“Thanks” Comes Before “Giving”

I’ve been reflecting on the upcoming months as I begin to plan my holidays around my parents and my in-laws, pray my brother can make it to each gathering, consider menu options & ponder what gifts to give. I love buying presents for people, love surprising them with a thoughtful piece of evidence that demonstrates my love & appreciation of them.

Via Rifle Paper Company

Problem: Money.

My husband and I have struggled to get by these first 3 years of our marriage as the economy fell apart around us and we saw our hours take cuts while everything else seemed to soar in price. I like so many others this year, will be giving in an extra thoughtful and budgeted way.

As I sat pathetically lamenting how little I have to give this year I remembered some posts I had seen on Facebook, people ascribing a different letter of the alphabet to each day and listing something they are thankful for that began with that letter.

Example: November 13th, 13th letter of the alphabet =  M

Today I am thankful for the Memories I have of my childhood, my grandfather, my family, and the new ones my husband and I are making.

Before we enter into this season of giving gifts to others, we have a wonderful opportunity to pause in thankfulness this Thanksgiving. I’ve found that as I’ve considered how much I already have it has shrunken down my own Christmas list of wants. I have a great deal that I call my own and recalling my blessings as I walk into Target or The GAP where everything seems to have my name written on it, I’ve realized I have a bit of an easier time saying “no” (of course, I’ve also stopped going to GAP to make saying “no” much easier).

I guess my point is that the “Thanks” comes before, and very importantly before, the “Giving” and that’s a really good thing.

I want to invite you to take some time to write out a list of the things you are thankful for. If you don’t like doing that, just take a few minutes to wander about your living place and take count of all the things you have and all the memories attached to them. This is not an exercise designed to invoke guilt, just thankfulness. We will always want things, either because they are beautiful or cool, it doesn’t matter – I don’t want you to feel guilty about wanting. But I think we can get wrapped up in the idea  of “getting” and can even be consumed by it. I know I have. But when thankfulness is on our hearts, in our eyes as we look on our loved ones & surroundings, well, it makes us far less vulnerable to the “getting” bug.

So, my encouragement to you is to take some time – whether it be each day leading up to Thanksgiving, a Facebook post, Sunday morning devotion, or your one quiet evening this week – take some time to be thankful for where you live, what you have, the moments of joy you’ve had this month, a true friend, or a loving God. Make it a simple list; I took a walk in a lovely park today with my husband and my sweet dog, Coco. She won’t be around much longer, this may be our last winter, and I’m just grateful to give her moments like that & share them with my husband.

I’m thankful to have Mornings where Coco wakes me up. This happened just this weekend & I wish you could see how crazily she wagged her tail!

Take time now to make your Christmas that much richer. I guarantee you, there is no gift that can be wrapped in paper that will bring you the true happiness you seek.

If you are filling in the blank of this sentence, “If only I had . . . then I would be happy” with an object, I have news for you: you are wrong, it won’t make you happy.

 

You know that’s true. You may be happy to get it, enjoy it, but that inner-happiness, that joy that we’re all chasing, that doesn’t come from a pricey gift, it comes from a deep inner-satisfaction, a sense of gratification and a desire to bless others as you have been blessed.

I didn’t want us to wait until Christmas to have that talk about the true spirit of giving, it should start now when we have an opportunity to be grateful.

So, what are you grateful for today? Begin now in practicing some thankfulness! If you’re having a hard time narrowing it down try sticking to the letter “M,” (M for Molly??) it helps ; )

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
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  • Lori

    Molly,
    I have noticed many of my friends on Facebook posting what they are thankful for each day in November.
    We do become so rushed and preoccupied that we forget to focus on the true joy that can be gained from the holidays. Thank you for this reminder.
    I am thankful that I get another Thanksgiving with Granny and I am thankful for YOU! I appreciate our blog brainstorming and fun conversations so much!
    Love you,
    Lori

    • Lori,
      You are such a good friend. I’m grateful for you in that, for your dedication to your grandmother & the example you are to all people caring for elderly relatives. I love talking with you, seeing more and more each time how similar we are, and rejoicing in the fact that we really are related as sisters in our loving Jesus.
      Thanks for all you do to make this blog great, your patience with me especially!
      Hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving this year!

      Molly

  • Betty F

    We all have so much to be thankful for and it’s not just this time of the year. But I am so grateful that we do celebrate Thanksgiving. It seems to me that about this time, in the pace of the year, I need to stop and realize that the year is coming to an end and how did I really show my gratitude during this year for all that I have and how wonderful God has been to me. Mostly I have to say I am thankful for the people that are in my life and those that continue to walk through my life through my work and my Ministry. I love reading your Blog and value all of you at O’Connor. Wishing you all are great Thanksgiving.
    Betty F.

    • Betty!
      Yes, yes! I love your perspective on looking back over the year behind us to see how we did. Every time I pause to have moments like these I only realize that I need more of them. These years seem to just be whizzing by but I think if we can pause more frequently it would even make our reflection on the year a less jumbled mess (not that yours is, but mine most certainly is!). I’m going to practice your idea this week & look back over this year & see what I can apply to 2013 & even just the rest of 2012.
      I’m blessed to read I have another sister in Christ in you, that you are passionate about your Ministry (good job with the M words!), and that you find meaning & truth here.
      Thanks so much for being a part of this blog & sharing your heart with me. What a blessing you are!

      Molly

  • Bryce

    Colossians 3:15-17
    15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
    16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
    17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
    Thank you for your kind and cherished thoughts, Molly. I am thankful for you beyond measure and deeply grateful that I have had the blessing of sharing life with you these last 3 years. Though we are materially poor, we are richly and graciously blessed in so many immaterial ways–“for that which is seen is transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)
    I loved your thoughts on what true satisfaction is. I leave you with this final piece of wisdom from the wisest man to walk this earth:
    What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)
    Love you sweetie! I’m so proud of you.

    • Wow! This perfectly sums up one of the big lessons God has been teaching me these last few months, that He wants my happiness and wants me to live a joy-filled life. Bryce, I love how often you shine God’s word upon me & most especially how patient you are with my struggle to grasp and understand these lofty and beautiful meanings. Thank you for this passage from Ecclesiastes, it will be something I dwell on for some time. Maybe even Memorize?
      What a deep blessing you are to me & have always been & I suspect, will always be. Thank you for walking this path with me & matching my pace as our eyes and feet are turned down a path of reliance & thankfulness, away from the paths of accomplishment & independence that we intended to walk.

      I love you and am thankful for MY MAN!

  • Molly,

    Thanks for your insight and the blessings you allow us to see in front of us. It is always hard to see the forest through the trees, especially in this corner of the blue ball. I always feel so uplifted when I pause and give thanks and feel sorry for myself or sad when I do not. I love your quote”If only I had” we always think it is the destination that will bring us happiness but it is the journey and our own mindset. I love the story of the elderly woman who after decades has to finally move into an assisted living facility. The manager is taking her to her new room and hopefully suggests she will like it even though it is not her family home. She turns to him in the elevator and proclaims “I love it” He looks at her and says “but, you have not even seen it yet.” She smiles and says I do not have to, whether I love it or not has nothing to do with the size of the room or where the sofa is, it has to do with me and my attitude. I have created an internal mantra for myself to use when I’m able to pause or even meditate (I do not do daily, which I should) this helps me refocus to the positive…

    “I am Strong, I am at Peace, I am One with all”

    Take care

    Chuck

    • Chuck,
      I’ve never heard that story before but wow, what a great illustration of how we can practice not only gratefulness but contentment and joy with others on a daily basis. An attitude like that is amazing and I have to admit, I would struggle to feel the same as she does.
      I think it’s also important that we don’t feel guilt when we don’t take time to be thankful, why waste the energy that way? Simplify it by being thankful that you remembered to be thankful! I like to eliminate any unnecessary, self-imposed guilt and I think that’s what that is. Although, I do understand the sorrow that can follow you around when we don’t take the time to adjust our perspectives and reflect on our bounteous blessings.
      Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us & making this post that much richer.

      Molly

  • Anne

    Molly
    Thankfulness is a state of mind. The older I get, the simpler the reasons for my gratitude. When I choose not to seek my own will or desires in a situation, even the holidays, I find that I have greater appreciation for the simple pleasures of family and love and health and being together, than what can be wrapped up with a bow.
    Like you, we have an older dog who has lived long beyond what we thought she would with her fragile scary start in life. We feel like we are having borrowed time with her each year she hangs in there. Her name is also Molly. So let me say, I am thankful for two Mollys. Our precious little runt of a cocker spaniel and for you, your friendship and your encouragement to our blog team. I am also thankful for my husband and his contributions to our Marriage of 46 years. I am thankful for a lot of Memories, good and bad, and especially of those of my two brothers and brother in law who have gone to be with the Lord. I am thankful for the truth, which may encourage you and Bryce: Little becomes Much, when God is in it. So there’s a few “M”‘s from My perspective.
    Love
    Anne

    • Anne,
      How wonderful that you have 2 Molly’s! Thank you so much for your kind words and your wonderful list of blessings that you are thankful for. I feel similarly to you about my dog Coco who had that stroke earlier this year. I just love that dog and I’m so grateful to still get to come home to her silly ways and her wagging tail that always makes me smile. I’m glad you have a dog-friend like me that God has given you so much time with.
      I agree about your “state of mind” statement as well. Chuck’s story above really backs that up and it’s something that will challenge me in the future.
      Thank you so much for reading, responding, and bringing joy to me as I read your post.
      I’m thankful for YOU!

  • Carrie Bayer

    Molly, this is absolutely beautiful. I feel as though it was written just for me. As you know, I’ve been having a tough time for a few years. But in it all, I have found a few wonderful reasons to be thankful & have been able to show my gratitude to those who have shown me the way. Thank you so much for this amazingly written piece, you have enhanced my life & outlook in unbelievable ways! XOXOX Carrie

    • Carrie, Carrie. Thank you for such high praise & kind words! It thrills my heart to know that this brought some small comfort or warmth to you. Thank you for sharing with me, for all of your constant encouragement, and for making me smile!!

  • Hi Molly –

    I love this post!
    A- I am grateful for the Air in my lungs, life is moment by moment, most people think it is day by day. We are never guaranteed the next day or even the next moment.
    B – Beauty I am thankful for beauty. There is so much beauty in life, we just need to stop and see it, everyone has beauty, sometime hard to find or recognize, yet it is there if you look for it.
    C – Child – I am oh so thankful for my child, no not my inner child, well I am thankful for that to. I really mean Jesse Joe, he has been the biggest blessing to me and my family & friends.
    D – Dogs, I love my three dogs, Lucy, Brodie & Izzy, they are so fun, so loyal!
    E – Energy, I am thankful for my God given off the charts energy that drives people nuts!
    F – Family & Friends – I am grateful for both!
    Skipping most of the next letters
    L – Lisa, I am thankful for Lisa and the greatness she has!
    M – Molly, I appreciate YOU!
    Z – I love to sleep and I am darn good at it!

    • Hahah! I like this picking & choosing of letters to be thankful for but I am SURE you’d be able to fill them all up with your many friends & family.
      Thank you for sharing some of your “happy thoughts” with us Neil, you have some real treasures in your life!

  • Fitz

    Hi Molly,

    I’m thankful for your blog! Thanks for sharing and the reminder of having an attitude of gratitude. Here’s my give thanks list:

    D – Devoted wife and best friend Kathryn. Love her in a big way. Believe me she puts up with a lot from me.
    A – All my children. Not the soup opera, silly. Jack, Kelly and Teddy. Great kids who make me proud every day.
    B – Blessings are everywhere. I sometimes don’t always see and acknowledge but they are there if I just take a moment to enjoy them.
    E – Everyone at work. We are with our co workers more than our own family most of the time. I am grateful the wonderful people I work with and their friendship and dedication.
    A – Apples. Love apples. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I’ve been blessed with very good health and I’m thankful for that.
    R – Riding a bike. I’ve started mountain bike riding on the local trails in south Orange County. The scenery is beautiful; the exercise is great.
    S – Spiritual Life. I thank God for my many blessing.!

    And if you haven’t figured it out, I’m thankful for DA BEARS!

    Fitz

    • Fitz,
      I have to admit that when I first glanced over this and saw two “A’s” I thought to myself, “oh boy, this is going to be rough.” But alas, your genius slowly unfolded before my eyes and yes, I figured out that you were spelling out “DA BEARS” before you had to explain it to me. See, Packer fans are smart too!

      I want to thank you for how much you make me laugh! Even just this comment has brought joy into my world and put a smile on my face. What a gift you have Fitz!! Thank you for sharing it with me!

  • Patricia Kolstad

    My sweet Molly:
    You are so inspiring! I love the fact that we can be “thankful” and “giving” at the same time. I think about how I love to give hugs and speak words that tell my family and friends just how much I love them and how thankful I am to have them in my life!
    My family takes up the Alphabet pretty much and uses the same letter over and over again, like . . . Kari, Kori, Kristen, Bruce, Michael, Meagan, McKayla, Alexander and Arianne, Jacob, Madison, Sofia and Gabriella. These are the ones that hold my heart. But there are letters of the alphabet that describe my feeling of Thanksgiving . .
    L – Love unconditionally, O – overlook the things that that could break a persons spirit, V – Voice your love loud and clear. Make it know to those who hold close, E – Enjoy each day. Be kind and Live Well.

    I’m thankful for you, Molly, for I know you and love you.

    Aunt Pat

  • Just beautiful. You have so many lovely people to be thankful for & it’s so fun to see all their names down together, the names that I get to hear from you nearly every day, always spoken with love & joy.

    I’m grateful for you, too and for having the pleasure of working at your side.

    You are a blessing to me.