journeys

Attitude of Gratitude

With Thanksgiving last week, there’s predictably been much talk of gratitude and thanks. Thankful for family and friends; thankful for the bounty of food we’re able to stuff ourselves with. This year, I’m also thankful to have a new job, where I am happier and more comfortable, and a new apartment that’s both bigger and closer to all those things and people I’m thankful for.

It’s hard, though, in those moments you don’t feel that gratitude. I barely remember the past couple months, between tying up loose ends at the old job, moving my life back to North Jersey, and figuring out the work commute from both towns during the transition. Even now that I’m mostly settled, I still want to settle, like unpacking and deciding where to hang my wall art. I haven’t given myself time to think.

Today I opened up my work calendar, the same paper calendar I’d used at the old job. There, I found a note to myself, something I’d jotted months ago for a project long since completed. It’s strange to find it now. It’s part of a “former life,” a period that’s already fading into memory. Even a shiny new life chapter doesn’t close the previous one. It stays with you, constantly affecting the way you think and act. You want to keep those memories in the past, but you can’t. I have a habit of ignoring things I don’t want to face, like they don’t exist. Like how I just closed the page of that calendar and went back to work.

It’s nice to remember good things, but often hard to confront—never mind be thankful for—the bad. The stupid mistakes you made; people who’d hurt you; jobs you simply did rather than enjoyed. None of us wants to admit a mistake or waste of time. Especially as we age, it’s hard to consider maybe you shouldn’t had spent those years the way that you did.

But in some strange way, I am thankful for those situations. It might stir up old, potentially negative memories, but they’re a reminder that God has moved me past them. It felt impossible at the time, and it was impossible for little old me. But God knows my weaknesses, and He nudges me when I need it. I can’t put my life on hold just because I’m afraid; He’ll plow me through the tough stuff whether I want to or not. It’s not life if you don’t try to live, and you’re certainly not going to succeed if you don’t try.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:18

There’s always the good and the bad. I’ll have bad times in this new chapter, too. Already, my bathroom sink is clogged and I left my favorite lunch bag on the morning train. It’s a bummer. But it’s a part of life, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for a bountiful meal with my family, and for the family who couldn’t be there. I’m thankful that I have the means to buy lunch when I accidentally lose mine. I’m even thankful that I’m feeling tired right now, that I have the first beginnings of something that might be a cold, because it’s made me slow down and take a rest.

Busily unpacking all those moving boxes is fun, but so is sitting on the couch in my new living room. I placed an order last week and put the wrong address in the shipping instructions, which sent my package to a house down the street. It was inconvenient, but I got off the train and took a walk. It had snowed that day, the first of the season, and the roads were mostly empty. I took in the snow-covered sights of my new town, then met a neighbor as I took my package off his porch.

Not everything has a discernible “good side” from our point of view. But God’s working in the background. Give thanks in everything. I’m not always good at that. But maybe this week, with all those little irksome moments, can continue to teach me how.