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From Holiday to Habit: How to Make Thankfulness an Everyday Practice

changing Christmas traditions with growing kids

It's a disconcerting fact of adulthood that it doesn't take much to feel discouraged. A glance at the headlines, a report of a friend's illness, an announcement of rising costs.... Opportunities for anxiety are abundant.

In the midst of this state, it might surprise you to know that gratitude has been trending upward over the past five years. Gratitude journals have become a thing. And yearly November "gratitude challenges" circulate social media fueled by eager participation.

“Thanksgiving, after all," said W.J. Cameron, "is a word of action." This action is a potent antidote to discouragement's persistent pestering. And it's because of this potency that we don't want to limit gratitude to the month of November. Instead, we need a thankfulness habit for every day.

In the book, Alter Girl, author Andrea Syverson shares one idea for how we can turn thankfulness into a yearlong habit. Read about her practice of taking an "inventory" of her blessings in this excerpt below:

GIVE THANKS (an excerpt from Alter Girl)

Eucharisteo. I learned this word from a Canadian farm wife and mom of seven kids: poet, writer, and photographer Ann Voskamp. I read her book One Thousand Gifts on a flight to Australia and have been evangelical about it ever since.

“It is thanksgiving that shapes the theology of trust,” Voskamp writes. “God is always good and I am always loved. Everything is eucharisteo. Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things—take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness.”

This concept, eucharisteo, has taught me to catch life’s sacramental moments—including the hard stuff—first by noticing them, then by jotting them down, and finally, as I remember God’s goodness, by thanking him and ultimately finding joy in the remembrance and thanksgiving.

Both verbs—thank and remember—are joined together in 1 Chronicles 16:12:

Thank God! Call out his Name! Tell the whole world who he is and what he’s done! Sing to him! Play songs for him! Broadcast all his wonders! Revel in his holy Name, Godseekers, be jubilant! Study God and his strength, seek his presence day and night. Remember all the wonders he performed, the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The greatest of poems is an inventory.”

I’ve made it a daily practice to inventory my blessings. It’s a way to catch sacraments and fill my grace bucket with daily gifts, like...

...handing Dean his first cup of coffee as he comes down the stairs all smiley as he faces the gift of a new day,

...the scent of the basil plant on my kitchen counter,

...the arrival in the mail of a new book by a favorite writer,

...a text from a friend following up on a business trip,

...much-needed solitude,

...a cup of Earl Grey tea,

...fresh burrata cheese and crunchy bread and olives all in the same meal,

...a yellow rose beginning to bloom out back,

...a sister’s phone call,

...“Born to Run” playing as I start my car,

...a glass of Prosecco to celebrate a small victory,

...a pizza date with friends,

...watching Dean plan our weekend in the mountains to view the fall colors,

...discovering a poem,

...a new business-development call out of the blue,

...a colleague acting as my sounding board,

...a praise song beckoning me to sing along,

...a new neighbor dropping by,

...a walk in the woods on a weekday afternoon,

...a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with Dean on our back porch.

I notice. I record. I remember. I give thanks. I smile. Eucharisteo.

"It’s the praising life that honors me" (Psalm 50:23).

Now it’s your turn. Inventory today’s blessings!

 

Andrea Syverson grew up a happily devout Catholic. After decades of plaid uniforms and even earning an MBA from a Catholic university, her life took an unexpected turn when she fell in love with a Protestant. You can read about her surprising spiritual journey in her Alter Girl: Walking Away From Religion Into the Heart of Faith

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