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'Tis the Season to be Grateful

by Anita Miles

If you’ve followed Pursuing Virtue for any time at all, you are well aware by now that my favorite time of year is the fall/Thanksgiving season. I’m a huge fan of Christmas, but I LOVE Thanksgiving.

For many years, I’ve tried to be very intentional in making gratitude the spirit of my heart during this time. There’s a phenomenon that gratitude shifts within us, if practiced. And it’s much more powerful than the destruction that an unthankful spirit carries with it – which is the attitude spoken about in Scripture describing that of the last days.

During the month of November, I also try to find a quote that can be internalized and used as a motto for the month to help stay focused on the attitude of gratitude. This year, I ran across the quote that stuck by Melody Beattie a little early, banked it until November 1st, and then posted it on my social media. To the world it was just another quote, but to me it was something that I’ve embraced deeply over the past year. I’ll share the quote, and then explain… It went like this:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a house into a home and a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Around this time last year, I was completely unaware of the journey I was about to embark upon – but “unprepared” is probably the understatement of the day. Those of you who know me well, know that I love a good story. And that’s what I stumbled upon...A good life story. A redemptive one. But there was a component of this particular story that resonated with me more than most because of a similar life experience that I had with a patient in my early professional life as a nurse. Being the curious creature that I am, I could not leave it alone….or should I say, it would not leave me alone. So, I followed the trail as it led. With GREAT trepidation and weighing out the pros and cons of what I felt like my heart was telling me to do, I decided to attempt to contact the woman whom I had heard tell the story. She was a complete stranger to me. COMPLETELY unconnected in every way.

I’m not up to divulging the details of her life on a public forum, nor my patient’s - because it’s not my story to tell. But the journey for me began with overwhelming gratitude that she was willing to share her experience with complete transparency. And miraculously, I encountered it. I somehow felt connected to her, and the telling of her life event was something I had needed to fill in the questions from my own experience. I’m completely convinced God smiled big on me, as I was eventually able to make contact with her.

Over the past year, I have come to know her as one of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever met and she has become a cherished friend. The day I got to finally meet her and sit across the table for lunch at Cracker Barrel was one of the most incredible days of my life.

I’ve watched my gratitude for her, as the quote says, turn “a stranger into a friend.” And it has been one of the most powerful and life enhancing encounters – EVER! I’ve learned about the gift of belonging and connection through this personal journey. But, I’ve also experienced how God uses the beauty of suffering in our lives to help heal other people!

One songwriter put it this way - speaking of the wonder that God places in our individual worlds: “You make joy out of simple and ordinary things… You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream!”

I am SO blessed and eternally grateful for the beautiful life God has given me – a WONDERFUL family, amazing friends, a faithful church family, a job / occupation that I enjoy, etc… But, I also LOVE IT when God calls us into the unexpected moments that leave us changed forever. Sometimes those moments begin with profound fear, but when God is done writing the story – He will always leave us better for it, if we trust Him.

My maternal grandmother had a hobby as she aged. She LIVED to go to the local mall in Northern Ohio and “People Watch!” And she could tell some stories! Sometimes we weren’t sure which ones were real and if she made some up…Humanity is such an interesting creation – but our nature is to somewhat look inward. While I don’t go to the mall to do it, I find myself being intrigued with observing the nature and actions of different people, as well. I’m constantly asking the question, “what makes folks do some of the things they do?”

We are quite driven to be about the business of only ourselves. It is only a casual observation, but it is not usually our “nature” to be grateful for most things. We seem to be drawn into negativity so much faster than having positive thoughts. That’s why the Apostle Paul gives instructions to the Philippians to train their minds to think on the things that create goodness! But as Ms. Beattie remarked – “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life!”

May it not only last the next few weeks of November, but may it be a lifestyle for each of us to live out the command of Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body: and BE YE THANKFUL!”

So here we are! ‘Tis the season to be grateful…and my heart smiles big knowing I have at least one more reason to be filled with gratitude this year.

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