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I wasn’t exactly mad, but neither was I thrilled with my friend’s suggestion.

It was my first Thanksgiving overseas. I was homesick for my family, missing all the holiday traditions I dearly loved, and horribly sick with all-day sickness. (I refuse to call it morning sickness, because it lasted all day every day for the entire nine months of my pregnancy. Fun times….)

One of my friends emailed and asked if I’d written a thankful list, since Thanksgiving was coming up in a few weeks.

Ummm…..no, I haven’t. Actually, I wasn’t planning on making a list this year.

Because making a list is just going to remind me of all the things I’m missing.

And I’m not going there.

Have you ever felt this way? Perhaps you feel this way right now?

Maybe this year has been especially heartbreaking for you, and you dread the upcoming holiday. Perhaps you wish you could just skip over Thanksgiving, treating it like any other day.

Maybe you feel you don’t have much to be thankful for, and God has let you down.

May I share a couple secrets with you? They are truths that helped me through that first hard Thanksgiving, and continue to encourage me when life is rough and I just don’t feel like there is much to be grateful for.

1. The best time to be thankful is when you don’t feel like it. 

2. Being thankful won’t change your situation, but it will change your heart. 

Even though it was the last thing I felt like doing, I made that list. I wrote down all the things–large and small–that God had blessed me with.

The list grew rapidly under my pen. As soon as I started counting the blessings, they multiplied. The more things I wrote, the more came to mind. It was like pushing the button on a can of shaving foam when I was little. (How in the world did they fit ALL that foam in such a tiny can???) 🙂

I learned the simple act of thanksgiving is very powerful.

The physical act of writing down your blessings and thanking God for them in prayer floods your mind with overwhelming peace, joy, and contentment.

For it is impossible to remain in the depths of despair when you realize just how wonderful your Heavenly Father is.

Perhaps this is the reason why God commands us again and again in Scripture to be thankful to Him:

Not because He needs our thanksgiving. 

But because we need to be thankful. 

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” (Psalm 117:1-2)