Seven years ago was the first Thanksgiving after my mother passed away. Inspired by a friend’s blog post, I wrote my own “Tougher Kind of Thankful List” that year.

Perhaps you’ve lost someone this year, and this is your first holiday season without them. Or perhaps you’ve had other difficulties over the last months and you’re struggling to feel grateful.

I was thinking earlier today about how thankfulness is an act of the will. There are those truly happy moments in life that elicit spontaneous gratefulness. But in the vast in-between times where mundane and difficulty are the norms, we must exercise our gift of free will if we are to give thanks. In this time and place, no matter what else is happening in our lives or the world around us, we choose to trust and rest in Jesus.

I think the reason God has told us so often in Scripture to give thanks in all circumstances is because a grateful heart brings healing and well-being to our souls. Our thankfulness is God’s conduit to bring us joy, no matter the damaging circumstances swirling around us.

Below, I’m going to share my “Tougher Kind of Thankful List” from 2012 with you. I hope it will inspire you to write your own, or to at least think about God’s gifts and mercies in the tougher spots of this past year.

For me, this exercise helped me to realize that no matter how difficult life was that year, there were gifts in those difficulties that gave me many reasons to give thanks.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

My Tougher Kind of Thankful List from 2012:

  • I’m thankful that after several years of hard work to downsize, sell my parents’ house, and move, my father and I are now settled in a smaller and more manageable place close to family.
  • I’m thankful that God gave us two months in this house with Mother before taking her Home to be with Him, and that we can now enjoy memories of her here with us.
  • I’m thankful that the processing of my parents’ possessions gave us the opportunity to hear and record stories Mother may not have had reason to tell us otherwise.
  • I’m thankful that because Mother is absent from her earthly body, she can now talk with Jesus face to face and be with loved ones she had missed for so many years.
  • I’m thankful that in her absence here, God has shown me His love in such tangible ways that any doubts that He is, or that He cares for me deeply, are gone.
  • I am thankful that the grief that takes your breath away only comes in waves, rough though they may be, and that in-between God gives us calm waters and easier sailing.
  • I’m thankful that friends and family who live far away can now be brought near through technology, and that via avenues like Facebook, “community” can now mean more than just a geographic area.
  • I’m thankful that the lack of abundance of finances forces me to trust God for His provision, and to experience that He truly does care for me as He does the little sparrow.
  • I’m thankful that disappointments are reminders I am not in control, but God is, and that He has purposes for His glory and my good that I cannot completely comprehend.
  • I am thankful that truth brings freedom, even when that truth is difficult to accept.
  • I am thankful that acceptance brings peace.
  • I am thankful that peace frees me to experience joy.
  • I am thankful that joy is not dependent on circumstances.
  • Most of all, I am thankful that in finding the good in all things, I have Someone real to thank and praise, and that because He is, I have the assurance that everything I face in the future will have His purpose embedded in it.
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