help, retirement to focus on, and places to see. Life never slowed down. Life is always busy.

She was right. No matter what I do life will happen. Things break. Messes happen. Things are lost. It will make you forget what is important. Ever since then I have made it a priority to not let being busy change me, to be my excuse. I'm not going to let "busyness" take over my life and keep me from seeing the good around me, from being the good around me.

Something I decided many years ago was to always find the positive. I'm a generally optimistic person by nature. I have found that if I can find one good thing every day I am happier. Finding one happy moment or thing in my day fills me with so much gratitude that it changes my perspective. It is like power food for the soul, it keeps fueling me to keep going. It changes my relationships, my attitude and fills me up.

Being thankful or having gratitude for all the good things in our life could quite possibly be a key to living a happier and purpose driven life. "Psychological research suggests that happiness is more related to being grateful for what we already have," writes William F. Doverspike, Ph.D of the Georgia Psychological Association.  There are even studies that show gratitude is good for your health. Over 26 studies and counting, show how being thankful can really impact our lives.

Finding these little blessings and being thankful for them draw us closer to God. When Jesus broke bread with his disciples at the Last Supper he gave thanks to God. In his final hours before death he chose to thank God.

Luke 22:19
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

When we appreciate the good things around us we are choosing to see the good of God's creation. Bad things happen, messy life happens, suffering happens. However, there are also good things that fill this world with joy. Big or small, they matter. Sometimes being thankful even shows us how to love each other. When we know what matters, what we would be thankful for, we are better able to serve others around us.

Today as I was nearly 3/4 of the way through writing this post, the family across the street from us lost their dog. Their little girl plays with our boys all the time. She is adorable, wild and fun just like any little girl in first grade. She was really hurt today and couldn't stop crying. I watched my kids and the other neighbor kids try to make her feel better. They already know how to be a blessing, how to give her something to be thankful for, how to just be there for their friend. We played board games, watched youtube videos, and baked cookies together. We even shared stories of what we felt like when we lost a pet and picked the last flowers of the year to put on their dog's grave. She told me her mom who died of cancer is with her dog now. I think she felt a little better after that. I couldn't help but give her a hug.

Every day I make a list of what I'm thankful for. Daily. Sometimes more than once in a day even. I don't have have to write it down, I just mentally note what I have been blessed with. No matter what I am feeling, no matter how bad my day is, no matter who let me down or made me angry or sad. I'm thankful for this I tell myself.

Today, I'm thankful for cold coffee. Thankful for those six little feet. The ones that kicked my tummy before they were born and grew up to kick soccer balls around the yard and sometimes in the house. Thankful for those hands that make messes but always want my hugs. Thankful for the gift of motherhood. For friendship, for neighbors. Thankful that we have a home that we can fill up with memories. Thankful for my husband that works really hard to make not just our needs possible but our dreams possible too. Thankful for supportive friends, teachers and mentors in my life that have been a blessing to me and shaped me into the person, the story, that I am now. Thankful for a God that has blessed me with more than enough.

What are you thankful for today? Find a blessing in your life and be thankful for it.

Want to read more about gratitude?

Gratitude: A Key to Happiness by William F. Doverspike, Ph.D.

The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting by Amit Amin

The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier by Ocean Robbins

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