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  • Writer's picturePatty Breen

Giving Thanks

What would you say is your favorite holiday and why?

For me, it has long been Thanksgiving. While I love the beauty and twinkle of Christmas, I have long loved Thanksgiving best. The colorful pumpkins on display, the pumpkin flavored coffee at Trader Joe’s, my cozy fall decor; this time of year makes me happy.

Part of that is that Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. I love the meaning behind a day of giving thanks, gathering with family over laughter, good food and drinks. I love the special traditions our family has developed over the years, like playing Heads Up or watching Die Hard (and yes, it is a Christmas movie!) as we enjoy our dessert and coffee.

Thanksgiving is a reminder that no matter where life finds you or what the last year has looked like, we can always find things to be grateful for.

As I look back on the last year of my own life and the last several years, there is a thread woven through it all, reminding me my life is hidden with blessings and opportunities to be thankful.

Saint Paul reminds us, “In all circumstances, give thanks.” All. When life feels sweet, easy, and fulfilling. Or more importantly, when life feels heavy, tiring, unfair, or exhausting. No matter the crosses or mountain top experiences, we are always invited to find something to be thankful for. We can praise the faithfulness and loving care of God when we feel it or when we feel like it is a lie. My own therapist has had to drill this truth into me many different times, that there is always something to be grateful for.

We do not practice gratitude or thank God because God needs our praise or that it instantly makes us feel better. The frequent practice of thanksgiving and gratitude is necessary to the spiritual life because of how it changes us from the inside out; it takes us outside of ourselves and heightens our spiritual senses to pay attention and find all the ways God loves us.

Blessed Solanus Casey is most associated with a well known saying he often shared during his life, “Thank God ahead of time.” A simple, yet powerful way to attune our hearts in gratitude to God; it is an act of faith that we trust in God, even when it feels scary or difficult.

To thank God ahead of time is a way of trusting in God’s care over your life. By thanking God in all circumstances, similar to the words of Saint Paul, you not only express your need for God, but also are thankful to God for the blessings that will come no matter the outcome. To thank God in all circumstances of life helps us to recognize God’s intimate presence in all the details of our lives and the blessings we receive.

These four little words invite us to be grateful in moments of blessings and thanksgiving but also to be thankful to God even in moments of pain and suffering. In those moments that are most painful, we cling to our faith, reminded that suffering always leads to resurrection. Resurrection always leads to new life.

What would your “right now” life look like if you began to thank God ahead of time? How would you approach people and situations differently? How would your heart grow and expand? What new things would God have to teach you?

Amid the hustle and bustle of this day, I invite you to spend a few moments heart-to-heart with God on these questions. Listen to your heart and the voice of Divine Love.

The national celebration of Thanksgiving is so much more than winning the football game or the delicious meal shared with family and friends. It is an invitation to enhance our spiritual senses; to pay better attention with our hearts and eyes and ears. It is an opportunity to stretch yourself and find the goodness of God in the people, experiences, struggles, wins, failures, disappointments, and dreams of your life.

There is always something to be grateful for. I promise you that. I am not always good at it myself, nor do I always believe it to be true in my own life. However, deep down in my soul, I know it is true.

May your day be filled with the laughter and smiles of loved ones. May your heart be filled with joy, peace, and gratitude. And may you thank God ahead of time, for all things.

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