One of the things I love about my dad is that he is really fun to watch open up gifts. It isn’t that my dad loves gifts, he would probably be the first person to tell you, “Don’t get me anything.” But when you do take time to get him a gift, he will take the time to open it. What I mean is, he opens up the gift, if it’s a shirt or a hat, he tries it on, if it’s a tool or maybe something he’s going to use for his BBQ, he immediately takes it out of the package, fiddles with it, and gets a sense of how he’s going to use it. We’ve even given him books before and I’ve seen him sit and read the back of the cover, flip through the pages, while we’re all there watching him. But he takes time with each gift to really appreciate it, and as a gift-giver it makes you feel really good because you know that he’s enjoying what you’ve given him.
It makes me think about God and how he gives us lots of gifts every day in our lives. They’re all around us. Sometimes they’re really big things, sometimes they're really small things, but they are there if we’re looking for them. In Luke 17, there’s a story about Jesus healing ten lepers, but only one of those lepers comes back and says thank you. That story has always stuck with me. It’s been a reminder to me to tell God thank you. Especially if it’s something that I've been waiting on or praying for, that when he does answer that prayer, I’m thanking him, but also, wanting to make sure that I’m looking around and seeing the small things that he’s doing in our lives every day.
One of the other reasons why it’s really interesting for me to watch my dad open up gifts is that I am kind of the opposite. I’m not just flying through the gifts as fast as I can, but when I open up a gift, I like to leave it in the package for a little bit. I open it up, but I don’t take all the tags off or unwrap it. I put it back in the bag when I’m done. I know that’s really weird, my girls have a hard time with it, but there’s something about keeping it new and getting to unwrap it again. I’ve always been like that, even if it’s something that I really really really want, I want to keep it new just a little bit longer.
When I think about God and him giving us gifts in our lives, I realize that I need to step out of my comfort zone a little bit when it comes to gifts. Because if I’m not appreciating and enjoying the gifts that God’s given, that’s probably not very fun for him to watch as a gift-giver. What I mean by that is when God gives me time with my friends or my family, if I'm not really enjoying that time and instead I’m thinking about 15 other things I have to do, I’m not really appreciating that gift. When I start to think about a bigger house, or a better car, or something else that I might want, I’m not really appreciating the things that God has given me. Personally, that’s been a challenge for me over the last couple of years: to really think about what God has given me and to appreciate that and not just set it aside to unwrap more fully at a later point in time.
Before I go, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Man, I'd like to lean into gratitude,” I’d like to just share an easy, 14-day gratitude challenge. This was something that we heard a couple of years ago from a speaker, Mary Messina, through MOPS International. Our group has done it a couple of times and the people that have participated always really enjoy it. Basically, for 14 days, you pick three things at the end of every day that you’re thankful for. And then you share them with someone else via text message. Talk with this person ahead of time so they're not getting random text messages from you. You can do this with one person, or with groups of three or four for 14 days. It’s just a really great way to build community and connection with someone. And when you’re texting them, you're not just texting this whole long story about your day, how everything went wrong, “but hey here’s my three things...” It’s just your three things.
The nice thing about this challenge is that it is quick and easy, it is simple, if you miss a day, you can pick it up the next day. But it gives you a chance to stop and pause and think and appreciate the things that God is doing in our lives, both big and small. It definitely can be something huge, like God providing financially, but it can also be something simple like “the weather was great and we went outside and that was really refreshing for our family.” Or “I didn’t burn dinner tonight,” or “I got to have a conversation with family or friends.” It just allows you to see those things, those gifts that God gives us every day, and to take the time to appreciate them. So with that, we’re heading into a season of thanksgiving, a season of gift-giving, and my hope and prayer is that these words would encourage you and bless you in your daily walk with Christ as we head into those seasons.