a new understanding of gratitude

IMG_2483God has been working on me to be more grateful. The message has been clear: “Give Me thanks in all things at all times.” Simple enough. Somehow, I still didn’t get it! It wasn’t clear to me exactly what my increased gratefulness was to look like. In talking to my beautiful friend Elise this morning, I put some of the work God is doing in me around gratitude into words. I talked my way into a new understanding of how I haven’t been very grateful, and what it is that God wants!

I have always been thankful to my parents for their love and gifts. They model both generosity and unconditional love to me still. I appreciate my family, friends, my health, my home and possessions, etc.  While there is room for improvement in expressing my gratitude, I think I do a decent job of telling the appropriate people how my much they mean to me and how thankful I am for their place in my life. That’s all good and important gratitude.

IMG_0580I even feel a sincere thankfulness to God for the “bad” things and hard times in my life.  I understand that He has used them for my good. I  can honestly be thankful for how He has worked in my life through many difficult situations — some still lingering.  So what’s been missing? Why is God calling me to gratitude? It came to me today: it’s my thanks to God (in addition to the people in my life) for all those blessings.

For an example, in 2008 I arrived for my son’s first football game at a new school in a new city.   I didn’t know parents and fans scouted out seats and taped off “their” sections well in advance of kick off. To take someone’s seat on Friday night was worse than sitting in the “wrong” pew on Sunday morning! I was standing at the top of the stadium alone, single, lost, and knowing no one.

I was rescued by  my sweet new friend, Margo who I had met when my sisters “just happened” to host a party that week, to introduce me to a few people in Atlanta. Margo has a beautiful spirit and became a treasured friend. I met a new friend, Elise, in the stands that night. She “just happened” to sit in front of me. We bonded discussing Christian author and speaker Larry Crabb — at a football game! Elise is an amazing person and walked with me through a critical part of my journey. I joined their Bible study and met many amazing women! I was thankful to Elise, to Margo and to my sisters, Lib and Sally, for all they did and who they are in my life even now. The gratitude is heartfelt — easy to feel and express.

IMG_0279But what of all the coincidences? I was thankful TO my friends FOR my friends.  But what about God?  I hadn’t given God more than a fleeting, short list acknowledgement of His hand in all the blessings of my move.  And it was really somewhat perfunctory and sanctimonious. I’m sad to say, beyond generalized thanksgiving in my prayers, this was my norm.  I said thank you to God as a part of my prayers. I even told people how good God had been in all the details of my move.  But deep in my heart where the Truth resides, I more or less forgot that God really does watch over me. He is with me always and cares about the very hairs on my head. He loves me and is intimately involved in the details of my life. He provides all good things. These truths were head knowledge. In reality, I lived on a horizontal, worldly plane as far as gratitude goes — then came Rob.

IMG_5611I had all but stopped dating. I felt like God was saying that He had chosen someone for me. “He” was nearby, but I wasn’t ready! I didn’t need to search for him. It was God’s to accomplish. How we met is another story for another time. Suffice it to say, from the time we first went out, he was immeasurably more than I could have hoped for or imagined — clearly a God-thing! We’ve been married a few years now, and still — several times a month,  I am overcome with gratitude TO GOD for Rob! Tears flow, and I am simply thankful for all God has done to take care of me. Through our relationship, God is teaching me so much!  And today, I recognized that God is showing me the importance of the spontaneous, present moment acknowledgement of His hand in all my life. Abundant gratitude to Him, is important in ALL things. It’s been a missing link in my life.

IMG_5828Of course, I express my immense thankfulness TO Rob for Rob and all he does and is. But that is a different picture than what I am learning. I am learning a deeper humility and who I am in relation to God. I am learning to enjoy my smallness and His infinite nature. I am better getting the notion that I am entitled to nothing. Nothing is a very inclusive word.  I am beginning to acknowledge a little more frequently that absolutely every good thing ultimately comes from my Father in heaven. God is worthy of my continuous praise and thanksgiving! I pray that this very day, the realities of who God is, and all He has done for me, will overwhelm me with tears of spontaneous gratitude.

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