Ah, friends. How is it the end of November already?
Earlier today, while I was at Panera, an older woman stopped to ask me the time. I was sitting at a table eating lunch and writing this post so my computer was open. I looked at the clock, then looked up at her, "2:21," I said.
"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed, eyes wide like she was late for something, "Time waits for no one!"
I smiled, "No. No it doesn't."
She rushed off on her way, seemingly shocked that the day was going so fast. I continued writing this post, pondering how the last month has gone by so fast. This month, last month, the month before that...
Wasn't it just the 4th of July? I swear we were just waving sparklers and eating Doritos beneath a cascading fireworks display?
But, alas, here we are, playing bumper carts at the grocery store as we pick up recipe items for stuffing and green bean casserole, while reckoning with the fact that it's the last week of November, which means Christmas is also RIGHT. AROUND. THE. CORNER!!!
I have really enjoyed writing about gratitude and thanksgiving in this space this month. This is my 4th and final post on the topic and the act of writing these posts, if nothing else, has awakened my own heart and mind to the necessity of practicing gratitude not just in the month of November, but as a regular part of my life. All. Year. Round.
For me, this more intentional gratitude practice came at a good time- the days have been getting shorter with the dark coming early. It's getting cold in the Northeast and between the shorter days and the colder weather I often want to just curl up in a ball and hibernate. I've struggled with seasonal affective issues for years, and feel like I'm still recovering from last winter. I hate the term "seasonal affective disorder" (SAD) because "disorder" carries a lot of negative connotations, and the complexities that contribute to SAD are deep and wide. It's a different recipe for each person that has to do with hormones, serotonin levels, biological sensitivities, season of life, etc. etc. etc. However, the struggles are real and I've been feeling tired and less chipper than I'd like.
While I may write more about SAD at another time, you can hop on over to Sarah Geringer's blog to read some best practices for combating SAD--she has a great 4-part series on it that she's currently re-running on her website. As for me, I just dug my Verilux light lamp out of the basement and sat in front of it while sipping coffee for 25 minutes earlier today (yes, yes, I actually do this! If you're feeling blue, c'mon over. I'll make you a latte on our espresso machine and we can both sit in front of the lamp together!)
All that to say, I am thankful for sunshine and blue skies today. I am thankful for the week that lies ahead and the chance to get together with family and friends. I am thankful for our church and the fellowship we experience there every week. For the series our pastor has been teaching on Thanks-Living, which is a term I hadn't heard before, but have been thinking a lot about over the last few weeks.
May we all find ways to carry our gratitude from this month of November, where we are reminded in extra measure to practice saying "thanks", into the other 11 months. May we all find ways to increase our own thanks living each and every day...all year round.
I have to tell you, my "plans" to practice gratitude with the entire family have not gone quite as I had hoped. I had the quotes written down, bought several books, had a list of scriptures I was going to write on our chalkboard, and all sorts of ideas for mealtime talks.
It all seemed so grand and sweet and do-able in my mind.
We do have a handful of thankfulness items written on leaves and taped to our gratitude tree. I did write one of the four verses that I jotted down up on our chalkboard-- it's been there for two weeks now. I'm hoping someone else in the house has actually noticed it. I've read a couple of books about giving thanks with Aubrey and we took cranberry sauce and apple pie to a "Friends-Giving" celebration (which is always one of our favorite events of November).
That's all good, right?
I can sometimes be hard on myself when the grand plans are quickly reduced to much smaller plans, and haphazard conversations at the dinner table are squeezed in in between arguing about who gets the ketchup first and how someone is annoyed that someone else is chewing too loudly.
But, I realized this week, that as the kids are getting older and we continue to live our full and sometimes admittedly too busy lives, that we're not always going to be able to teach our kids about things like gratitude, or God's grace, or the deep meaning of praise and thankfulness in picturesque conversations at a Hallmark ready dinner table.
That doesn't mean we don't still point them in the right direction. I've posted quotes around the house, have hung "thankful" signs and banners in the kitchen, and have kicked up conversations about these things in the car and sometimes at dinner. I've done my best to do what I could do this month. Sometimes our plans intersect with this thing called life, and we need to give ourselves enormous grace when the outcome is not quite as planned.
I also realized that the most important thing that I could do this month was to practice deeper gratitude in my own life-- to make myself a more grateful person. I've done this by writing down the things I'm thankful for in my journal (and sometimes online), by integrating more praise into my prayer times, and by deepening my own understanding of gratitude. Ultimately, we are our children's greatest example, so even when our grand plans for family meals, and conversations don't play out the way we dreamed they would, we can continue to set an example of what we're preaching (and planning!) in our own lives.
I encourage you to be the example-setter this week. Be grateful while you're running errands, and buying dinner groceries, and helping your child clean their very, very, VERY messy bedroom (Ok, maybe that was me on Saturday night, and I wasn't so grateful about it and said a lot of grumpy things about messes. I've since asked for forgiveness and am changing my grumbling ways and promise to be more joyful the next time I enter said bedroom!).
I encourage you also to give yourself grace when your best laid plans for grand Pinterest holiday crafts, devotionals, and family gathering ideas don't go quite as you were hoping they would.
It's normal. I promise. It doesn't mean you're a bad mom. I double promise. And you're still teaching your children wonderful, beautiful things in the middle of it all.
Now our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name
1 Chronicles 29:13