Finding Gratitude in Our Relationships

Every fall I climb into our attic. I’m on a quest for treasure I buried the previous year. I don’t have a map or scroll with a giant X marking the spot of this hidden booty, because I know right where I left it the year before. When I find the riches I’m filled with silent jubilation, because I know what’s going to happen next. I know all the joy and elation that will result in the treasures’ display. As I carefully extract each box and plastic container from its resting place, I know the transformation that’s about to take place in our home. Soon, each and every room is going to be aglow with little twinkling lights strung around a beautiful pine.

It’s the end of November and officially time to unpack my ever growing Christmas/holiday extravaganza. I love it! I absolutely love it! I love climbing up in the attic. I love searching for all the boxes labeled xmas. This year I set up 11 trees throughout the house, each displaying a specific theme. Some trees are decorated with lights and a woodland scene, others with balls and baubles. One tree in particular holds our family memories—ornaments created by our kids and grandkids, (even a Santa I made in grade school!), ones I remember adorning my parents tree, and an ever growing collection of ornaments from our travels. This “family” tree conjures up the most emotion in me.

As I tenderly unwrap each ornament from its tissue paper nest, I’m transported back in time. I’m awash with gratitude for each and every memory. “Oh my gosh, look at this adorable paper and macaroni ornament Cody made in 1994!” or “See all the ornaments that look like candy, we used to have these hanging on the tree when I was a kid… what great times we had!” We have ornaments from Germany, Norway, Bahamas, Africa, etc… each offering a brief journey back.

I patiently and methodically put up each and every tree. It’s hard work, but I absolutely love it! So even though it takes days, I never tire of the end result. I also know the ramifications of what it means when all those trees go up. It means the holiday season is here. It means parties and gatherings and the exchanging of gifts with those we love. It means trips to the mall or hours online trying to find that “just right” gift for Uncle Bill. The holidays mean lots and lots and LOTS of festive music and even more food!

In the midst of all this festiveness, we can forget to slow down long enough to capture the graciousness of all that’s going on around us—all those beautiful souls in our life who bring us joy. Who are those people? Yeah, let’s take a look at who we can be grateful for in our lives.

How about that family member or friend who’s the world’s best listener. They have an uncanny ability to sit patiently while we ramble on and on. They’re the ones who will nod their heads in quiet understanding or shake their heads in mutual objection. We’re so used to them being there for us we can forget to be grateful for their borrowed ear.

Then you have that friend or family member who gives the best bear hugs around. You know without a doubt that when you show up you’re going to be wrapped in the most secure and loving embrace. You look forward to this ritual and when they’re missing the evening feels incomplete somehow. Thank them for being oh so okay with showering you with affection!

How about mutual support from family? I remember my kids for instance. There were a bunch of them and they were all clustered within a few years of each other. They had been known to go into battle from time to time. This was accepted sibling behavior, but if anyone from outside this circle attempted to go into battle with one of them, it meant contending with all of them. They might fight amongst themselves, but if someone from outside tried to argue with one, all the siblings would circle the wagons in defense. They had each others backs for sure! Knowing you have your own personal team is kinda nice! Don’t forget to be grateful for those who stand beside you.

And what about our partners? What about all the ways in which we take care of each other? All those little and sometimes huge ways in which we lighten the load for one another. This kind of gratitude can have the biggest reward. Think about it, someone is going to work, taking care of the kids, paying the bills, fixing meals, cleaning the house, making sure the cars are in working order, caring for the yard, and making that rent/mortgage payment, not to mention doing the laundry, taking care of us when we’re sick and helping the kids (and sometimes us) with homework!

Have gratitude towards your partner for getting their butt up each and every work day, for loading those kids up in the car and taking them to school come rain or shine. Show gratitude towards your partner for grabbing those groceries week in and week out, for putting together a good meal each night, and for making sure all those bills get paid on time! Here’s the thing, while saying “thank you” is a beautiful sentiment, when we say thank you to someone we’re expressing appreciation to someone for offering or giving us something, for helping us. When we have gratitude, not only are we thankful but we have a readiness to show appreciation and to return the kindness. Gratitude is about receiving and giving, it’s a two way street that allows you to travel in multiple directions. Gratitude is about acknowledging the importance of both partners.

So, as we delve into another holiday season, let’s all make sure to take a moment of remembrance for all those special people in our lives. Let’s make sure we tell them how much they mean to us and be specific! “I’m so grateful for each and every hug I receive from you!” “I’m so grateful you love to do laundry” (said no one ever… lol). You get the idea though. As a matter of fact, I love the idea of showing gratitude so much I even listed “Gratitude Jars” as a must have holiday gift idea in one of my latest blogs.

John and I hope everyone has a safe and blessed holiday season and we hope you will make gratitude a daily habit!

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