This is what the after-Thanksgiving Day dinner glow looks like at the Staples residence. Pictured with Gracie Bonds Staples (standing far right) are her daughters Jamila (center) and Asha (lower left), family friend who feels like a daughter Amanda Al-Mahdi (standing left), and friend Sheila Burks, Amanda’s mom. I’m always grateful for special moments like this. FAMILY PHOTO
Photo: Family Photo
Photo: Family Photo

Life with Gracie: Thanksgiving is just an ‘everyday blessing’ reminder

Next to Christmas, Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays in the calendar year.

It’s never been particularly grand — just the smell of turkey and sweet potatoes mingled with the sweet sound of constant chatter and loud laughter.

Family, food and Thanksgiving, that one time of year when we’re given license to count our blessings.

In my little corner of the world, at least, kneeling in prayer to the one from whom all blessings flow is a daily occurrence. Not just on Thanksgiving but every day.

I’m thankful for each new day that God grants to me to try again. I’m thankful for his word, my guidebook by which I seek to live my life. I’m thankful for his forgiveness, for I know that sometimes I fall short, make wrong decisions, say the wrong things, think the wrong thoughts.

I’m thankful for quiet moments alone when I search my heart for the things that shouldn’t be there and muster the will to let them go however often I find I must.

I’m thankful for the many people from the familiar to the stranger who touch my life daily. I’m thankful for family, most especially my three remaining sisters, two brothers, my near-perfect husband of 31 years, and the best part of me, our two wonderful daughters.

I’m thankful for friends far and near and the people whom I struggle to love. I know they’re in my life to make me better.

Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded what a blessed life I live. I find it in the stories I get to tell in this space. Some triumphant. Some tragic.

Those stories become part of my own because in all of them I get to witness the goodness of God. But the real blessing is being happy for the good that comes to others.

I’m thankful that my heart has been big enough to have concern for others and not just those I love and who love me.

I’m thankful for the constant reminders I get from a young woman I encouraged when she was down on her luck.

On my birthday about a month ago, she texted me to say she loved me, and when I responded that I appreciated her thinking of me, she texted back.

“Of course I will always think of you,” she wrote. “You were heaven sent. Because of you I am a better me.”

I felt embarrassed reading it because she’s given me so much more and is a reminder that my life has meant something, that I’ve made a difference in at least one life. I need that.

But her acts of gratitude are also a reminder that I need to express my appreciation, too. All of us want to be appreciated for who we are and what we do. It costs us nothing, but it makes someone else feel happy.

Speaking of free blessings, I’m thankful for the wind and rain and sunshine and darkness.

Kim Weiss, author of “Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe & Gratitude,” which combines the majesty of nature with inspiring quotes from people who live their lives with a sense of wonder and gratitude, knows something about that.

Weiss told me that she is blessed by a wondrous view every day, that the sunrise takes her breath away and leaves her with a sense of awe.

“Beauty is all around us and helps us appreciate our lives and what we’ve been given,” she said. “If we take a moment every day to look with eyes of wonder at the awe-inspiring nature around us, we can experience and understand gratitude in our daily lives. Taking a moment every day to appreciate the beauty of nature around us helps us to appreciate what is always there.”

I understand that change can be good, but I’m especially thankful for the things in my life that don’t change, that are always there. Like when I turn in at night, I know Jimmy will be there when I fall asleep and when I wake up. I appreciate that I can count on him bringing me my first cup of coffee and coring me an apple to eat as I drive into work. I know he will never forget my birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or in the craziness of the holiday season our late December wedding anniversary.

I’m thankful that I’ve never doubted he loves me.

That’s some of the good stuff, but I’m grateful for the bad stuff, too.

I’m thankful for every trial, every hurt and pain I’ve suffered. Without them, I wouldn’t know how strong I am and how faithful God is.

I’m thankful for the 20 extra pounds menopause brought with it. They are a reminder to stop eating so much, that Thanksgiving’s underlying message of gratitude, if you believe brain and cognitive scientists, helps willpower and eases temptation.

This being Thanksgiving when we gorge ourselves, you’ll want to get this from Susan Peirce Thompson, president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and author of the forthcoming book “Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free.”

She says that giving thanks before every meal has immeasurable health and weight control benefits because it reinforces the routine of eating meals on a regular schedule, which in turn lengthens the body’s fasting window, which increases fat loss, improves insulin sensitivity and lowers cholesterol.

It takes the burden off willpower and harnesses the brain’s ability to resist unwanted extra food. And turning our thoughts toward gratitude shifts our focus from what we want or crave to what we have.

And so as I prepare to gather with friends and family, I intend to bow once more in prayer, wanting nothing. Just grateful for what God has already done.

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