Finding Thanksgiving in Troubled Times
- Written by Nancy Williams, LPC
I followed a car recently that displayed an interesting message on its bumper. “Gratitude: better than therapy.” Well now, as a therapist, I might take exception to that comment. And yet, I know so very well the power an attitude of gratitude can have on us. Calming our anxious hearts, comforting our troubled spirits, and prompting us to replace despair with hope. Next week holds the day set aside as Thanksgiving: a time for us to gather with friends and family as we express gratitude for the blessings that are ours. Oh, how we need that focus. All too often our minds are drawn to our problems, things we are doing without, opportunities missed, relationships lost, promises not kept, dreams not fulfilled, fears of what may lie ahead. Yes, life brings its share of challenges and disappointments. But it also brings joy: solutions to some of the problems we face, things we do have, opportunities seized, relationships built, promises made and kept, yesterday’s dreams becoming today’s reality, hope to cling to in the face of our fear. Blessing upon blessing. I know I’ve shared this story before but I think it carries a powerful message to ponder, especially in these present days when we’re facing difficult challenges in so many areas of our lives. So allow me, please, to take you back a few years to a visit my husband and I made to the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As we neared the town of Provincetown, our gaze was set on a slender tower reaching heavenward and marking Pilgrims’ Point. Stories about the Pilgrims and the voyage of the Mayflower whirled in my mind as I imagined what it might have been like for those travelers to anchor on that coastline in 1620. As I uncovered the story of their voyage, I realized Cape Cod was not in their original plan. They were headed further south along the coast; however, storms prevented them from reaching their intended destination. So, they made their way along the Massachusetts coastline around the tip of Cape Cod. I can imagine their dismay at plans thwarted. Disappointment. Discouragement. Despair. They sacrificed so much along their journey and fought through so many challenges, determined to turn dreams into reality, only to find themselves in a different place. Not at all what they hoped for. Not at all what they planned. I know that feeling. Perhaps you do, too. Yet, they didn’t give up. They didn’t turn back in defeat. They paused and took time to collect their thoughts, replenish themselves after their arduous journey, and gather information about other options. Then they moved ahead with courage, hope, and optimism—on to the future in a new direction. The next fall, 1621, they gathered together—not to mourn dreams unfulfilled but rather to give thanks for blessings bestowed. Their first year in this new land was filled with challenges, uncertainties, heartbreak, and grief. Historical accounts report that they built more coffins than huts; over half of their original population died from disease or starvation. Yet, these Pilgrims gathered to celebrate life and give thanks to God for His provision in difficult circumstances. They shared their bounty with those around them, and they graciously received the gifts that were brought to the table. Many of us also face challenges, uncertainties, heartbreak and grief. We can learn much from these men and women about being grateful for the blessings we do have and not taking God’s provisions for granted. We, too, can set aside time from the busyness of life to express that gratitude and share our blessings with others. An attitude of gratitude provides a lifeline to carry us through the darkest moments and uncertainties of life as it reaches into the depths of our souls with awareness of God’s faithful provision for us. That same spirit of thankfulness causes our hearts to overflow with joy that spills onto those around us as we celebrate the goodness of life that is ours. From my Thanksgiving table to yours: let’s take time, not just this holiday but daily, to express gratitude to the One from whom all blessings flow, and to celebrate the riches of life and love with family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving! Nancy Williams, LPC is a licensed counselor, life coach, speaker and writer. Send comments to her at www.nancywilliams.net.