What Are You Grateful For?

November may be my favorite month. I love the changing colors of October and the feel of fall, but it’s also bittersweet in the melancholy that it brings of the true end of long days and evenings that echo of football games and sunsets and the breaking out of favorite sweatshirts but not yet heavy coats. I love October, but November brings the word grateful. Grateful for life, for remembering those who lived and loved and died in the commitment to not only keep this Republic free, but also the belief that other neighbors in the world deserved help in standing up to tyranny for the long vision of peace.

For what are you most grateful in this first week of November? On Sunday last we celebrated the lives of those who have gone before us. It seems strange that naming folks aloud, lighting a candle from the light of Christ as the name is read, and hearing the chime of a bell brings a sense of honor, maybe a reticent smile in the memory as well as a tear or two in recognition of not only individual, but communal sadness at the passing. And somehow naming those most recently leaving the earth brings back memories of all those in our lives who have left a lasting and indelible imprint on our hearts and spirits. We are grateful that we are able to experience relationships and joy and love in the easy and most difficult times.

What, in the spirit of gratefulness, makes you happy? What brings that internal joy that sometimes makes you skip, or at least feel like skipping even if it would be physically dangerous for you to do so? Is it the simple things? Bacon? A sunrise? Your teenage kid giving you a hint of a smile for the first time in weeks? A dumb joke (#interruptingcow *snort*)? Tripping over nothing in a hallway and looking around and realizing no one else saw it? (speaking for a friend) ‘Membering that time when your grandpa fell asleep during one of your grandma’s recitations of the family tree? The year the turkey didn’t turn out okay and your family whipped up a batch of tacos and it was the most fun T-giving ever?

Are you grateful you can laugh and have fun? When was the last time you laughed til you cried? Try this:

Might this hit home for any of you? Not naming any names, but this is hilarious because of its hint of truth in the midst of exaggeration. My aunt showed me this and I thought I might melt; it struck my funny bone at just the right time. That’s part of it, isn’t it? The timing of when things come to us and how we receive it in that exact moment. Maybe there’s a little bit of grace in that?

Are you grateful for the struggles in life as well as the celebrations? That may be why November is a favorite for me. Somehow my frustration with the shorter days and the darker skies reminds me that learning to value life when it isn’t the easiest thing to do is worth the effort. This month of Thanksgiving is a reminder of the abiding nature and character of God who doesn’t leave us when the going gets tough and sometimes, no matter what the bumper sticker says, the tough don’t get going. Sometimes the tough succumb for a few moments or days to self-pity and mucking around in hopelessness, and knowing no one truly understands our pain, maybe even God, and wanting to simply quit everything and everyone. God doesn’t leave, not even then. When the light begins to dawn again, and we realize God is tougher than our bumper-sticker theology, maybe we can be grateful for a depth that comes from the struggle.

We human beings are a peculiar lot. We’re sometimes up and sometimes down as the spiritual says (“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”) and the challenge is to have the seed of gratefulness in the midst of the all times. I’m not sure I’m there yet, and maybe I won’t ever have that kind of maturity of faith. But it’s November, and I’m grateful for those who have gone before, for those who live and love and laugh, for the times of shared life in strength and in weakness, and for a minute, or maybe two, of grace!