Paying Attention

Monday, November 19, 2012

{I wrote this post two years ago, for Newby Mom. It was before I read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Now I can see how much I was hungering for that book! The practice I developed because of it has helped me keep that "paying attention" spirit, and I thank God for that. 1,452 gifts and still counting . . .} 

We start counting our blessings this time of year. We get cozy, we gather our loved ones around us and we feel grateful. Grateful for home, grateful for friends, and grateful for family who has to love us, at least until the pie is passed.

This is a wonderful time of year, because we remember to be thankful. We are reminded by greeting cards, commercials and school art projects that, “It’s Thanksgiving! Time to count your blessings!” We respond, “Yes. I am so blessed.” 

Then we move on. Back to the daily grind. Back to our busy lives where we forget to count our blessings. I would like to do better this year. I have been thinking about how I can maintain a thankful spirit, after the cheerful Thanksgiving reminders have faded.  

I have not come up with a magic answer. I do not have a catch phrase or a secret tip that will transform me or you into a grateful person. All I have is this: Pay attention. 

Surely we all have a long list of people and things for which to give thanks. If you are reading this, you have internet access and a computer. You apparently have a moment of free time, or maybe you are bouncing a baby on one hip or using your other hand to fix a toddler’s snack while you read. (In either case, but especially the latter, I’m glad you are reading!) You are probably in a comfortable home or office, and you most certainly live in a wonderful country. 

The problem is, it is difficult to maintain that perspective. We get caught up in the details of our lives: schedules, errands, projects and meetings. The list is long, and it is hard to see the big picture when you are squinting.  

When I lose sight of my blessings, I believe that God taps me on the shoulder, with a jolt of reality: a sudden illness, a friend’s job loss, a collision just a few cars ahead. I am shaken, and I open my eyes wide. I suddenly feel overwhelmingly grateful for my life, my circumstances and my opportunities. If I can embrace that feeling, and make it my new starting point, then I can see that God’s reminders to be thankful are more often subtle. My son pulls on my hand. My home is warm. A friend calls. I sleep, and do it all over again. 

So this year, I hope to capture the essence, the spirit, of Thanksgiving by paying attention, all year long. 

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3 Responses to “Paying Attention”

  1. I love that challenge -- to pay attention to the fruit that I am blessed with all year long.

  2. I'm so glad you resposted this, Courtney. What a great reminder!

    Last night, arriving home, I found myself complaining to my wife about the long lines, wasted time, and poor service at our local Wal-Mart. Then I caught myself...


    I have the convenience of a local store where I can shop for almost anything I want...the convenience of a car to get me there...the good health and able body to make the trip...a good job with enough income to enable buying necessities...

    And I think a little lost time waiting for service is worth complaining about???

    It's amazing how easily we can forget to be thankful...

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. A new starting point ... I like that. And maybe, every morning, before I put my feet the carpet, I can begin again. Happy Thanksgiving to you.