Authored by Mara Hodler
Have you ever heard of a turducken? It’s a southern delicacy of sorts. You take an extra-large turkey and debone it, leaving only the leg and wing bones. The deboned turkey is laid out and a layer of stuffing is laid over it. Next you completely debone a duck, lay it over the stuffing, and then spread a layer of stuffing over the duck. The duck is followed by a chicken, which is again, deboned, laid over the duck, and spread with stuffing. The whole kit and caboodle is then sewn shut so that all you see is a normal looking turkey. This glorious turducken is then roasted in the oven and becomes the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner.
There’s been a lot of talk about turduckens in my home, because Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away and my husband is making a turducken. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite celebrations. Maybe it’s because it heralds the start of the holiday season, or because I get to decorate my home the following weekend, as is our family tradition. It’s probably partially because I can start to expect a steady trickle of Christmas cards to begin arriving. There really are a lot of reasons to love Thanksgiving. After all, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie?
But I think more than any of those reasons, I love Thanksgiving because it makes me stop and reflect on all the reasons I have to be thankful. Like the saying goes, “When we pause to think, we have cause to thank.” It seems to me that there has to be something very deliberate about giving thanks. It’s a conscious choice that I have to make.
My nature is prone to worry, stress, and hurry—all of which are major joy-stealers because they rob me of “this” moment. They take all my focus off the here and now, the beauty that surrounds me, and postpone my happiness until such a time when this or that happens. You can’t be truly thankful while stressing and worrying, or even hurrying.
Genuine gratitude is admitting that what I have right now is enough, and if I have enough right now, why am I hurrying off to some other thing, or fretting and fuming over some situation that isn’t happening now? The thing is, giving thanks is not a naturally occurring habit. Learning to see all that there is to be grateful for takes practice. It’s something that we must learn, thankful thought by thankful thought.
The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content.”1 The word that stands out to me in this statement is “learned.” In other words, he didn’t just wake up one morning thankful and happy to be hungry, cold, hunted, shipwrecked, or imprisoned. He may not have always been content with his life, but through experience he learned that the goodness of God transcended any of his physical circumstances, and that allowed him to be content or grateful no matter where he ended up.
The honest truth for me is that I don’t always recognize that kind of contentment. I often find myself thinking, “Oh, when we get that all taken care of, then I can finally relax!” or “I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds, finish this or that course, get this or that organized, see so-and-so again.” And on the list goes.
True thanksgiving, however, is learning to see the gifts that God gives us every day and being grateful for them. And allowing for the realization of His goodness to be the foundation of all our thoughts.
I am reading a great book called A Thousand Gifts. It’s the story of a girl, who, when she was very little, watched her sister get run over by a truck in the family driveway. The whole family was broken by the event and never completely healed from the tragedy. The writer spent her whole life believing in God but not trusting His goodness, never really feeling happy or at peace, always searching for something to fill the emptiness she felt.
Then one day a friend dared her to find one thousand beautiful things in her life. She started keeping a journal of all the beautiful things she saw. It was usually little things like “a hummingbird dances outside my window” or “the smile of my little girl,” “the summer breeze,” “a stranger’s smile.” On and on the list went.
She realized that, as she began looking, beauty surrounded her daily. As she counted her way up to 1,000 gifts, she actually learned how to be thankful. Within weeks she realized that a deep happiness and joy had settled into her life.
It’s not a new concept. Even King David knew that nothing brought him into God’s presence like giving thanks. He said, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving!”2
If you feel like you need to strengthen your thankfulness habit, I would encourage you to start small. Start by seeking out the little things that make you smile: the sunset, a sweet apple, time with friends, the smell of clean laundry, the rush of a great video game, a perfect slice of apple pie, or a hug from your mom or dad. In time you will feel gratitude, or at least peace, regarding some of the bigger and more difficult things in your life. And you will have learned contentment.
I am focusing on strengthening my thankfulness habit. I am reflecting more on the beauty and seeking it out. It certainly is all around me. I know it’s all around you too.
1 Philippians 4:11
2 Psalm 100:4
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International