Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A basket full of thanks

As a child, November was always kicked off by cutting out shapes from colored construction paper.  Mom assumed her role as pattern maker - tracing cookie cutters or free-handing palm trees, stars, hearts, leaves, etc. Every night after dinner, we'd pass the basket around, take out our preferred shape, and write down our thanks.  By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, our basket was full of thanks.  And, before we slipped into our Tryptophan turkey comas, we took turns reading each other's shapes.  Dad always wrote one about his beautiful wife (insert collective groans and "ahhhhs" from three young kids), sister and I usually wrote a silly one about brother, and our favorite foods always made the list.  Mashed potatoes, anyone?  Some were duplicates and some stood alone.

As I have grown older, my appreciation for things has deepened beyond that which is smothered in gravy.  Living among the "have-nots" in Africa, Asia, South America & even North America has often left me feeling angry, guilty, helpless and sad.  Even with my own discouraging, looming home loan, college debt and part-time job, I am considered one of the elite who "has."  However, if blessings are gifts bestowed by God which produce happiness, then despite my financial situation, I still have much to be thankful for.

As an adult, I still reflect on this season of Thanks with an eagerness that stems from a long-ago family tradition.  Several months ago, my mom gave me a book.  A book with a "dare to live fully wherever you are."  Ann Voskamp keeps an ongoing list of everyday gifts.  While Ann's initial goal was to make it to 1,000 she didn't stop there and hasn't stopped since.

My sweet mom emailed me at the first of the month, encouraging us kids to reflect on the gifts from the hands of our Loving God.

Hello my Dear Ones,  (<---I love her terms of endearment)

I was just contemplating the season: the leaves are all turning and the wind blowing them around, and temperatures at night causing the heat to blow warm on our feet in the mornings. It's fall!

And as the calendar page turns over to November next week and we look ahead to Parker's birthday and Thanksgiving and then Christmas, I was remembering how we tried to savor this special time of year. Do you remember us cutting out "shapes" from colored paper and each of us writing out things we were thankful for each evening? And then come Thanksgiving, we would read from our collection and treasure the variety of thoughts we'd all put down. I've save a few from over the years (you know how I hate to throw things away) and they are special memories.

I am so thankful for each of you and all that God has given your dad and me as your parents. We are truly blessed!

May I challenge you (as I do myself) to be thankful every day for what you have from the Hand of God? We have so much yet can easily take the everyday things for granted. I don't know that I will cut out "shapes" to record my thanks, but I will start a list. Join me?

Much love,

Thanks for the challenge, mom.
Here begins my gift list.   Not for santa, but for my yearning to glorify God.  May this process replace the bitter weeds in my heart with life-giving, bountiful produce that spills over to every avenue of my daily life.
  1. emails from my mother
  2. our new, patch-free roof which has eliminated further worry of ceiling leaks, dry rot, etc.
  3. blue blanket we received from our wedding; it has probably been used 365 days a year for the past 2+ years
  4. the ability to receive a 100k Christian education
  5. 4-year old Maggie who teaches me to be thankful for life's simplest things
  6. a God who loves me (in the words of 4-year old Maggie)
  7. free haircuts from the best hairdresser in town "because it's the only way she can repay me and Paul for investing in her kids' lives at youth group"
  8. a God who is bigger than my mistakes
  9. a "best friend" relationship with my sister who is much too far away
  10. babies growing in my friends' bellies (6 and counting...)
  11. butterflies in my belly as I dream of being a mom someday
  12. butterflies in my belly as I dream of Paul being a dad someday
  13. my father's phone calls on his way home from work
  14. high school girls who share life's hardships with me
  15. a voice to sing harmonies
  16. the fiery reds, oranges & yellows of autumn leaves on sunny days
  17. the fiery reds, oranges & yellows of autumn leaves against a gray, stormy sky
  18. leftovers (something I've never appreciated this much ever before)
  19. when all socks exit the dryer with their corresponding mates
  20. all 100 pounds and bad breath of our dog who warms my feet from the drafty laundry room


Haley =) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Haley =) said...

Ohhhh El... So wonderful you and your family are! Your mom is an inspiring woman of God! As are you and your sister!
I absolutely love this! And I LOVE that you are thankful for when all socks exit the dryer with their matches!!! I literally clapped when I folded laundry yesterday when I had all matches! =)

Erica said...

i love that book. :)