Sounds a lot like the night before Christmas, doesn’t it? Maybe the prequel to Thanksgiving Day ought to get higher billing. After all, we don’t always take the time for gratitude.
Time for gratitude? Yes. It does take the to think about our blessings, to formulate the words to express our gratefulness, and to shove aside everything else that fills our too-full lives. Gratitude takes time…and a certain mindset.
This morning, I snapped a photo through one of our south windows…screen and all. The wind went wild in the night and forced snow into every sliver of space.
Okay, so it’s upside down and I can’t get it to flip over. (: I’m still grateful. You even get a glimpse of a geranium plant I brought inside–it doesn’t even know winter has arrived.
And if you look closely enough, you might see the squares of the window screen at the bottom….ahem, the top. Nearly filled in completely with blown snow, they provide a good visual of gratitude. Perhaps this attitude acts like a screen, filtering what comes through.
We perceive our surroundings, our circumstances, through various filters. I’d like to adopt the filter of gratitude more consistently. Whatever we’re experiencing, however difficult it may be, still offers moments of clarity and whispers of the eternal.
Employing this filter, the day may be brighter than we had imagined. A cup of tea and a good book make everything look better.
I’d like to introduce Anna Jensen, a British-born writer who has lived in South Africa for twenty-four years. She lives in Durban, on the east coast with her husband, son and daughter. She had her first book ‘The Outskirts of His Glory’ published in May 2019. Using stories of family travels in and around South Africa, devotional content, and poetry, the book offers insights into the surprising ways God speaks to us through his creation.During this Thanksgiving month, I think you’ll enjoy Anna’s thoughts on gratitude.
November. Gratitude month. Thanksgiving day. Being from the UK and now living in South Africa, I don’t have the long tradition of seasonal gratefulness. I’ve seen it depicted in Hollywood movies but haven’t felt personally connected or involved.
That’s begun to change as I now have an American mom-friend. Each November, Stephanie undertakes thirty days of gratitude. She shares what she is particularly grateful for; her family ‘grow’ a gratitude tree from sticks and paper leaves upon which are transcribed intentional moments of thankfulness.
My friend challenges me; I rarely list all that I am grateful to God for. And yet, in a quick concordance-count of the number of times the word ‘thanks’ appears in the Bible, I find 110 instances. Thanks are given for God’s goodness, for His provision, for His protection. Thanks are given abundantly, loudly, untidily, continuously. Thanks are given to God as Lord, as Father, as Healer, as Saviour.
As I write, the sky has darkened over the sea, thunder grumbles in the distance and rain is beginning to fall. Where I live, we have barely any rain during winter and by the time we reach November, everywhere seems a little dried-up and weary. Furthermore, South Africa is experiencing the worst drought in living memory. Lakes have dried up, leaving behind gaping cracks and starving livestock. Nationwide prayer meetings have been held to implore God to forgive and be merciful, as the book of Chronicles suggests.
So, when I look out and see the horizon shrouded by grey streaks of falling rain, I’m immensely thankful. Gratitude rises like the sweet fragrance of freshly doused vegetation, incense to a God of mercy and kindness.
The rain stirs me to be thankful more often, to notice the many simple, taken for granted gifts; I wake in the morning with breath in my lungs and health in my bones; I have a car to drive on a well-paved road as I take my children to their amazing schools. My husband has a job when many don’t. We have food on the table, and in the fridge and in the cupboard.
After prolonged dryness, the blessing of rain reawakens life that has lain dormant. So it can be with our souls. In Hosea 3:6 the promise is given that the Lord ‘will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” My heart often needs the tenderness of these rains, needs to be softened by the showers of God’s presence and restored to life by the whisper of His Spirit.
I am so grateful that our God waters the earth when it is most in need; I am even more grateful that He waters my heart when I don’t even realize it is dry.
Happy Thanksgiving. Today and every day!
I’m a British ex-pat who has lived in South Africa for a little over twenty years. My husband and I live with our two teenage children on the east coast, a few miles north of the city of Durban. We overlook the Indian Ocean where we have the privilege of watching dolphins and whales at play.
My first book ‘The Outskirts of His Glory’ was published in May 2019. The book is a Christian devotional and poetry collection exploring the many surprising ways that God can speak to us through His creation. I have drawn on my travels in and around South Africa, as well as further afield, to hopefully inspire each of us to slow down and perhaps listen more carefully to the ‘whispers of His ways’ (Job 26:14) that are all around us.
Since publishing ‘Outskirts’ I have had the privilege of speaking at a number of local churches and even have a weekly slot on a Christian radio station. I have also continued writing by contributing to a variety of blogs and online writing communities as well as developing my own website and blog.