Christmas Every Day – Guest Post by Dalene Reyburn

This entry is part 1 of the series Thankful Thursday

I’m all about the honesty so here it is:

I love Boney M.

I love their crazy Afros. I love their funky disco-era renditions of ancient holy carols. I love their proclamations of glory: Oh my Lord, you sent your Son to save us, oh my Lord . . .

I get that musically, Boney M is atrocious stuff. But it’s my childhood. It’s summer holidays and my sisters and me dancing on the lounge carpet in front of the Christmas tree. It’s market shopping and tinsel and turkey.

Scandalously, I have passed on this passion to my sons. Now, in March, and July, and every day from mid-October until Christmas, I get requests for ‘Christmas songs pleeeeeez, Mommy!’ They don’t care that it’s inappropriate – freaky – to listen to (bad) Christmas music in the middle of the year.

And I don’t care either. Because of a trip I took in 2013.

Towards the end of 2012, while I was preparing to exit my teaching career, I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. It’s her ‘dare to live fully right where you are.’ And it totally inspired my theme for 2013: thanksgiving.

I decided to count 2013 gifts in 2013. It worked out to thirty-eight-point-something gifts per week, for fifty-two weeks. I blogged my gratitude lists, week in and week out of that year. No repeats. I kept lists in my journal, on my phone, on the fridge.

Some weeks the thanksgiving was easy.

I couldn’t type fast enough all the blessings I saw and smelt, tasted and touched. And some weeks I stared at my screen and wracked my tired brain for scarce moments of joy. I learned how to give thanks even for very lousy things – because they were real and they had passed through the hands of God over my life and I knew they had purpose.

I didn’t realise how much those lists and lists of things and things were changing me until I was done. By the time we headed down to the Western Cape for Christmas at the sea with my family, I had finished. I had said thank you 2013 times.

So I stopped.

Except that I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I’d been searching so hard all year for goodness and the grit of glory that I’d forced a most beautiful habit. And forcing that habit of thanksgiving taught me to live in the moment.

I was looking for things that made me go, ‘Thank you, God!’ So I started seeing the way morning sun fell golden crisp on the wood of the dining room table – even though my two-year-old was simultaneously throwing a magnificent tantrum. If I hadn’t been looking for the sun, I would only have seen the tantrum.

And that Christmas on the coast? It ranks as one of the best of my life.

The thanks habit had me seeing the gift – just the gift – of each moment – just that moment. I didn’t drag baggage into every conversation, as I’m wont to do when the air is thick with the exquisite sadness of nostalgia. I didn’t dredge up memories unless they were poignant – helpful – beautiful – to the moment at hand.

I just lived the moment.

With Ann, I realised that ‘in giving thanks for the life I already had, I found the life I’d always wanted.’ Counting the gifts had made it Christmas every day. I didn’t have to wait for once-a-year gifts under a bling tree. Because every day there are things to unwrap at the foot of the tree that split history in half – the tree that held the Messiah so we could be held by Him in eternity, and in the here-and-now.

In 2011, Time magazine cited various studies proving that the optimism bias – the resilient belief that the future will be better than the past – drastically improves physical health and emotional wellbeing.

The truth about thanksgiving is that it’s the heavy grace that tips the happiness scales. Thanksgiving keeps us from blaming others (or God or the government or the neighbour’s cat). And that keeps us happier because blame is just another way of saying to the person or thing that we’re blaming: ‘Here! Take my happiness. Hold on to it.’

The courage that thanksgiving demands is to form a habit.

Get a journal. Open a document. Be accountable to someone. If you have kids, get them to start a thanksgiving habit too.

A while ago, whining was fast becoming our boys’ regular and preferred medium of communication. It drove me wild. So every time they whined I would say, ‘Come on, what are you grateful for? What happened at school today that was really fun?’ We stuck up on the fridge a one-hundred-days-of-thanksgiving challenge. We would take turns at supper to say what we thanked God for. Three things a day. It took courage: discipline, effort and patience. And it took gentle encouragement because every night they wanted to give thanks for the tomato sauce and I wanted to open their eyes to the wonder that there was so much more, so much all around them for which to give thanks.

Some people, if you ask them, ‘How are you?’ they answer, ‘God is good!’ I always want to say, ‘Yes. I know God is good. But how are you?’ Because it feels like they’re giving me a shiny happy cop-out and I want real.

But Paul writes, ‘Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.’ So, should you be saying, ‘Thank you, God, that I was abused as a child? Thank you that my car was stolen? Thank you for my postpartum psychosis? Thank you that I lost my job?’

Paul says, ‘in all circumstances’. Jesus gave thanks the night He was betrayed. He could taste the approaching agony. But in those dire circumstances, He didn’t thank God for the betrayal. He thanked God for the bread.

Because there’s always something to give thanks for.

Even if you’ve scoured your circumstances for a glimmer of grace and found none – even if there is nothing left to be grateful for – God is in the circumstances and God hasn’t changed. You can give thanks for that.

Our youngest son’s favourite Boney M remix is Joy to the world. It’s a standard request, and he hums and mumbles it around the house some days. It reminds me that always there can be joy because always there’s the gift of the greatest story ever told:

Of a King born low to live love beneath stars He flung.

To die a promised death nailed to a tree He seeded.

To rise so that we could be free.

Joy to the world – the Lord is come.

. . .

Thank you Dalene Reyburn

for this extract from your wonderful book, Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires.

Dalene Reyburn is a writer and speaker who looks for worship and wonder in the mundane and the magnificent, sharing weekly at www.dalenereyburn.com. She is the author of The Prayer Manifesto for Moms, co-author of the children’s novel, Flight to Fabuland, and a contributor to theWordSpace.mobi.

Her book of 365 devotions, Walking in Grace, can be found where books are sold in the USA and South Africa and worldwide on Amazon (Kindle and paperback editions). She has a Master’s degree in Applied Language Studies and was a high school teacher before giving that up to pack lunchboxes and play astronaut-astronaut. She and her husband, Murray, have two sons and a golden retriever. They live in Pretoria, South Africa, and there is often mud on their carpet.

Note from Shirley: Watch this space over the next few weeks as I prepare to make the coming new year, 2018, a year of Thanksgiving Thursdays. I hope you’ll join me!

Does Dalene’s idea of giving thanks every day resonate with you? Please comment below.

See next Monday for details on my challenge to you (and to me!) 

42 comments on “Christmas Every Day – Guest Post by Dalene Reyburn

  1. Pingback: An Attitude of Gratitude throughout 2018. Join the Thankful Challenge!

  2. What a marvelous post! Gratitude helps in more ways than we know. I completely agree, there always is something to be grateful for. I always write down things which I’m grateful for today, even on the most difficult of the days. Merry Christmas and happy holidays! 😀

  3. Pingback: Excited for 2018 - A year of Thanksgiving. Let's do this together.

  4. So beautiful, Shirley, and so true. I love Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” which is all about the present moment. Being able to appreciate what we have in this instance is really about getting more out of life. Sometimes its hard, but its so necessary.

    • Thank you Sue. I’ll be giving more details this Thursday then I’m hoping some folk will join in the challenge. (Right now, we’re waiting to hear the news about who our next president will be. . . . oh help! Talk about craziness!

    • It’s a great post. I was so excited by the concept Dalene shares that I’ve decided to set up a project for 2018 based on the post. More details will follow on Thursday, but I’ll try and persuade you to join in. 😉

  5. Thanks for featuring this beautiful post by Dalene, Shirley! I think these are great pointers that we often forget to live by in our quest for chasing happiness outside of ourselves when there is scope for so much from within us. Living in the moment and being grateful for what I have has made me realise what I’ve been missing all these years!

    • Hi Ehsa,
      Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I am so excited about the concept Dalene suggests in this post that I’ve decided to set up a project for 2018 based on Thursday Thankfulness. Pop back here this Thursday for details. I’d love you to join in the fun..

  6. What an awesome post! I loved reading it 🙂 It is indeed right living in the moment and enjoying those little joys of life means a lot. When you look back in time all you have is cherished memories.

    • Thank you, Keerthi! I love what you said, “When you look back in time, all you have is cherished memories.” What a lovely picture. And this is why I plan to make this my theje for 2018! Watch out for this Thursday’s post.

  7. I absolutely loved this post, Shirley.
    Dalene is most inspiring. Gratitude has saved me from despair more times than I can count. I’m inspired to try for 2018 reasons to be grateful – will keep you posted.
    I do a gratitude post every Thursday too.

    • Thanks for the visit, Ruth. This post is mainly taken from Dragons and Dirt,and yes, it’s great. This is the foundation of the challenge I’m setting up for 2018. I hopecyou will join in.

  8. this is such an inspiring post, I also believed being grateful and thankful is such a positive emotion that could bring a major change in our life. in fact, very soon I am a going to start a family activity to write down” 2 things every day, for which you are grateful ” for teaching my kids about the importance of gratitude in our life.

  9. The gratitude challenge is always a tough one but I think the idea of finding small joys in the moment – rather that waiting for the big stuff to hit us between the eyes, is the secret. I love that it changed Dalene’s life and is inspiring you for the year ahead – I look forward to seeing how you’ll tackle it.

    • Thanks for the visit, Leanne. I’m about to work on the next post in this series. As you say, it’s a tough one, but I think this will work. (Ask me again this time next year!)

  10. Pingback: Link Parties and Why they are Good for Bloggers and Readers: Guest Post

  11. I try to give thanks every day. Today in particular, when my mother in law (who turns 90 on Monday) was unexpectedly told by her doctor to go to the ER and was then admitted to the hospital. I can still find so much to be thankful for, nevertheless, but it also makes me realize how much I tend to complain. And now, I lean on the support co workers are giving me – tomorrow will be another day.

    • Hi Alana. Sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. I’ve just prayed that she will recover and get home for Christmas. Yes, somehow it’s often easier to complain than to give thanks. I hope to start a whole new approach to this in 2018 and will be sharing about it in a few days’ time.

  12. There is so much to remember and practice from this post. Thanksgiving should be an everyday practice and not just meant for festivals. I will certainly make use of the pointers you have suggested to inculcate gratitude in kids. I wish I could reblog this post on my blog.

    • Anamika, great to have you here. By all means, copy this post’s link to your site so your folk can come over and read it. I agree, it’s a super post. (Thank you again, Dalene!) The exciting thing is that I plan to make this a theme for 2018, and I’m inviting other bloggers to join me in the fun. So keep an eye on the next couple of posts that will explain how it’s going to work.

  13. Loved the blog. There is always something to be thankful for. Even when we think their isn’t your breathing and god gave us another day to serve. Or to make someones day even if it is a smile. Smiles are contagious .
    Blessings
    Diana

  14. I loved it. Sometimes Is so easy to concentrate in the bad things and let our flesh rule with anger and bitterness and forget about all the times our lord comes to our rescue.

    Psalm 103:2

    2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—

    • Lupita, you’re so right. I found this excerpt from Dalene’s book such a challenge. I plan to implement this theme throughout 2018. I hope you’ll join me!

  15. Dalene – I was also raised on Boney M! We had a game of loosely translating band names into Afrikaans so they became Benerige M in our house. Love this post so much. I love that you differentiate slapping a happy face on things (God is good) and being real, but finding the gold in the mud of life. Your words refreshed me, thank you!

    Shirl, thank you for sharing your blog space with this blessing of a woman. Good call!

    • Thanks Di! (Two Di’s one after the other! What are the chances of that?)
      Di’s book, Dragons and Dirt contained this segment and I felt really challenged to make the theme for my 2018 that of “Thankfulness!” I’ll explain soon how I intend to do this, and I’m hoping to bring a number of people (looking at you 🙂 ) with me on this adventure.

  16. What a lovely habit. I am encouraged to begin to do so myself. Thanks be to my Lord and my God that I can meet with Him in the early morning hours. Quiet time with Him is such a blessing! I pray I might develop an attitude of gratitude!

    • Thanks for your visit, Ann. I am planning on starting a challenge for 2018 on this theme, so stick around and read my next couple of posts which will show what I have in mind. I think it will be tremendous fun as well as being a real life-changer. (Thank you Dalene!)

  17. Thanks so much for sharing. What a great reminder. We do have so much to be thankful for. Especially His gift to us! Merry Christmas!

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