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Has anyone ever done something for you that was just so kind that you felt both an overwhelming sense of thankfulness and a fear of unworthiness, all at once?
This happened to me recently.
After a long, busy weekend, that included suffering from a cold to boot, my mother-in-law cleaned. my. house. Now, this may not seem like a huge deal at first. But wait until I tell you that my house was a complete disaster. Imagine the mess: we hadn't been home since Friday (it was Monday); there was a week's worth of laundry strewn about the house; the kitchen still had remnants of Friday's dinner (and maybe Thursday's 🙈) across the counter tops. It was really embarrassing, sisters.
So, when I arrived home from a long, busy day at work to discover my house was nearly spotless, I simply broke down in tears. I had spent the day worrying about the mess I had to tackle that evening and planning a course of action, and I had feared the lack of time to spend on Cultivate Grace that day. Yet, here was my home, clean & beautiful, because of one woman who loves her children.
I called her to say thank you, and she simply told me how much fun it was for her to bless us this way and that she loves us so much, she just wanted to help out. Sisters, I was so embarrassed she had seen my messy house - but you know what? She doesn't care. She loves me anyway!
Gratitude poured out from my heart that day in such a flood it almost hurt. But I also felt so undeserving. We feel that way a lot about the love of God, don't we?
Even though we know in our hearts that He loves us and that we can do nothing to earn our salvation, we still try to win Him over by doing good deeds or being "good" Christians. We worry about things God has already made provisions for, like earning our salvation. He has already given us Christ - it is already finished!
God calls us to cultivate a thankful spirit, beginning with gratitude toward Him and all He has done. Today, I want to share a few ways that you can cultivate a grateful heart this Thanksgiving.
Gratitude begins with humility.
A spirit of thankfulness begins with remembering all that God has done for you. It starts with a humble heart and a focus on Christ. His work on the cross is the reason you have life. It is the reason we all have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. Romans 8 gives one of my favorite summaries of this:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Humbling, right? But this is also cause for celebration, my dear sisters - Christ has set us free! We are no longer condemned to death, but freely given life in the spirit!
Even though the gospel is a humbling story, it is also a wonderful place to begin to cultivate gratitude.
Gratitude includes the small, ordinary things.
Sometimes, as we are focusing our hearts on the big picture of the gospel, we can easily miss the little blessings along the way. I believe God has sprinkled our daily lives with seemingly ordinary things that are actually blessings from heaven.
Do you ever notice a beautiful sunset streaking across the evening sky? That's a small blessing from God. What about the surprising warmth of a November afternoon? Blessing from God. Have you ever marveled at something uncharacteristic but beautiful your little one has said? Yep, that's a small blessing from God, too.
One way that I began encouraging myself to notice these little blessings throughout each day was something I learned from Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. In it, she shares this idea of keeping track of gifts she notices throughout the day, until she reaches a list of one thousand gifts.
When I first read her book, I gave this list-making activity a try. It was completely life-giving! I was amazed at how my eyes began to open up and see so many little blessings along my path each day. It actually does begin to bring joy to each day, just as she says. If you love this idea, I would definitely recommend her book as you begin your journey to One Thousand Gifts.
Gratitude can bring you joy.
Forever a kid at heart, one of my favorite pastimes is COLORING! Anyone else jumped on the adult coloring bandwagon this year?? (P.S. here's my favorite faith-inspired coloring book and fine-tip markers - these make great gift ides, btw!)
With that in mind, the best way to visually express a grateful heart is to draw it out! And of course, only a hand turkey is appropriate for Thanksgiving! It's simple really: grab a piece of printer paper and a marker, trace your hand, add the turkey's eyes and smile, and color!
Your turkey's feathers are your fingers, and all you have to do is fill in the feathers with your blessings. Now, since you've already been seeking joy each day by looking for the small gifts, these four should come relatively easily (and if you need a fifth one, you can always add one right in the middle of the turkey's body!).
These should be the blessings that stand out to you the most. Mine are: Jesus, my husband, our families, and God's faithfulness. As you're cultivating a grateful heart, these are the blessings that should remain at the forefront of your mind.
Gratitude comes full circle.
As your heart grows in thankfulness, you may begin to realize that there are many (or even just a certain few) people in your life that God has blessed you with. The last simple activity for cultivating gratitude I want to share is to consider the ones you are most grateful for. I love lists for these types of exercises, so grab that pen and paper!
Start your list with the most obvious ones....mine would be my husband! But then, also think of your children or your parents, your extended relatives or your co-workers, your closest friends or your church family. Who in your life are you most grateful for? Maybe they play a role in leading you toward Christ. Maybe they bless you daily through their small acts of love and kindness. Maybe you simply enjoy their presence and friendship.
No matter the length of your list, I want you to take this exercise a step further -- TELL THEM! These people are truly blessings from God and they have impacted your life in a positive way. So now, it's your turn to bless them. Simply write a text that says, "I am grateful for you! Happy Thanksgiving!"
This week's CG Simplicity Challenge is to choose one of these ways to cultivate gratitude this week, as you prepare your heart and your home for Thanksgiving. Remember, life itself is a gift from above. Even in the midst of the trials and hard times, God is with you and He is faithful. Let Psalm 34:18 be an encouragement to you: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Let me know which activity you've chosen below & share how it is helping you cultivate a grateful heart.