Columnist: “Count your blessings” • Jennifer Smith, Marriage & Family Therapist
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Every year it seems earlier and earlier that we try to pass it by, and go straight to Christmas. I heard a news commentator say that political ads were going to be immediately replaced with Christmas ads. She was correct. I think I saw one on TV on Nov. 7th.
Before we get to Christmas, let’s take a moment to honor what it means to give thanks. Our church did a book study on 1000 Gifts by Ann VosKamp. A challenge we took was to write down at least seven things for which we were grateful every day. What this required was the practice of looking and seeing the world around us, and then choosing to be grateful for what we saw.
Sara Ban Breathnach says that, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
I would go even farther to say that gratitude changes our brains, and our very souls. It is certainly a contributing factor to sound mental health. So many people believe that they have no choice in the way they see the world, but our brains are remarkable organs. We have the power to train them towards gratitude and away from negativity and lack. The way to do this it to slow down and take the time to see and appreciate what is around us. For some reason, we default into the position of seeing the negative and then we become the very thing that we see. If our eyes are the window to our souls, being negative instead of grateful becomes a soul condition, but one that can be fixed.
It is fixed with gratitude. VosKamp says that “giving thanks is an invitation to slow time down with the full weight of full attention.” It is like a pause, whereby we stop and reflect on what it around us at any given moment that is worthy of our thanks. It can be something as small as the smell of coffee brewing in the morning or the beauty of the color of the leaves changing. Slowing down also helps us to reframe any given situation through the eyes of gratitude and faith.
We are blessed with the ability to see so much around us that is worthy of our gratitude. And when we start looking we see even more. Often we do not see because we are caught in “time’s strangling grip.” We rush, we hurry and we don’t stop to see.
In the book 1000 Gifts the author describes her gratitude when observing a harvest moon. The stunning beauty she experiences leads to her worship. She says, “the weight of God’s glory, not illusory or ephemeral, but daily and everywhere, punctures earth’s lid and heaven falls through the holes. I kneel in wheat, moonstruck.”
Reasons for gratitude are all around. I challenge you to take pause this Thanksgiving to see.
Do you have a question about building healthy relationships? Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Printed in the November 15, 2012 edition