Thanksgiving Day 2023 is in 10 days. Do you do anything to prepare yourself for it?
We've been doing a series on gratitude at church. Yesterday, our pastor reminded us to be grateful for the ability to assemble together and worship God in ways we wouldn't think to do ourselves. It was baptism Sunday, and he had everyone who'd already been baptized go forward first and stir the water a bit, just as a reminder. It made an impact on me, seeing so many people go forward, take a deep breath, and place a hand in the water. It wasn't the water itself that changed us, but the act of obedience that sealed us. It's a holy thing, and remembering it in such a memorable way is impactful.
How did baptism change you? I was baptized as a young child, and my act of obedience was important, but there wasn't much that needed changing at that point. At 23 years old, I made a choice to be baptized again. Before, I was one way. After, I was different.
It was life-changing, and I barely told a soul. I just changed my name. No longer did I was to be called "Kim." I wanted to mark the occasion, so I began to introduce myself as Kimberly. It's not a huge change. It's the name I was born with, but Kim got a little off track and Kimberly was going to be different.
I'd taken a class at my church that taught me about the circumcision of the heart. Our teacher said that those who'd been striving with God and couldn't ever seem to get it right could be baptized. That act of obedience would seal my relationship with God, cutting away my "emnity" (the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something) with God. She likened it to the physical circumcision God instructed Abram to do - and after Abram was circumcized, God changed his name to Abraham. Not a big change, but notable. (See Colossians 2:11-12.)
I rarely think of it these days, but I'm grateful for the change baptism made in my life. Loving God became my own thing, not just something I'd been taught. Following God stopped being about my training, and it became something I wanted.
If you haven't done so in a while, go back and think about your baptism. Then, think through all the things God has done for you over the years. Get out a notebook and a pen and jot down a few words about each one. Nothing fancy. This exercise is just for you. A few words about each one to bring them back to mind. Are there any name-changing events in your life?
Here's a sample of words from my list: blue shoes, the musical, publishing house, $9, future ministry impact, the hug, feeding tube friends...
I have deeply imprinted gratitude for each event those words represent. If you're a parent, you know how annoyed you get when your kids aren't thankful for what they have. You've done so many nice things for them, giving them so much of yourself, your resources, and your love. If you have an ungrateful child, it wears you down. A child who stops to genuinely thank you for something as simple as folding their clean laundry and putting it away IS LIFE.
If they complain and whine about what they don't have or how unfair life is, you want to take away the good things they do have to give them a little perspective. It's our job to teach our children gratitude because a grateful heart makes life enjoyable. Someone who's constantly dissatisfied isn't a happy person.
GOD IS OUR FATHER. When we live in gratitude and thanksgiving, He is just as pleased (if not more) as we are when our children are grateful and notice the good things.
Even if you aren't going to write it down, at least keep a running list in your mind for a few days.
Did you notice the beautiful sunset? Say thank You. Did you see your son helping out his sister? Thank God for that, too. Did your husband send you a text that you get more beautiful every day? Don't roll your eyes. Thank him! Thank God you have a husband who cares enough to try, and add it your list. Did you stumble over some toys left out this morning on your way to the bathroom? Thank God for the ability to have toys for your kids to play with and a bathroom just steps from your bedroom. Spend a few days cultivating gratitude and see where it leads you.
Sometimes, it's the things we take the most for granted that make life pleasant. Thank God for the ability to get together with your family. Remember when we weren't supposed to? Thank God for the lack of fighting in your family about whether or not you can all get together and who's been out where they shouldn't have and who might get sick. That was awful, wasn't it? Maybe invite them all over tonight for a spontaneous cook out - JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN.
Living a life of gratitude changes you. Put down your phone and look around. Yesterday, I thanked God that 20+ people could get into one metal tub that everyone had their hands in and no one freaked out about germs! I don't ever want to take things like that for granted again. Praise. The. Lord.
In closing, a word on training. I didn't understand what it meant to go into the waters of baptism and "bury the old man; rising to new life" as I was taught at five years old. I understood I'd committed my life to Christ and needed to obey Him, though. It did seal me into the Kingdom of God, and there were several events along the way that pulled me back in when I got a little off track. But it seemed like I constantly had to strive to please God. It didn't come from a place of joy, but of obligation. My parents also trained me to have a grateful heart. An attitude of gratitude, my dad would say. Their training led me to a church that taught their heartsick daughter about the circumcision of the heart. Don't underestimate the value of training your children in the things of God. Even if they get a little off track one day, that knowledge will never let them go.
Some days parenting is just hard. I had one of those days recently. Everything seemed to be weighing on me, including changing a 6 1/2 year old's poopy diaper. Again. It took a while, but eventually I was able to remember all the things about him I'm grateful for. Thank You, God, that our biggest concern with him right now is not being potty trained. This will NOT last forever. Right? Thank You, God, that he can hear, that his kidneys, lungs, and heart function properly. Thank You, God, that he's eating and drinking. Thank You, God, that we no longer have to carry around oxygen tanks, feeding tube supplies, and all the other medical equipment he once needed. Thank You, thank You, thank You. Then, I got back to the business of living, determined to stop feeling sorry for myself. An attitude of gratitude really does change things.