Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giving Thanks

(This article appeared in my column "Haslet Faith," in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Haslet Style magazine.)

“Mo-om! Where’s my school T-shirt?” my first-grader asked on her way downstairs. “I can’t find it anywhere. Tomorrow is spirit day, and we’re supposed to wear our shirts!”

I was in the kitchen, washing dishes from dinner. “I don’t know, honey,” I said over the running water as I scrubbed pasta sauce out of the skillet. “Go check the laundry room.” I glanced at the dishwasher, trying to figure out how I could fit the skillet in the already overcrowded bottom shelf.

“Hey, Mom! It’s a shower night!” I heard my five-year-old call as she bounded past me on her way to the bathroom. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed she was holding a satin summer nightgown.

“Sweetie, it’s going to be forty degrees tonight. You’ll freeze in that nightgown.” I raised a soapy hand and pointed upstairs. “Go back upstairs and get some warm pajamas.”

“But Mom, I love this one! It’s my princess nightgown!” she pouted. I gave her The Look. She reluctantly headed back upstairs.

I finally managed to find a spot for all the dishes, squeezed a dollop of detergent, and shut the dishwasher door. As it hummed to life, I grabbed a damp dishcloth to wipe the table.

I’d only taken a couple of steps when a tiny hand grabbed hold of my pant leg.

“Mama! Mama!”

I stopped midstride and looked down at my two-year-old. Sigh. “What do you need, honey?”

“Wa-der, Mama. Pleeease?” He was holding his empty sippy cup, his wide blue eyes sparkling with hope. Honestly, could this boy be any more adorable?

“Okay, sweetie.” I sighed, tossing the dishcloth in the sink. I grabbed his cup and headed to the fridge to fill it with water. He merrily trotted along beside me.

“Mom! I can’t find my shirt in the laundry!” My first-grader appeared in the kitchen, clearly miffed. “There’s too much stuff in there! I can’t even open the door!”

I handed the sippy cup to my son. “Honey, I’m sorry,” I told her. “Your shirt is probably in one of the clean clothes piles, but I don’t have time to look for it tonight. Just wear something else instead.”

“But Mom! I need my spirit shirt! Tomorrow is Friday!”

I took a deep breath and reminded myself to count to ten before responding. One—two—three—

“Mama! Mama! Mama!” I felt my son’s familiar tug on my pant leg. —four—five—six—

“Mama!” The tugging continued, more insistent now. —seven—eight . . . Oh, forget it.

“What?! What do you need now, sweetie?” I tried to keep my voice from sounding as aggravated as I felt at the moment. If I have to do one more thing right now, I think I’ll—

He looked up at me with a broad grin. “T’ank you!” he said brightly.

I stood there for a moment, his sing-song words of gratitude echoing in my mind as I watched him happily totter down the hall with his cup of water.

We’ve tried to teach our children the courtesy of simple manners. How many times have we reminded them, “Remember to say please and thank you”? But something about hearing those words that night brought everything back into perspective.

Thank you!

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

The apostle Paul instructed the church, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV; emphasis added). I’ve known this verse for many years, but I have to admit that “Give thanks in all circumstances” doesn’t always make it on my daily to-do list.

To be honest, the last thing on my mind that frazzled evening was gratitude. I was too busy focusing on the dirty dishes in the sink, the ominous mountain of laundry, and my three children who needed to be bathed, dressed, and put to bed—on a night when my husband was at a church meeting and unable to help. It was a hectic night, to be sure.

But the apostle Paul’s command is not for us to “give thanks for all circumstances.” Instead, we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

All too often we get so caught up in our daily circumstances—whether good or bad—that we don’t take time to acknowledge the blessings God has given us. Yet God wants us to thank Him for His abundant provision and grace in our lives every day.

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally; that’s why we have to teach our children to say thank you. Thankfulness is something we choose, even when life is difficult.

Psalm 50:23 says God is honored when we offer Him “a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Whether we’re digging though a pile of laundry, taking a sick child to the hospital, or watching our IRAs disappear before our very eyes, gratitude gives us a chance to look beyond our present circumstances to see the big picture.

See the Big Picture

So in the middle of that busy evening, with a kitchen that still needed cleaning and piles of laundry still taking over my house and children who still needed to be bathed and put to bed, I took a moment to step back and see the big picture of God’s plan and provision for us.

  • Thank You, God, for the dishes in my sink tonight. They remind me that You have provided food for our family and a house where we can gather together for meals.
  • Thank You, God, for that gigantic mountain of laundry. You have blessed us with plenty of clothes for our family, clothes that keep us warm on these chilly nights.
  • Thank You, God, for the church meeting Brett is leading tonight. Thank You for calling us to start The Church at Sendera Ranch and for how You are building Your church here to reach this community and to change lives for good.
  • Thank You, God, for our three beautiful children, whom you have entrusted to our care. As I give them baths and put them to bed tonight, help me to remember that each of them is a precious gift from You.

As I began to “give thanks in my circumstances,” I was amazed at the difference in my perspective. In spite of my frustrations, I began to see God’s faithfulness. Instead of regretting the petty things I didn’t have, I was truly grateful for the priceless things I did have.

Everyday Thanksgiving

Showing gratitude for God’s gifts to us shouldn’t be limited to the Thanksgiving holiday. Our heavenly Father is honored when we choose to thank Him for the many things He provides for us every day.

In this busy holiday season, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on God’s goodness. How has He blessed you this year? In what specific ways can you give Him thanks in your circumstances right now? Express your gratitude to God in prayer, and consider jotting down those blessings in a “gratitude journal” to remind you of God’s provision and grace.

And no matter what 2009 brings, let’s choose to keep this attitude of gratitude all year long. After all, we have so much to be thankful for. As we celebrate at Christmas, “God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Now that’s a gift that deserves a big “Thank you!”


  1. Thank you for the wonderful post. It is true...we sometimes get distracted and treat our blessings as curses.

  2. Jennifer, Thank you so much for this...I just read Phil. last night as I was feeling so frustrated and discouraged in this refining process God has had me in for the past 2 years...He has been speaking to is a choice. And what a God wink that I blogged about this and then clicked on your blog!! :) Thank you for your sweet and obedient spirit!!