Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

90 days of thanks and giving, part 2

In the big picture, 90 days is just a tiny blip on the timeline of my life. A small fraction of the days I have spent here on earth, and hope to spend in the future. But when you’re in the midst of something really challenging, or when you’re waiting for something, 90 days can feel like an eternity.

Ninety days ago I began an experiment, set-out on a small journey, to see what it would be like to practice intentional gratitude every day for three months. I wish I could tell you that this challenge got easier the longer I did it. That, like working out or going to bed early, once I made the commitment and stuck to it for a month or two it became routine. But the truth is, finding something to be grateful for has often been difficult. Once I got through the obvious ones (my kids, my husband, my job, etc.) I had to really examine my world to find something new each day, made more challenging on the really hard days.

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Unfortunately, the last 90 days have not been a season where things just seem to fall into place, and life flows along at a normal pace. It’s been a really, really hard three months in so many ways — emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially, physically, etc. In fact, as I was writing this post my husband informed me that the dealer called…our SVU needs over $6,000 in repairs. *sigh* The hard continues.

But here’s what I’ve learned in this season, while doing this experiment:
God wants our gratitude and praise, even when we seem in short-supply of praise-worthy things.

Of course it’s easy to be thankful for all we have once per year, when looking around at the sum total. And of course it’s easy to be grateful when sickness is healed, and bills are paid, and the house is clean, and marriages are strong, and children are happy. But if we are only able to express gratitude when we feel blessed, then we have misunderstood the complexity and abundance of God’s love and provision.

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In Philippians, Paul tell us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:4-6)

What really gets me about this scripture is how much Paul repeats himself in just three verses. Twice he tells us to rejoice. Then he emphasizes the frequency in which we should rejoice and be thankful, saying “always” and “in every situation.” His main point is pretty clear. Paul doesn’t say to rejoice only when things are good. He doesn’t say to speak with thanksgiving only in the month of November. He says to do these things all of the time because “the Lord is near.”

And that’s it! That’s the only reason we need. The only catalyst to feel gratitude or to live a life of thanks and praise is God’s presence in our lives.

This is what the last 90 days have taught me. That when I stop and look, I can see God’s presence in my life every day.

When I am exhausted and worn down from the events of the day, I can see His presence in the quiet minutes after I crawl into bed.
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When I’m stressed about financial burdens, I can see His presence in my daughter opening her first savings account and earning her own money.
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When I’m filled with worry and anxiety over my son, I can see God’s presence in my son’s smile while tossing the football with his dad.
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When life feels messy, and hard, and overwhelming, I can see God’s presence in a group of friends gathered in our living room, praying together.
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So for 90 days this has been my objective, to find these moments, this evidence of God’s presence. As I already admitted, it hasn’t been easy. Many times I’ve been distracted by my own wants and worries and fears, and I’ve had to really work to see past this, to see God.

But He is steadfast. He is always near.

So I’m gonna keep on looking. I’m going to keep praising Him. I’m going to keep on coming to Him with thanksgiving, “in every situation.”

Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

 

#90daysof Thanksand Giving

 

This is the conclusion of my 90 day challenge. To read about how it all began, click here.

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90 Days of Thanks and Giving

Today is August 25th. Exactly 90 days until Thanksgiving.

I believe there are two things in this world that can do more to improve our attitude, inspire hope, create unity, and spread love more than anything else, and I’m challenging myself to be more intentional about both. They are, as you might have guessed, genuine thankfulness, and giving to others.

Two years ago I was inspired by a colleague to do a “100 Happy Days” challenge. What at first seemed like a fun exercise to focus on my blessings, turned into a real lesson on the power of positivity and living each day to its fullest. I discovered that when we challenge ourselves to find something to be happy about each day — even if it was just a pretty sunset or a few moments reading a book on my porch — it was easy to live every day in triumph and gratitude.

Intentionally seeking out joy is a sure way to find it.

My hope is this challenge will have a similar impact. Intentionally seeking opportunities to give to others, and/or find things to be thankful for will help me turn my focus away from selfish pursuits, lies from the enemy, and worldly defeat.

If you want to follow along my journey for the next 90 days, follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/neitherheightnordepth), Twitter (@jelise) or on Instagram (@jelise4peace).

Even better — why don’t you join me? Post a photo or story each day about your moment of thanks or giving (or both) to social media and tag it with #90DaysOfThanksAndGiving .  I would love to share this journey with you. Maybe together we can help turn the conversation on social media from anger and condemnation to love and gratitude.

2 Corinthians 9:11

The unexpected Thanksgiving gift

Christmas may be the holiday best-known for giving and receiving gifts, but just a few weeks ago I experienced an unexpected gift on Thanksgiving. A gift that will live in my heart forever.

Before I tell you what the gift was, I have to tell you a little bit about my family. Families are usually the people who have known you the longest, and yet sometimes you feel like they don’t really know you at all. Misplaced loyalties, unspoken expectations, and strong personalities can often lead to hurt feelings, tense moments, and even estrangement. Families can be complicated, and mine is no exception.

My family tree is a little more like a juniper bush – dense and wide spread. Due to divorces and re-marriages, I have many I consider family that are not blood related. I have two moms who raised me at different stages of my childhood and a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins. I also grew up knowing and loving three grandmothers and two grandfathers. When I was a little girl I spent a good bit of time with my grandparents during holidays and summers.

I remember a lot of family dinners at my Grandma and Pappy’s house (my dad’s parents). Their house was the central hub for my  dad’s three siblings and all their kids to gather. It was always loud…there was usually a football game being watched in the basement, aunts chattering in the living room, and kids playing on the floor or running in the yard. My Pappy was always trying to pull a coin out of someone’s ear and my uncles were relentlessly teasing someone — usually my aunt, me or my sister. It was a bit chaotic and not always happy, but it was family. It brought us together and my Grandma was the central force in that.

When I was 13 things changed. My Pappy died. For several years we all continued to gather at my Grandma’s house, but things weren’t quite the same. A few years went by, some family moved out of state, I went off to college, my dad and step-mom got divorced and suddenly there weren’t big family gatherings at Grandma’s anymore. Or at least they were a lot less frequent and smaller.

During the next few years I didn’t see my Grandma very often. And when I did I usually got a bit of a guilt trip for the lack of frequency of those visits. If there was an Olympic sport in handing out guilt trips, my Grandma could take home the gold. I laugh now, but back then I didn’t.

The honest truth is it was not always easy to visit with her. I wasn’t sure what to talk about. I took everything she said very personally, which often led to hurt feelings. I was wrapped up in my world as a young wife and professional and I felt like she just didn’t understand my life. Of course I didn’t really make much of an attempt to understand hers, either.

Things changed a little bit when I had my kids. They were, and still are, her only great-grandchildren and she really treasured that. I wouldn’t say that the frequency of visits improved much or we became closer, but at least now when we visited we had the kids to focus on as our common ground.

During my early 20’s and 30’s I lost both of my grandparents from my mom’s side, whom I had been close to. We also lost my uncle Bill, my dad’s brother, who was just 50 when he died. It was incredibly painful to watch my Grandma go through the loss of a child. I remember her saying to me after the funeral that parents aren’t supposed to out-live their children. As a mother of three I couldn’t begin to imagine what that was like for her. But it was then that I started to see her in a different light. I saw her not just as my Grandma, but as a woman. A woman whose greatest joy in life had been being a wife and mother. She had lost her husband and then a child. I suddenly saw how strong she was and even began to understand that the “guilt trips” came from a place of genuine longing to be with her family.

Late last year my step-Grandma passed away and I found myself with only one living grandparent, and a lot of regrets for time not spent with the ones I had lost.

In March we celebrated my Grandma’s 90th birthday. I took on the project of putting together a photo book of her life and it was a special gift for me to go through these old photos of her as a girl, young bride, and mother…to take a look at the journey of her life. Being my only living grandparent, I silently vowed I would spend more time visiting and calling…

…then two months ago I got a call that my Grandma was sick and in the hospital. The details didn’t sound promising. After a few days in the hospital they moved her to a rehab facility. She didn’t do well there. She couldn’t rest, she ended up with bronchitis and almost developed pneumonia. After several weeks of her being there and some conversations with my aunt I agreed we needed to get her out and offered for her to come stay with us. I wasn’t sure how long she would need me, but made arrangements with work so I could be home with her.

Grandma was only with us for one week, the week of Thanksgiving, but that time was a gift I will not soon forget. It was a week of sitting around the table drinking tea and talking, watching her play checkers with her great-grandson, and shopping together for new clothes. It was time spent napping in a recliner while a Hallmark movie played in the background, eating too much food, and reminiscing about times past. I got to hear about her first job cleaning outhouses at the public school, and how she saved that money to buy a yearbook and go to her senior party.

There were lots of hugs and kind words shared. And for just one brief week, Grandma let herself be taken care of by someone else, in the way she’d taken care of her family for so many years.

In 39 years of being grandmother and granddaughter, I don’t think anything we’ve experienced made me feel as close to her as that week did. And I’m sure that’s partly due to my age and a bit of perspective…things look a little different in middle age than they did in my 20’s.

I’m learning to let go of old hurts and unspoken expectations, to lower my walls and get rid of fear. I’m learning to focus on what really matters and family is at the heart of that.

I hope in ten years we’ll be celebrating Grandma’s 100th birthday and there will be many, many visits and phone calls in between. But the truth is, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

If you have kept family at a distance, or let old hurts linger, causing separation; if you are waiting for tomorrow or next week to pick up the phone and tell someone you love them or go visit that relative…I just want to ask you this one question: what if tomorrow never comes?

Don’t wait. Let go of your fears and your pride and do it today. Even if it’s hard and messy, it will still be worth it. And you might just be surprised at the results.

Let’s all give ourselves that most precious, beautiful gift.

The gift of time.