~by Linda Bevec
As we gather around the Thanksgiving table and begin the holiday season, I can’t help but think about all the picture perfect images we’re fed this time of year. The perfectly plump and golden turkey on a glorious platter surrounded by all the side dishes and decadent desserts spread out upon a picture perfect table. And all those who are gathered at the table take turns sharing something for which they are thankful. Family, friends, accomplishments, jobs, good fortune, and success generally make the cut. There is much to be thankful for indeed. But I think it’s important to also recognize the things in our life that are perhaps not so perfect, those things that we so often complain about, are disappointed in, or see as burdens.
For many of us, life doesn’t look how we think it should. We get sick. We suffer. We lose our jobs. We lose people we dearly love. We’re lonely. Marriages struggle. Friends disappoint. Finances suffocate us. Businesses crumble. Children rebel. We feel tired, betrayed and worn down.
We all find ourselves in situations like this…having to be strong and endure with what’s on our plate even if it’s not what we asked for or expected in life. It’s scary to soften our hearts sometimes, to see past the imperfections and to be thankful anyway. Because that’s where true gratitude is found – being thankful for imperfect things, including ourselves. Because sometimes being thankful for those things that don’t quite meet our expectations requires us to understand gratitude with a new depth and sincere honesty. In every situation we have a choice, an opportunity to be thankful and find they joy even when it doesn’t seem possible. We can embrace even our own brokenness better by seeing the flaws in things around us.
English author Aldous Huxly wrote, “Human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” When we encounter challenges in life or find ourselves feeling disappointed with what God has placed before us, it’s often difficult to focus on our blessings or to go so far as to see those disappointments as blessings themselves and perhaps grow and learn from them. So I decided to give it a try, and throughout my day today I looked for things not quite so perfect to be thankful for. Here’s my list:
I’m thankful for the 5 lbs I gained even though I was trying to lose weight. It means I had food to eat, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I’m thankful it was 12 degrees outside today. It helped me appreciate our warm home, my favorite coffee cup, and time together around the fireplace.
I’m thankful my daughter has a fiercely strong will that often drains me. It has no doubt helped her endure a life-threatening illness since birth.
I’m thankful we have bills to pay. It means we can provide for our family – water, heat, clothes, food, vacations and Catholic education.
I’m thankful for the long line at the grocery store. I was able to have a conversation with a sweet elderly man buying flowers for his wife.
I’m thankful for perpetual sticky floors, counter tops and walls with fingerprints, glue and maple syrup on them. It means I have been blessed with children and their laughter still fills the air around me.
I’m thankful that I’m so exhausted each night. It means I worked hard and have the health and energy to care for my family.
I’m thankful I was running late one day last week when heading to an appointment. I could have been the one in that car accident I passed along the way.
I’m thankful for all my shortcomings, failures and weaknesses. They continue to lead me to seek forgiveness from a God who loves me unconditionally and always gives me the chance to start over again.
I’m thankful for all those people, things and circumstances around me that don’t quite measure up to what I think they should be. Because I discover there’s so much more than what I see or expect things to be. And rather than walk away disappointed, I can embrace these situations and become part of the solution to make them better.
How sweet it is to see the struggles, challenges, and shortcomings in so many things in life, and still be thankful. What a gift these imperfections are every single day. The people I love are wrapped up in those imperfections. I am wrapped up in them. I love them all anyway, and am perfectly blessed because of them.