I drove past a pumpkin patch the other evening. The clock on my dashboard read 6:15 p.m. and the golden sun seemed to prolong its presence before it had to say goodnight. The gold light from the sky was so bright that that I almost missed seeing the countless pumpkins as I traveled on the country road. I longed to get out of my car immediately and walk among the sea of orange plants, but I was in a hurry and if I stopped I would get to my destination past 6:33 p.m., which is the time that my GPS told me I would arrive at my event. It was scheduled to start at 6:30 pm.
I have a confession to make. I’m 32 years old and I have never been to a pumpkin patch. I have grown up in southern Ontario so there is no good reason why I have not gone to one. My sisters and I never had the tradition to visit farms with our parents when we were children as some kids do. And I never recall going to any on school field trips to a pumpkin patch. In recent years I have grown to love everything pumpkin. Yes, I am one of those people who happily anticipates the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks every fall.
Autumn is my favourite season and not just because of pumpkins and all things pumpkin related. As soon as the air turns crisp and leaves begin to change colour my heart becomes excited for Thanksgiving. It’s in the top three of my favourite holidays. What’s not to love about Thanksgiving? It’s in a season where the colours shout joy and splendor, the food is amazing and the holiday itself is about positivity. Every October I like to imagine those early settlers who worked hard in the fields, anticipating healthy crops so that they could reap a great harvest.
I have come out of a challenging season. It was summertime but the livin’ was not easy. I felt lost in some ways. As September rolled around I knew my quiet summer was about to disappear into a fasten-my-seat-belt kind of fall. And I knew that I would need to hold onto God tightly or I was going to sink. I made changes. I surrendered. I opened my heart to the one who created it in the first place. I chose joy daily even when it was not easy. I prayed without ceasing because to borrow words from the title of a well-known book, I was too busy not to pray. I shared where I was at with a friend and she prayed the most beautiful prayer over me. I started to exercise once again for only 15 minutes a day, 5 days of the week, for the right reasons. With all of these choices I was making, I thought deeply about the kind of harvest that I want my life to produce. There are many things I could share about who I aspire to be and the kind of difference I hope to make in this world, but at the root of it, it’s quite simple, I hope to radiate gratitude.
When I consider the topic of thankfulness my mind retraces the origins of it since I came to earth. My loving mother taught her three daughters to be thankful for all things whether big or small since I can remember. It’s because of her that I savour the little things and I’m in awe of the big things. To this day one of my most treasured birthday presents was a Starbucks latte that a friend at work surprised me with a couple years ago. She had texted another friend to ask what beverage I liked best and came to my cubicle holding it in her hands with a huge smile on her face and sincere excitement. My mom instilled in her girls an appreciation for kindness. To this day, whenever we communicate to her a thoughtful gesture that someone has done for us she will without hesitation ask if we have thanked that person. She believes that it is not only important to recognize goodwill gestures when we see them, but equally important to express our acknowledgement of them to those who have carried them out.
As cliché as it sounds, gratitude does change one’s attitude. I can look back at seasons of my life when I have been the happiest and I notice a correlation between the joy experienced with the intentionality of counting my blessings. The opposite can be said of those seasons when I have been the most miserable. This past summer was an example of that. My focus got blurry and I dwelled too much on what I thought I lacked instead of the abundance of what I do have.
This October I want to challenge you to three things to help cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving:
1) Think of 10 things that you are thankful for and write them down.
2) Every day, tell someone that you appreciate them and why. It could be because of a gesture they have done or a quality they possess. Go beyond the verbal affirmation and accompany your appreciation with an action. You can choose to do something for them or to give them something.
3) Every day, do something that brings delight to your heart. Reflect. Give thanks.
I already know what I plan to do for number my 3. You can probably already guess. Yes, I am going to go to a pumpkin patch. I will not look at the time. I’m going to leisurely stroll as I talk with God, let my eyes feast on the beauty that surrounds me and I will give thanks. I may even stop for a Pumpkin Spice Latte on my way home.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).