Anchors of hope, Encouragement

Need Some Gratitude? Prepositions Come to the Rescue for Thanks-Giving (Plus one simple thing)

30 Seconds for Hope: Who actually gives thanks on Thanksgiving Day? Do you? Will I? And what is thanks-giving? Is it that 15-second prayer before eating turkey till you’re stuffed? No, there’s definitely more, and gratitude becomes simple when you can complete two prepositions: to and for. Give thanks to someone for something—either something they are to you or something they have provided. Do this on Thanksgiving, and at the end of the day you will actually have given thanks! Then add one more thing, an exchanged life, and you can elicit automatic gratitude without even trying. What’s that? Read on…

And now the full story:

Tuesday morning I fought the crowds at Shoppers’ grocery store because I’d forgotten marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole.

Tuesday afternoon I cleaned our house for coming guests.

Wednesday morning I prepared cranberry sauce and dinner-roll dough to put in the fridge. 

Wednesday night I baked apple pies. From scratch.

Thursday morning I popped the turkey in the oven and crafted side dishes while my children watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Thursday at noon we ate the T-day feast. Till stuffed.

Thursday afternoon the kids and friends played backyard football, and I snacked on pie.

Thursday night we snuggled under blankets in our comfy chairs to watch a Christmas movie.

And Thanksgiving was over.

I fell into bed, exhausted yet wondering, “Have I actually stopped to be grateful for anything all day?”

I had succeeded at creating “Thanksgiving,” but had I done any actual thanks-giving? Thanksgiving Day was supposedly for gratitude, but at the end of the day, who had done it? Not me.

The same scenario replayed year after year… until one year I discovered two prepositions that solved my gratitude attitude. Instead of frustration over never achieving that nebulous gratitude (whatever it was), I found a tangible solution. I discovered it in multiple Bible verses that said: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. And loving. And faithful. And more. (See here and here) Gratitude was tied to finding the object of two prepositions: to and for. Give thanks to someone for something—either something they are for me or something they have provided. I would never achieve gratitude by focusing on myself, never by asking myself whether or not I had gratitude. Gratitude would be found by looking outside of myself at the actual things to be grateful for. (And the best discovery was still to come—one simple thing.)

Looking outside of myself. This was obviously true for cultivating gratitude to God. Thanks-giving was more than just tossing him a generalized word (“thanks”) but instead was a tangible focus on who God is, what he has done, and what he has promised. In addition, those two prepositions worked for any other kind of appreciation to anyone for anything. “I’m grateful to Grandma for bringing pumpkin pies!”  “I’m grateful to _______ for _______.”

Do you need more gratitude? Fill in those blanks. And even better, fill in the first blank through direct conversation with the someone. “Grandma, thanks for those delicious pies!” “Thank you, God, for life and love!”

Sometimes the prepositions didn’t need to be stated but they were inferred. Such as I could think, “I’m glad my husband remembered the whipped cream at the grocery store.” In analyzing that thought, it turns out that I was grateful to my husband for getting the whipped cream. The “to” and “for” were implied. Even if you don’t use those actual prepositions, gratitude comes from knowing the answers to the words to and for.

I was happy to discover this way of achieving tangible gratitude. It felt good to actually give thanks. However, over the years a pesky question still nagged me—one more thing to answer about gratitude.

I had learned how to give thanks, but had I learned to express enough appreciation? How much thanks-giving was sufficient on Thanksgiving Day? Or on any day? Once, twice? I read, “In everything give thanks.” Was I giving enough thanks in everything?

That’s when I discovered one more thing—an additional concept that revolutionized my gratitude.

I had been viewing gratitude as something to achieve, and though I had succeeded, I still felt short of having enough. Previously I had felt inadequate because in my vague definition I couldn’t find success. When I finally discovered “to” and “for,” I could succeed at giving thanks, but I couldn’t succeed at feeling I was ever grateful enough—according to me.

Thankfully, I eventually discovered that having enough successful gratitude wasn’t even the issue. Jesus had covered my “not enough.” I could never be grateful enough (it was true), and that’s why I had felt that nagging question. But that was okay because Jesus had given me a gift by exchanging his life for mine. I could never be righteous enough, or grateful enough, or anything else enough. I didn’t, and don’t, have a perfect record. But I learned that when Jesus died and then rose from his grave, he had taken my deceptions and shame with him to the cross and had exchanged them for his resurrected life. As a result, when I received his gracious gift, I was given the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christ in me, and I in him. My faulty and failing life was gone, and his perfect and eternal life had arrived. When I’d received his gift of forgiveness, he had:

  • Exchanged my death for his eternal life.
  • Exchanged my deceptions and shame for his truth and perfection.
  • Exchanged my fears for his secure promises. And more! (See here, here, and here.)

When I finally understood the exchanged life, I was extremely grateful without even trying! I just was! Those two prepositions jumped for joy inside me. Remember the template—gratitude to someone for something (either something they are to you or something they have provided)? I was extremely grateful to Jesus for becoming my righteousness, my enough, my hope!

I no longer wonder about having enough gratitude on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve not only discovered what thanks-giving is (being grateful to someone for something), but also I’ve learned that Jesus Christ is my enough.

And for that I ended up being very grateful.

“Thanks to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

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Image by John Hain from Pixabay