Memories of gratitude. 62 degrees. No humidity. Sun beginning to set. A band of soft gray and beige and pink puffs stretches low above the horizon. I pause and stop to say “Thank You, Lord. Those are such beautiful colors and such pretty patterns.”
As I come around the corner of the building, loaded down with grocery bags, headed to my unit, suddenly I remember another early evening, rounding the corner of a building, loaded down with grocery bags, heading toward home. That evening was thirty plus years ago, when my daughter was 12.
Sharon had, as usual, phoned me when she got home from school. I had said I would pick up some videos after I got groceries and be home by six. A three-day weekend was coming up, for both of us. To help offset the fallout of my single parent finances, I made a celebration out of anything I possibly could. Our VCR player got lots of use as we curled up together under a blanket on the couch and ate popcorn. The hormonal storms of adolescence still a ways away, we had many sweet and tender times just being together that year.
I had not told her I would also get a box of fried chicken, a rare indulgence for our little family of two. As I rounded the corner that evening, toting the groceries, video and chicken, I felt an almost palpable reword sense of good will toward the whole world. I was simply grateful down to my bones that I could provide food, and even special treats like the fried chicken, and a few hours of entertainment that would delight my daughter. And I was beginning to finally feel secure in the job I had begun a few weeks earlier. The job had better benefits and we had health insurance now.
I rounded the corner, stood on the tiny stoop and, since I did not have a free knuckle, banged the bags against the door. Almost instantly, the door opened, and she reached to relieve me of some of the bags.
“Oh, Mama! You got three videos! And you got chicken, too!”
Happy tears blurred my vision as I looked into her bright eyes.
Grateful for feeling “Not bad”. Now, the bags looped around my fingers were cotton mesh, not the environmentally-unfriendly plastic of 30 years ago, and rather than anticipating a deeply delightful evening with my daughter, I was heading to my beloved rescued Tonkinese and my beloved Heavenly Father.
“Thank You, Lord, that I feel so much better today. Thank You that my eyes are not so swollen and I can breathe easily.”
Last night, at nine, I had had an anaphylactic reaction, the first in many years, so many that I no longer carried an epi pen. It had been a wild night, walking to the car with eyes swelling, tears gushing, throat swelling, driving to an urgent care clinic, only to find it closed then driving across town, then answering questions and signing papers at the front desk while thinking I might pass out, finally being given two shots and a breathing treatment, waiting three hours at the facility, then driving home, getting into bed at 5 a.m.
So, I was very grateful when I woke at one, feeling almost normal. It felt like a holiday to just get out and see the sun as I drove to the grocery and library. One blessing of trials is it feels so good when they are done!
“But, Lord,” I reflected as I put bananas on the countertop and stacked cat food in the cabinet, “help me be genuinely thankful all the time, not just when You have delivered me from a problem.”
I believe God loves it when we rejoice with Him when trials have ended and He has given a great victory, like when Miriam led the Israelites in singing on the other side of the Red Sea. Miriam took a timbrel and sang, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously and is highly exalted; the horse and rider He has throw into the sea,” (Exodus 15:21, AMPC).
However, the Bible makes it plain we are to be thankful ALL the time. Why?
An attitude of gratitude is good medicine! The dictionary defines elixir as a “magical or medicinal potion.” Another definition is “a particular type of medicinal solution.” (https://tinyurl.com/wfnrjh9). Like everything God tells His followers to do, being thankful is good for us. (“All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful to those who keep the demands of His covenant. Psalm 25:10, NIV). Being thankful is so powerful it does seem magical. No wonder God says to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).
Why are we to do that? Two, of many reasons, are:
 God “. . . is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” (Psalm 136). Thanking God, all the time, is simply the right thing to do.
 It brings us into His presence. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4, NIV)
Cultivating the garden of your heart. I have learned, the hard way, that a constant attitude of gratitude is essential for me. Unless I am actively thankful for God’s blessings, the enemy soon steals my peace. I tried, for years, to be consistently thankful but it was like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Some seeds of gratitude I was trying to plant never got down deep into my heart, some landed in areas of my heart that were filled with the rocks of envy, jealousy and resentment, and some seeds of gratitude grew for a while but then worry about things of this world choked out the gratitude.
I finally saw that only God could remove the rocks, weeds and thorns. I had to ask Him to show me where the ugly things were, and then do my part. I saw that only God could provide good seed, and that I had to sow then water it by keeping His Word in my mind. I saw only God could make it grow, and that my part was to wait patiently, with hope, and to “Above all else, guard [my] heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). After much work, for a long time, God did change my attitude, but it was a process of cultivation, like developing a garden.
 Clear my heart of rocks, weeds, and thorns and break up the soil. In ancient times, through the prophet Jeremiah, God pleaded with His people to return to Him, put away their idols and “break up your ground left uncultivated for a season, so that you may not sow among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3b, AMPC).
Father, help me root out the thorns of ungratefulness, bitterness, envy, jealousy, and resentment. Use Your Word to reveal the hidden thoughts and intents of my heart that I cannot perceive so I may confess, repent and be forgiven. (Hebrews 4:12)
 Plant good seeds. Galations 6:7 (NIV) tells us “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”.
Father, You have provided all the seeds of truth that we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3). Help me sow bountifully so that I may reap bountifully from Your Word. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
 Water, watch and wait. Growing anything takes time but God helps us as we seek to grow, and He finishes what He starts. As Paul said “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up until the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:4, AMPC)
Father, help me be patient as You do what only You can do. (Revelations 4:11)
 Maintain the garden. Maintaining a garden requires regular watering, weeding, and removal of pests.
Father, help me always water the garden of my heart with the Living Water of Your Word (John 4:13-15). Show me the weeds and thorns (Matthew 13:7) and help me to take “. . . the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom (Solomon 2:14, AMPC)
Dear friend, as we both strive to become more grateful, I can only remind us both of God’s promise in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:
“And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. (AMPC)