by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for” the sign said. I chuckled reading the three “always.” And I thought, yes, sometimes I need extra encouragement to remember that.
Too often there have been times in my life when I’ve put off being thankful, saying to myself: I’ll be thankful when I get accepted to my college of choice, I’ll be thankful when I meet my husband, I’ll be thankful when we build a new house, or when I lose weight. I was fooled into believing that a certain culmination of events was required before thankfulness could be felt.
In each of these life lessons, my prayers have taught me how a moment of gratitude can provide a radical shift in perspective that reveals God’s activity and presence all around me. These lessons remind me of Mary Baker Eddy’s words, “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.”
In everything we did, in every moment we spent together, we were grateful.
Every year about this time, I recall the holiday season when I learned my first lesson in how thankfulness could transform my perspective, and consequently, my experience. I was a young child at the time, on the road with my mom after her divorce. We were homeless with little money as we traveled from town to town. Yet, losing most of what we had owned was not the end of our world. We had a daily practice of prayer and thankfulness that brought us joy and gave us a feeling of hope.
Although it was a difficult period, some of my fondest memories are from that holiday time. I think it became so special because of the gift of gratitude my mom and I gave each other. In everything we did, in every moment we spent together, we were grateful. We were grateful for present moments, and we were grateful for whatever tomorrow would bring. This included being thankful to have a Christmas tree—albeit the smallest tree I’d ever seen—for spending hours together making decorations, and cooking our favorite holiday sweets.
We were also thankful that my mom was able to find a job wherever we lived, even if it only lasted a few weeks or a few days. Counting, or considering our blessings, wasn’t something we did only at bedtime or when we were studying our Bible lesson. Gratitude helped us to see what was right and good in our lives wherever we were. It strengthened my understanding of God’s goodness, and inspired my mother with a new and promising view of our future.
When my heart is filled with gratitude I’m grounded in God’s presence.
One of my favorite hymns in the Christian Science Hymnal speaks of thankful living as having a grateful heart. In three verses a grateful heart is described as a garden, a fortress, and a temple. Throughout my life I’ve found this to be true. A grateful heart is a garden of comfort and peace that dispels anxiety and fear. It’s a fortress of certainty and hope that outlasts feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. And it’s a temple of strength and courage that brings expectancy of progress, growth, healing–even new beginnings.
Thankful living has enabled me again and again to experience the operation of God’s laws in the very moment that I’ve felt in need. “My cup runneth over” said the Psalmist. Isn’t this exactly what happens when we begin with gratitude? The good that has always been present comes into focus.
I’ve noticed that when my heart is filled with gratitude I’m grounded in God’s presence. I’m filled with proof of God’s love. Living life from this vantage point leads to a bounty of infinite possibility and progress, today and tomorrow. Now that’s a promise to be thankful for.