"What shall I render to the Lord for all of His benefits toward me? To thee I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the Lord, Oh, may it be in the presence of all His people; Praise the Lord!"
Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of the year. It is a time of family gathering, great food, and cozy times, but also a time of nurturing a thankful heart.
In general, I do not think thankfulness is a very natural trait. Most often, it seems to me, that people who are grateful are those who have been taught to be thankful--to acknowledge a kindness, to be trained to give words of graciousness to those who have blessed us. Training a child to be thankful is of utmost importance. It is a delightful experience to be around a child who has been trained to thankfulness. "Thank you for having me over. Thank you for that wonderful meal. Thank you for the ride. Thank you for the lovely gift." It makes me want to keep giving to that child or friend or family.
I recently had a very humbling experience. A sweet mom who is overflowing with pregnancy, and already has 3 wee children in her home, wrote an email to me and said, "I appreciate so much what you do by having all the women into your home every month and so before I have my baby in three weeks, I want to bring you two meals on two different days, and I want to have your house cleaned for you! I am so thankful for all the ways you have blessed me and taught me and encouraged me. So I didn't just want to say thanks. I wanted to show thanks to your family."
When she showed up at the door, she had a wonderful dinner, banana bread for the next morning for breakfast, bags of little extras, and an apology that she was 15 minutes late! As she walked in, Sarah saw how very pregnant she was and when she left, she commented, "Mom, we should be serving her a meal! She is the one who needs some rest and help. But it almost always seems that the busier people are, the more they are able to give. What a sweet mom."
It was a blessing to me in more ways than I can tell. I do Bible studies and fun nights in my home because I love to do them and I love the precious moms who come. But having her thank me, not just with words, but actions, deeply ministered to me. It really did mean a lot to me to know that these evenings had meant so much to this precious mom. She took time out of her busy schedule to sacrifice by blessing me. Her sacrifice not only filled our tummies and made it easier from me to have my Bible study (after her friend cleaned my house) but it really touched my heart and gave me a reason to keep doing this.
In the old testament, a sacrifice of thanksgiving was given by people who were to make unleavened cakes and unleavened wafers. It was something given as a praise and thanksgiving to God--acknowledging all that He was and all that He had done. A sacrifice of praise was to take time, intention and forethought.
Similarly, I think that it is of great importance to take time to thank God. But I have also thought that even as the mom greatly pleased me by serving me, that there is no better way to show God our thanks. I have pondered what that meant for Clay and me and the kids not just to thank God but to thank Him with our deeds as well. Slowly God has given me some fun ideas that have helped me feel direction for our family in helping nurture this area.
I think that one of the reasons David is such a picture of a man after God's own heart, was that he was constantly writing songs about God's goodness and faithfulness and thanking Him and praising Him. He believed in God's goodness, even in the midst of a very difficult life. But even more, as a king, He led all of the people in giving God the glory due His name. He called all of his people to sing, play instruments, worship and dance before God--he did it with all of His heart- because of a humble and overflowing heart that truly loved and treasured God. Practical applications to thanksgiving for our children give them patterns that they will practice the rest of their lives.
I must admit that most of my prayers going heavenward are petitions, requests. Yet, I am learning that thanksgiving is an exercise of my character that eventually influences my heart. When I look at my life with thankful eyes, it lifts my heart to see how truly blessed I am and makes all the other issues of my life seem less important. Thanksgiving not only pleases God, but it releases in me all the issues of my life. It gives me a power to be able to believe Him for great things. It causes my soul to soar because it puts me heavenward instead of earthbound. I don't think it is possible to have a truly thankful heart and to acknowledge God's sovereignty over all situations and a bitter heart at the same time--it is one or the other. God would have us be thankful.
On the occasion of my 50th birthday, Sarah made me a lovely gold framed list of 50 attributes that she appreciated about me. I have it in my bedroom and cherish it. Though I live with my shortcomings and weaknesses every day, her verbalizing to me what she loved about me has encouraged me again and again. For every year of my life, I am going to write down something I really am thankful for about the Lord. All of us are doing this as a practice this year. I did it this morning and find that by seeing all of His attributes and provisions and naming them, I am in a whole different frame of mind.
Slowly I am compiling a list of people that I am particularly thankful for. They will receive email cards telling them how much I love and appreciate them. The girls had an idea, too, of each of us picking 2 people who we think are under-appreciated and surprise them with something that will tell them we love them. It has been a growing area in our lives. Yet, over the years, we have noticed that it is those people who write thank you notes, who email life-giving words, who take the time to thank us who seem especially wonderful, because they have learned to be initiators. This area of initiating is a definite sign of good character. I have tried to teach my children that they need to have an internal sense of duty that tells them what is the right thing to do. Practicing doing the right things just because it is right to do helps them to be confident and a blessing, a pattern to follow, for the rest of their lives.
Finally, leaving thank yous on beds when we travel, surprise notes on pillows at nights, thank you texts on phones, email cards, are the ways that are easily added to busy lives. Giving my girls pretty thank you stationary in their stockings at Christmas, and especially, taking the time to be thankful for them has ended up blessing me, because they have become my best encouragers and most thankful.
Choosing to be thankful and learning to be content will fill your soul with peace and kindness and in the end, you will be happier and more thankful. It is a choice, a habit of practice, but will indeed create in you a more beautiful soul. Practicing what you want to be and what God wants you to be, just because it is right, will always end up blessing you in the end.
May I end by saying how thankful I am for so many of you--you work tirelessly every day, you are going to serve your family and children this week, you are faithful even when no one knows it--but you are indeed of the best and I pray that you will know that all those hours of cooking and loving this week are going deep in the hearts of your children. Have a happy, happy thanksgiving!