You'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut. ~Dr. Seuss

An attitude of gratitude is in the air this week and I am sure there are a plethora of blog posts spewing the virtue of how we  should all spend time counting our blessings.  Can I just say, that as far as I am concerned, overcoming one's pity party and focusing on the positive can be life's greatest challenge.

I am having one of those days where it is a lot easier to dwell on my problems and life stresses than it is to think about just how incredibly grateful I am for the many, many, many good things God has put into my life.  So, I am going to allow myself to bitch for ONE minute and then move on to where I ought to be this week.

Top 5 things I am UNgrateful for right now:

1.  There is not enough time in the day or money in my wallet, and that will never change.

2. Marriage is hard.  Definitely worthwhile, but at times emotionally draining.

3.  No one can possibly prepare you for the depth of sacrifice parenting involves.

4.  Sometimes it is incredibly hard to have faith.

5. Until my dying day there will be laundry to do, meals to make, and floors to vacuum.

I'll be honest, I could just keep going here... like the fact that I hate when the weather turns cold and my hands are so chapped my fingers crack and bleed and washing them makes me want to cry and how I thought that wouldn't happen  when we moved to Texas or how every year, about this time, we wish we'd won the lottery but no matter how many tickets we buy we never do.  As you can see I could literally go on and on...and I am sure you have a list in your head as well.

When I begin to feel this way, I make a conscious effort to remember how incredibly fortunate I am and how there are so many people with bigger challenges than myself (like my good friend who is trying to figure out how to be a single mom to 3 kids after being married for 20 years, my cousin and her husband who are knee-deep in medical and legal issues, my aunt and cousin who wait patiently and pray silently that God will bring Steven safely back from his assignment at the Kandahar Air Base) and so many, many other people whose troubles I am unaware of.  This week, no matter what your struggles or joys, they are highlighted by the feast of Thanksgiving because this is the one time of year everyone seems to become more "present" and moments are sweeter or darker depending on your state of mind.

At the beginning of the month I put this paper tree up on our family room wall:

It was an idea given to me by my friend Kathy.  So good in fact, I had it replicated on the cafeteria wall at the local high school and the students wrote their blessings on paper leaves and added them to the tree (which, by the way, was monitored because god only knows what high schoolers might put on the leaf as something they are grateful for...absolutely no offense to them intended).  Our kids have been adding leaves along the way, as well a neighbor, my dad, and some friends who have visited us from "the old country" (Wisconsin).  Here are two of my favorites...(click picture to enlarge)

Today, when my mood wasn't where I wanted it to be, I went and looked at the tree and all the leaves my kids and others have put on the tree and realized that even though there will always be many things to be UNgrateful for, there are many more people, places, circumstances, feelings and experiences TO be grateful for and the only way to truly have inner peace and happiness is to hold THOSE things dearer, closer, and higher than the others.  So as you move about your holiday [season] pay special attention and pray for consciousness toward those people, events, and things in your life that make your heart sing.

This Thanksgiving week, I hope that your turkey is tasty, your weather is wonderful, your yams are yummy...and if your life is challenging as you walk through this week, I pray that He will provide you enough faith, calm, courage, patience and grace to see you through it.