Sunday, November 23, 2008

In all things give thanks

Thanksgiving appears to be the theme this month, so I figured it was apropos to carry on! So let’s talk a little about thanksgiving – and Thanksgiving – in a general sense.

We all know the story of the Plymouth Pilgrims of 1621. It is drummed into us from kindergarten on with the endless papier-mâché turkeys and feather Indian hats, but as time goes on does it become repetitious and blasé? Has political correctness skewed the true meaning, and our crazy lives interfered with the joy of the holiday beyond eating ourselves senseless? History cannot be denied and the fact is that the early settlers were not a poor, starving community giving their thanks to the native tribes for saving their butts. Rather, they were a thriving collective fulfilling a century’s old tradition of thanking God for His bounty, mercy, and protection. Cultures throughout time have held harvest festivals and other feast-days as a way to make merry while offering tribute to their gods. In the colonies that would become the USofA, the Pilgrims were not the first settlers to hold a special observance of some kind and drop to their knees in praise for their great fortune. I suppose most of us acknowledge this and are giving thanks to someone or something in our own way, but perhaps we miss a portion of the point by focusing on our wonderful blessings to the exclusion of whatever is going on in our life that isn’t so marvelous.

Think back to the Pilgrims and early settlers again for a moment. Plop my pampered self into their midst and I can assure you I would find nothing to be very thankful for! These folks had it tough with a capitol T. They worked hard in a way that few today can begin to imagine. Their friends and loved ones often did not survive, food was scarce, shelter was poor, droughts were common, the winters were long and harsh, etc. I would venture to guess they had far more to grouse about then to be thankful for. Yet, they were thankful, and not just on one day out of the year but probably every day. The Holy Scripture is filled with the recommendation and commandment to be thankful in ALL things. I readily admit that I am a person who believes God knows what He is talking about, but even those who do not hold my belief know that it is through adversity that we grow stronger. We don’t like it, certainly don’t want to dwell upon it, but it is true! Can we then take the next step and actually be thankful for it? Ooh, that’s a toughie! I am writing this essay yet I am not sure I can fully embrace that one!

But, oddly, I have thought a lot about this lately, specifically in relation to my publishing road. I know I haven’t been walking the path all that long, but have encountered many roadblocks already. You know: the rejection letters, nasty emails, negative reviews, snafus in the publishing process, periods of writer’s block, and so on. At each one I have cried, whined, stomped my foot, and shaken my fist at the sky, before finally shrugging my shoulders in acceptance. I would not wish to repeat some of those problems – and I do know there are assuredly more to come – but each one has taught me a valuable lesson, given me a slightly harder shell, and paved the way for dealing with the next issue. So am I now actually thankful for them? Well, yeah, I guess I am! I am still hopeful that smooth sailing is ahead of me and that I have learned all the life-lessons possible for God to throw my way….LOL….but that is unlikely.

Of course, in the end it is all about how we chose to look at something. The glass-half-full-or-empty idea. While we are raising our glasses to the sky in thanksgiving for our many blessings, we know deep inside that those blessings were not easily bought. Whether it is the horrid labor we suffered to bring our children into the world, the trials of marriage when we wanted to kill that guy, the stupid boss we have to put up with to do our job, or whatever, the negative is always there, lurking behind what we are beamingly praising as a blessing in our life. I may not specifically be thanking God for the 32 hour labor that brought my daughter into the world, but I will never not count her one of the best blessings of my life, no matter the circumstances. There must be a lesson I learned that I would not have if my labor was 5 hours start to finish - like my sister-in-law who I still haven’t forgiven – and maybe it’s just that Demerol is REALLY great stuff! See, the silver lining!

The key, obviously, is to not just be thankful for a rough patch in retrospect, but to be thankful for it while it is happening! Man, oh man….that is probably asking too much. Yet that is the point of true Thanksgiving, is it not? At the least it will help us to mentally and emotionally persevere if we can wholeheartedly believe that there are purposes to everything, that good will come of it in the end, and that Someone is in control. Perhaps I’ll make that my New Year’s resolution – smiling amid the drama!


  1. Smiling amid the drama is a good thing Sharon. My m-i-l who died last year at 97 was the mother of 7 children and one of 7 herself, and she always laughed amid the drama.

    And everyone loved her to bits.

    She was one of my greatest supporters and helpers, and I try to be like her every day. I must say I don't always succeed, but I always have her example to go back to when I need it.

    So I guess I am very thankful to have had her in my life.

  2. Sharon, the most powerful growth challenge I ever took on was "In everything, give thanks."

    I've recommended it to clients. It doesn't seem to matter whether one addresses thanks to a specific diety, or simply to an awareness that one is alive, and Life is everywhere. The results are powerful.

    The payoff for me was an understanding that while I can't choose every event in my life, I can choose my response.

    Great post.

  3. You are right, Sharon, that it is hard sometimes to be thankful in the midst of the drama, but gratitude is so important. 2008 has been a great year for me and my family. I know that isn't the case for many. I am thankful.

  4. Hi ladies!

    I am traveling this weekend and am only able to pop on for a few minutes here. I want to apologize for not being able to respond to everyone throughout the day. I will catch up later tonight when I shall be home.

    Michele, how amazing that your MIL not only lived such a long life but found the key to living it to the fullest. Her legacy will live on in probably far greater ways than she imagined. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Mary Margret,

    One of the most powerful sermons I ever heard was when our pastor spoke on chosing our responses. It just hit me, at the time, as an epiphany. Simple concept but hard to put into action. But the profound effect it can have is wonderful. Thanks for adding that.

    Marie, Yes, it has been a great year for all of us in at least this major part of our lives! I still pinch myself daily and really need to dream up a word beter than 'thankful' to adequately describe how I feel!

  6. I found this to be a very well-thought and significant essay on thankfulness, Sharon. A good friend of mine is wont to say, "There is no pain, only growth." I thought of her while reading what you had to say.

  7. Sharon,
    Thank you for such a thoughtful post! Yes, it is always much easier to give thanks AFTER the fact. It's a matter of perspective. The old up to the arm pits in alligators analogy. I have a hard time remembering to give thanks that they aren't up to my chin! LOL! And yes, more than once during this past year on the road to publication, I felt like gators were snapping all around me. But I'm especially grateful to have all my CasaSisters to share the experiences and give me encouragement and advice when I most need it!


  8. It always seems that in every bad thing that happens to me, something positive usually comes about as a result. Occasionally, I look for that silver lining when it is taking place, but it's not always easy!

  9. Sharon~

    What an amazing post. I think I've got the being thankful thing down, it's the being thankful for adversity that needs work. I've been known to walk around the house muttering over and over "What doesn't kill us makes us strong..." but not in a nice way, and certainly not thankfully.

    They say hindsight is 20/20 and looking back since childhood I've realized that something positive comes out of all adversity. The challenge is to be thankful during the adversity as well as after.

    It's probably a good New Years Resolution. Maybe I'll be more successful at that then giving up pasta.

    Robin :)

  10. Thank you everyone for your kind words! I was wiped when I got home last night so did not want to try to write since it would probably be unintelligible! Glad you all enjoyed the post. Guess I was feeling insightful - the fun of growing old I suppose. LOL! Next up is Christmas time when we can make merry!

    Hugs to all my CasaSisters, Sharon

  11. Sharon,
    wonderful post...I'm much better at being thankful for adversity in retrospect than I am while in the thick of things, but I'm definitely trying to get bettter about it! MM is right's all about choosing your response to events. Like most things in my life, a work in progress:-)