Archive for November 7th, 2013

Evidently, November is a popular month for challenges. There’s NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) and, of course, Movember/No-Shave November (I’m not participating in any of these). I’m even sporting the Eating-Out Challenge here on the blog. But another month-long movement that has really turned into an internet tradition over the last couple of years is “Thirty Days of Thanks.” I have seen numbered status updates popping up all over Facebook since last Friday. Seeing their posts makes feel a bit like a delinquent for not participating on there, but that doesn’t mean at all that I am not thankful or grateful for a very blessed life.

There are the obvious things I’m thankful for: my faith, my husband, my family, a new house, good health, my job, plenty of food on the table. I’m also thankful for the many extravagant privileges I am afforded by my situation, like having the funds to splurge on fun things now and then, being young and able and free, and getting to spend many years of my life studying so I can have a career, not just a job. Not only am I thankful for these things, I am humbled to list them specifically; when I see them written out, they seem so frivolous compared to the struggles faced by many around the world.

My friend Bobby Pruett from Boulder introduced me to the idea of “blessed to be a blessing” during the years I was in school at CU. That phrase was the mantra of his family and the focus of his whole ministry to students at the university. In Genesis 12:2, God directly tells Abraham that He would magnificently bless him. But God doesn’t stop there; He clearly indicates that the the blessings given to Abraham are given with the full intent of their being poured out to others. There is no expectation of the blessing being given to Abraham and his descendants for their own pleasure, with a little of the bounty rubbing off on other people if they happened to wander by while it was wafting through the air. The reason for the blessing was to pass it along; Abraham was to be the curator of blessing, a vessel poured out, a distribution center.

In light of these things, I am reminded of all the blessings I receive, and I, as a spiritual descendant of Abraham, have an obligation to pay it forward. While I am so caught up in the things I have, like a new house or a job or family, I forget that those things aren’t just for my own enjoyment. Thanksgiving isn’t just about giving thanks; it’s about identifying my blessings like resources and finding out how I can use them to improve the lives of people around me. For me, this means doing my job well and providing a quality service for those who depend on it. I also should focus less on doing things to my new house and more on using it to help people who need a place to stay or to feed someone who could use a break from buying groceries and fixing a meal. I can use our ample space to entertain, to enjoy the company of friends and to build our relationships. Time is a big one–am I wasting it playing Candy Crush and watching TV, or am I investing it in relationships and my own personal development? November is a timely reminder to not get tunnel vision about my own self, but to think about others.

And on a related note, I’ve always wondered–doesn’t there have to be an object of thanksgiving? Typically, when you give something, there has to be an recipient of the transaction. Therefore, if we give thanks, it makes sense that we should be giving thanks to the source of what we are thankful for. Since I believe all things come from God, I clearly should turn my gratitude to Him foremost, even though I don’t nearly as much as I should (even then, it’s impossible to express adequate thanks for everything He has done). We also have so many people around us–family, friends, maybe even people we don’t know–who give to us, be it their love or time, or things we need or extras we enjoy. Be sure to thank them as well and let them know they are appreciated.

This holiday season, I encourage you to think about all the things that you do have in your life. Don’t take them for granted. Appreciate them; think about how you can pay them forward to others. Most of all, consider where these blessings come from and give ample credit where credit is due. I’m speaking primarily to myself here, but I hope you also enjoy this season on a deeper level this year by paying forward the things you are thankful for and expressing your gratitude to those who deserve it.

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