3 things I’m doing to be more thankful

Thanksgiving is only 3 weeks away, so it’s that thankful time of year. I’m reminded that I should live like this all the time.

How can we renew thankfulness?

My November began with a trip to my former home state of Pennsylvania, which is currently awash with fall foliage, stone barns, and rough timber fences. I could barely keep myself from singing “Over the River and Through the Woods” as I drove past the farms and woodlands. I felt like I was sitting inside a Currier and Ives print picking apples or churning butter.

I’m not a country gal, but the Pennsylvania countryside pulled me into tranquility. I somehow felt remarkably thankful and alive.

I want to keep this mojo going, so here are 3 things I’m doing to make me more thankful this month:

I’m writing people thank-you notes. I do this a lot, but I mention it here because writing notes makes you pause and analyze what exactly other people do that is “noteworthy or mentionable,” to quote one of my favorite movies ever, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (you can watch the incredible trailer here). Thanking people reminds you that the world doesn’t revolve around you and that other people are actually tremendously important (besides making them feel incredibly loved and noticed). And as Walter Mitty discovered, connection and gratefulness are essential to experiencing life.

I’m keeping a Thankfulness journal. It’s not a new idea. Plenty of people have done it. Ann Voskamp wrote a bestseller about the idea in One Thousand Gifts. (You should read it, if you haven’t already.) Here’s how my journal is going so far:

  • Nov. 1—old friends
  • Nov. 2–the Psalms
  • Nov. 3—crisp autumn weather
  • Nov. 4—the opportunity to communicate
  • Nov. 5—literature
  • Nov. 6—the theater

It’s still Nov. 5 while I’m writing, so technically, I shouldn’t pick tomorrow’s topic, but I already know what it will be. Tomorrow I’m taking my literature students on a trip to the Blackfriars’ Playhouse in Staunton, VA (It’s a replica of Shakespeare’s indoor theater) to see Julius Caesar. I know I’m going to be crazy excited about being there. I am almost jumping up and down.

I’m doing things that make me jump up and down and giggle and clap my hands. Yep, got it covered. In addition to  Shakespeare, I’m planning friend lunches, calling old friends, buying Christmas gifts, wearing sweaters, and decorating for Christmas on Black Friday. These are all clap-your-hands events.

Isn’t it wonderful to be alive? Not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally and mentally. I’m so grateful to be fully engaged in the world around me. I have choices about whether or not I will lean into the things that matter to me and breathe them in.

It turns out that emotional engagement is the antidote for a lot of things: complaining, depression, criticism, loneliness. Being fully engaged is life-giving to the soul and spirit. It produces thankfulness.

And thankfulness is God’s way of re-orienting us to the things that really matter, the people who have earned the right to use our time and energy.

Take off your stress and worry as if it were a heavy coat, and just play in the leaves. Pause the world and breathe in its beauty.

Stay there for as long as possible.

And then give the beauty back. Breathe it into someone else. Share the joy and thankfulness. It’s contagious.

“To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good.”

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

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