My earliest childhood memories of Thanksgiving involve two simple things:
Illinois corn and gratitude lists.
At this point, if you’re asking yourself, “What is Illinois corn?” I weep for what you’ve missed. My grandma was a superb farmer’s wife, and she prepared homegrown corn at every holiday gathering. I don’t know what she did to it, but it was delicious enough to knock the socks off a cat. Once you experienced Illinois corn you realized all other corn–specifically the stuff from a can–was really only something masquerading as corn.
But I digress.
Our family feasts were epic, as were our gratitude lists.
Our gratitude lists
Early each Thanksgiving morning when the adults were putting the finishing touches on the homemade stuffing or the three-bean salad (better not to ask), my cousins and I accepted our sacred task: composing lists of everything for which we were thankful. With stacks of wide-lined notebook paper and fistfuls of freshly sharpened pencils, we sat in some faraway corner of the house and wrote until our fingers went numb.
Truth: Our lists had less to do with gratitude and more to do with bragging rights.
Goal: See who could come up with the most stuff.
We listed every person we knew and every household item we could remember. We accused each other of cheating and argued over rules. By the time we were called to the table, our hands throbbed with Thanksgiving-induced Tendinitis, and we ate quietly enough for the adults to recover a half-hearted belief in holiday miracles.
This year’s list
Even as an adult I have carved out time each Thanksgiving to compose a gratitude list. And while my lists are never as robust as they were in my childhood, they allow me to deliberately acknowledge “many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12).
It is always good to give thanks to God.
This year, however, creating a typical gratitude list doesn’t feel right.
It’s not that I don’t have a bajillion things for which to be grateful–I do. God has been unfathomably kind to me. It’s just that–this year–I have had to let go of many of God’s good gifts–including my sweet Grandma who made the Illinois corn–and I’ve started to understand something for the first time–
God and His gifts are not one and the same. His gifts are good, but He is better.
As I’ve loosened my grip on God’s good gifts, I have tightened my grip on my good Father. And you know what? It is liberating.
In the words of one writer, “We are spring-loaded to turn gifts into alternatives to God.” And with all my heart I want nothing to do with that. God is bigger and more wonderful than any thing He could give or take away.
Thanksgiving during difficult seasons is entirely possible because–whether we enjoy plenty or suffer loss–we have Him just the same. And maybe Thanksgiving during trials is more than possible because our offering of thanksgiving to God becomes uncomplicated by the shiny objects that would typically distract us.
This year I will make my gratitude list entirely about Him.
And in case you want to follow along, I’ve created a Guided Gratitude Worksheet. It’s nothing fancy, but it will provide enough space to write out things about the Giver. What attributes of God do I most appreciate? For which of His promises am I most thankful? …
Take a look. Click on the image to download the free PDF.
May you, too, know the certain joy of gut-wrenching gratitude this Thursday–