Intentionally Thankful

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but, it’s been pretty cold these past few days. And not ‘Oh fun! Let’s go out and play in the snow!’ cold but ‘call me when it’s over’ type of cold. Now, I will be the first to admit that I did in fact, ask God for a “White Christmas”. this year. Well, Christmas is long gone and this past week has been ridiculous! The only times I did venture out was to go to the gym (and Starbucks). Other than that I was pretty much a hermit. A warm and cozy hermit that is and I have no regrets! I even went so far as to see how long I could stretch out the remaining groceries in my kitchen just so I wouldn’t have to put on pants and brave the air that hurts my face. I won’t lie, it was pretty slim pickin’s near the very end. But it was worth it, because today the weather finally decided to be kind and the frozen winter wonderland has finally begun it’s slow and painful descent back into the underworld, where it belongs.

I tell you all of this to say, my fridge is now as it should be and I am no longer rationing my canned goods.

I finally ventured out to the local grocery store. I was standing in line while the cashier was ringing through my purchases. She began to say that there was only one more hour left in her shift and that she was happy about that. She went on to say, “…and then I come back tomorrow and it starts all over again.” I smiled and nodded politely. (I think we’ve all felt that way haven’t we?) She paused for a moment and then continued with a shrug and a smirk, “At least it keeps me off the streets.”

I was a bit taken aback by her statement at first. Not too many people, especially someone you just met, are that up front and honest with another stranger. And then I started thinking, “Did she really mean that? Was this job the only thing that stood between her and homelessness?” Then I started to imagine what this past weeks weather has been like. In particular for those who don’t have a warm home to come home too and the record setting chill that seemed to blanket us all this past week. And while most of us, including myself , were able to go from the grocery store, to a warm car, to a warm home, so many others didn’t have that luxury. And it IS a luxury.

Just in this last week alone, I can’t tell you how many times I have said thank you, out loud to God, just for the fact that I was indeed able to have shelter from the bitter weather we had. I remember laying in my bed, listening to the howling wind outside my window; knowing what the windchill was outside that evening. Not even beginning to imagine what that would feel like, having to endure that. I was SO thankful. Extra thankful even just because of that alone.

To some people, looking at this stage in my life, they would say that I’m “just getting by”, meaning, I mostly have enough to pay my bills and important things. Sometimes a bit extra, depending on finances and how good my paychecks are but that’s about it at this point. I’ve adjusted where I could. There have been times in my life where I have done exceptionally well and was starting to really get ahead. But with certain situations that have changed recently, my finances are pretty basic. To others however, they would take a look at my life and think I had all the money and luxuries in the world! They would see me as having more than enough.

I got to thinking about those two different perspectives. I sat on my living room couch and listed off, out loud, all of the things that I am thankful for. Even down to the smallest detail. Little “luxuries” that perhaps wouldn’t mean much to anyone else except me. When you really sit down to think about it intentionally, it can be a pretty extensive list. And while I might not have everything I want, I do have everything that I need.

We live in a world that is consumed and obsessed with having “stuff”. For bragging rights. To show off to friends and family. To show off on social media. To lift our self esteem. To fill a void. Going into debt, trying every ‘get rich quick’ scheme that’s trendy at the time. Trying to have more and more. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we’ve never had a generation that complains more than this one. Adding even more insult to injury, that horrific hashtag #firstworldproblems slapped on the end of it.

It begs the question…when is enough, enough?

Which brings us back to the lady at the grocery store. Maybe that cashier job really was the only thing standing in between her and the streets. Maybe that “measly” paycheck makes the difference between her being hungry or being able to eat well that week. Maybe her dreams were a lot more simple than being able to fly off on vacation twice a year and make six figures. Maybe her dream was simply to have a place to call home. A place of her very own where she could shut the cold world out at the end of the day and feel safe. When will we ever learn to be truly content with the “simple” things in life?

I know many of us have so many dreams and aspirations that we wish for and work tirelessly towards. But sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of the day, perhaps we can lose sight of what we already have to the cat and mouse chase of what doesn’t exist yet. And we miss it. We miss the contentment in what is, because we’re so caught up in what isn’t.

I know for myself, I have been intentional lately about being thankful. Thankful and dwelling on what I have, rather than what I wish I had. I might not be where I want to be. My life may not have worked out the way I thought it would. I might still have dreams on the inside of me that haven’t happened yet. But right now, in this moment, I have everything I need. Right now, in this moment, I lack nothing. And that’s a lot more than some people can say, both here in my own city and around the world.

My challenge to all of us is this:  spend time every day just thanking God for what you do have, rather than worrying about what you don’t have. Go even a step further and make a list of every little thing that you are thankful for. You’d be surprised how long the list can be when you are intentionally thankful.

Jen xo