Catholic at Home: Prepare for a more Soulful Thanksgiving
We go around the table every year: “I’m grateful for my family and friends,” somebody says. “I’m grateful for pie,” one child pipes up. Thinking ahead to my turn, I want to voice something that’s heartfelt and unique, but, most years, I realize that I’ve done little reflection on the details of my life that would yield the solid answer I’m looking for. Similar to waking joyfully on Christmas morning, I want to experience Thanksgiving with a deep, peaceful gratitude grounded in recognizing God’s presence and blessings. To aim for the same, take small steps toward living simply and generosity while taking actual record of what gives you joy.
St. Therese prayed, “Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be, and becoming that person.” Living simply is much more focused on the soul than it is material possessions. God has blessed every one of us with gifts, passions and charisms. Recognizing what they are, then maintaining a lifestyle to nurture them is living simply.
For example, you might be a person who thrills in hosting and get-togethers, so having an abundance of plates, table cloths and space in your home would be “simple” for you. God put desires for adventurous homeschooling in my heart, so we have a good vehicle for our travels and we budget toward experiences. Our possessions and schedules should lean into who God created us to be as individuals and as families. What lights a spark in you? In your kids? Ask the Lord to reveal it to you, and live accordingly.
I began pursuing a simpler life more than 10 years ago, the fruits of which our family saw immediately. An expecting mama bent on nesting, I wanted to rid our house of excess to make way for our third child. I could have sold our extra stuff, but with a due date looming, I rushed to give it away and stumbled upon generosity completely by accident.
Our family had been on the receiving end of others’ generosity countless times, but having the chance to do the same was a gift equal in proportion. My husband and I parted with small stuff at first – clothes the kids outgrew, home decor and books and we saw how much people appreciated receiving them. To put it simply, we saw more clearly how very important people are and that detaching from things we didn’t need could make us channels of God’s generosity. Eventually, Andrew and I had opportunities to give in bigger ways, and because we had been practicing, we could do so with joy.
NUMBER YOUR BLESSINGS
G.K. Chesterton said, “Gratitude is the mother of all virtues,” so cultivating thankfulness within ourselves is a surefire way to holiness. In 2004, I spotted a book called 14,000 Things to be Happy About at a bookstore. Flipping through, I realized that it didn’t apply to me specifically, so I bought a notebook instead and decided to write my own. Try this yourself!
Use a notebook, or make a spreadsheet. Have your kids start their own, as well, to encourage gratitude in their hearts. In noting the things that bring us joy – from the aroma of coffee to learning a baby is on the way – we open our eyes to the ways the Lord upholds us. In times of faith, my “happy list” has only made my smile wider; in darkness, I see how God buoys my heart.
Gratitude is a lifestyle, not a one-time event. It takes slow, small, steady steps to redirect our hearts, lives and families to see how present the Lord is – steps that lead to authentic thanksgiving and deep, soulful peace.
This article appeared in the November edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.