Last summer we drove long days to visit friends who feel like family and to immerse ourselves in landscapes that made us feel small. One hot afternoon we opened the van doors and spilled out, crumpled and weary, into the parking lot of a national park. Grabbing water bottles and sun hats, we climbed the paths to drink in the vistas of red rock formations. As we walked and the sun baked both the clay earth and our shoulders, I began to hear the grumblings of complaints coming from the kids. I understood their complaints: it really was hot, and we really were tired. But I also understood that the views before us were breathtaking and not something we get to see every day. I noticed how smooth the walking paths were, compared to the loose rocks and thorny shrubs right next to them, so I tried to create a metaphor for my kids about how the path we choose most often becomes the easiest path to choose the next time. If we neglect awe and gratitude for complaints, we will find it increasingly easier to complain, and increasingly more difficult to give thanks. I don’t know if what I said made any sense, but I do know that we found some shade, stopped for a drink, and spent the afternoon laughing and revelling in the beauty around us.
There is room for complaining—I’ll write more about that this month—but not at the expense of gratitude. Because this month begins with Canadian Thanksgiving, I’m trying to be intentional about seeing the world through the lens of thankfulness. Not a naive thankfulness that pretends there is no darkness, but a “nevertheless” thankfulness that chooses to give thanks even when things aren’t all as they should be.
One way I’m practicing this is by having each person in our family share one thing from the day they are thankful for, and writing it in a little notebook
Another way I’m practicing it is by posting one picture and caption every day this month on Ponderings. I missed yesterday, so here are two to get us started…
It’s Read-In Week at my kids’ school, so yesterday I was thankful for the chance to share a love of reading with my oldest daughter’s class. I read a few chapters of Fantastic Mr. Fox, and loved hearing them laugh, gasp, and beg for one more chapter. I’m so thankful for creative stories that draw us in and open us up to imagination.
This afternoon I looked out my window to see a sudden blizzard of falling leaves. We seem to have skipped fall here, so the yellows dancing to toward earth lifted my spirits. This is the carpet they created.
If you want to join me in 31 Days of Thanks, feel free to add your own thanksgiving in the comments all month, or simply start a gratitude journal.