Christian Living

Using Thanksgiving as a Springboard

The holidays are here! Did anybody have a moment of panic when they realized Thanksgiving is this week? Much as I love Thanksgiving, it feels like the gateway to a month of trying to cram holiday traditions in. I had to remind myself that we’ve done the pre-work: 90% of our shopping and wrapping is done, and we made a family list of activities we want to get in before now and Christmas (different lights displays, making cookies, doing the tree, etc.). Most of those activities even got written on the calendar.

I’ve been thinking about how Thanksgiving sets us up for the holiday season much the way that Sabbath sets us up for a good week. Or at least that it can set us up for a good holiday season.

JB Glossinger talks about how most of us see things as 51% negative and 49% positive, but if we can flip those numbers, we can change our entire lives. A changed perspective can be the difference between worry and trust, between the hope that drags a person forward and despair that leaves us exhausted.

Gratitude is one way we can have a more positive outlook. I’m always amazed by how differently I can feel about my life from day to day. Tuesday last week I was excited about the projects I had going on and ready to take on the week. Wednesday, I was convinced we haven’t made any progress in the past year and that we weren’t going to make any. There were no major changes that happened Tuesday night or on Wednesday. I was a little sleep deprived so that was part of it. But mostly, it was just a perspective shift. The same events that seemed so hopeful and exciting on Tuesday were lackluster and a waste of time on Wednesday.

I have found, however, that if I catch myself when I start sliding into negativity and add gratitude to the mix, I can keep from having that negative perspective shift. A gratitude list is one way to do that–although I can make a list without actually feeling gratitude; it turns into a list of things I should be grateful for. Another way is to pick one or two things you’re grateful for (or know you should be grateful for) and to dwell on them until your heart swells and you see God’s grace at work.

Thanksgiving can be a day of frantic cooking and stressful interactions. It can also be a day to reflect on the amazing things God has done in our lives. It just depends on what we choose to do with the day.

Gratitude can be a solid foundation to springboard into the holidays with a heart that is looking for God’s hand, for the good gifts that He wants to give us this December.

Blog_ Using Thanksgiving as a springboard

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Celebrating Gratitude

Good morning, everyone. How’s everyone’s holiday spirit?

Surprisingly, mine has been all right thus far. It’s a huge win for me to enter Thanksgiving—Christmas without panic attacks. Pretty happy about that! Due to unforeseen circumstances (a rotted subfloor in our bathroom) we’ve been spending a lot of time in home improvement stores over the past three weeks. Can I just say that I think Thanksgiving is seriously underrated? The stores and radio stations were already full-steam ahead with Christmas even three weeks ago.

Even if you take out the historical significance, science has proven the benefits of gratitude. I try to begin and end my day with gratitude. It retrains your brain to look for the positives in life. And, in America, every year we get a whole holiday dedicated to gratitude!

How does your family celebrate? Growing up, Thanksgiving was traditionally a holiday for friends and Christmas was our family-holiday. I have many fond memories of my family and our friends eating our way through a turkey on Thanksgiving. After my husband and I got married, we didn’t carry turkey or friends into Thanksgiving. Some years we spend it with extended family. Some years we have macaroni and cheese with our kids and watch movies.

One tradition we got from my family of origin is a Thanksgiving Book. It’s a tradition I am so thankful that my parents started. Basically, on Thanksgiving, you sit down as a family and write down all the things you’re thankful for about the past year, all the ways you’ve seen God work. And then you read through the previous years’ entries (or at least some of them, depending on how many you’ve got). It’s an awesome way to celebrate God’s faithfulness and to bolster your faith for the future. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought to God, “well, you’ve gotten us out of x, y, z in the past so I know You’ll get us out of this one.”

Another thing I love about Thanksgiving is the timing. We kind of start our holiday season here in the U.S. with Thanksgiving and end it with New Year’s. It’s easy to get frazzled with all the activities and gift-shopping and decorating and family time and–well, you get the picture. One of the health benefits of gratitude is an increased ability to handle stress both mentally and physically. I need all the help I can get 😉

I know Thanksgiving is often a very hectic day (especially for the folks who are cooking giant meals!) but let’s all take a few minutes to remember just what we have to be thankful for. As Paul says, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18 NIV). No matter what kind of situation we find ourselves in this Thanksgiving, there’s something there we can be thankful for–we just have to keep our eyes open for the good things.