It started in the summer when I read Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider and thought to myself, We have too much stuff, I need to clear everything out. It continued in the early fall as cleaning out our apartment – or trying to, anyway – helped me to see the clutter in my soul and schedule, so I did an internal clearing. The momentum picked up when I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and saw how simplicity in my inside and outside can impact my son’s life. And I suspect that November will be no different, being thankful for all things keeps me focused on the simple, the small, and now I’m re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books and yearning for a simpler world.

I’m trying to think through these things this week, to “make room” in my life for more intentionality, less stuff, more deep investments, less shallow, more time, less plans.

So here’s the thing. I love stuff. Clothes, memorabilia, books, decorations that look good, photobooks, kitchenware, dishes. Oh dishes. I have to stay away from those aisles with beautiful plates, cups and serving bowls because they bring my little heart so much joy. I love buying books for Small One and toys that he will enjoy. I love a variety of music. I love making plans. I love knowing a week in advance what I will do during the weekend, what will happen this time next year, what will we eat for Christmas dinner. I like knowing with whom I’m catching up, where, when, how.

But all of these things that I love take up space, very literal space but also space in my mind and in my heart. You know where I’m going, I think. If it needs room to exist in my life, it is taking that space away from something else. 

Silence. God. Time. Blank walls. Husband. Thinking. Quiet. Small One. Peace. Joy.

When my life is crowded with things, people and plans, there is no space for the deeper things of value to thrive.

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of all time, and before we start with the question-asking and finger-pointing, let’s go through my cultural history.

I am not a United States of American.

I am not so into the random, colonial slaughter of native peoples.

I really do not like candy corn.

I believe that pumpkin and sweet potatoes are some of the most wonderful veggies around, and their versatility in the dessert department only makes them that much more wonderful.

I think that if sage stuffing were involved in more matters of international relations – pork-free stuffing, people – we would be well on our way to world peace.

I spent a few Thanksgivings in the U.S. and enjoyed it, but it has only been in the last few years that I grew to love and appreciate this holiday. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a naturally thankful person, I guess you could say I err toward the melancholy and moody way of looking at things. People don’t come to me to look for pep and cheer, but when it comes to intensity, there’s no shortage here.

Thankfulness only survives because it is a discipline I choose to make a part of my life. It is the daily choice to see my circumstances differently, and it is the daily choice to hunt, to investigate, to aggressively search for the gifts God is giving me.

We invest daily in lifestyles and attitudes, and when we see something “big” in our lives, it is probably the thing that received our greatest investment of time and energy. I hope that one day a lifestyle of thankfulness will be so dominant in all areas in my life because I spent the years planting the seed, cultivating the soil, watering the plant and weeding the garden.

These are the years for this work because these are the years that are not easy. There is nothing easy about pregnancy, post-pregnancy, baby and growing baby on top of marriage, moving, learning languages and a host of other things. But cultivating an outlook of thankfulness when life is not easy gives me fuel to keep me going because joy is the cleanest, greenest, purest fuel of all. The best thing to keep my life going. The best gift I can give myself. The best gift I can give the people around me.

So for this November and every November to follow in our family’s lives, we celebrate Thanksgiving, reminding ourselves that today we can choose to be thankful and culminating in a Thanksgiving feast. Yes, we are a German-Sri Lankan/Filipino/American/Australian family. Yes, we live in Switzerland. Yes, we celebrate a wonderful, unique United States of American tradition even though we are not from the U.S. ourselves.

It is good to take a month of the year to remember that there is always a reason for which to be thankful

The centre piece on our dining table for the month, the Thanksgiving Tree, an idea from a very creative and clever friend. We write what we’re thankful for on the leaves and hang them on the tree. A daily reminder that all is well. 

When I look back on my life, I see pages of history littered with vows I made. I will never… I hope to… No one will… This will not….

The words that we speak and the vows that we make are powerful things. Yes I have often used it for harm in my life, but today how about I do something good? Would you like to join me?

I’m closing this month of looking at comparison by making these vows.

I am thankful for myself, for the unique way that God created me, formed me and gave me a purpose.

Today I will choose joy by being finding the reasons to be thankful in all my circumstances and relationships.

I will choose peace by accepting who I am and the stage of life I find myself in. There is no need to look at anyone else.

I will choose my future by dreaming my dreams, not the false ones created by comparing my life to other people’s.

I will choose the relationships I have, not the ones I wish I had with the people I wish they were. I will choose to see the good in the relationships I have, the unique ways these people bring joy to my life and I to theirs.

I will choose freedom, I will excel in my skin because I don’t need to live my life according to an artificial standard.

I will not make my child the collateral damage in the comparison game with other parents. I will accept him as he is, and I will give myself the freedom to parent him in the way that is uniquely suited for him.

Today I will choose not to compare myself to other people. I will choose to embrace who I am, who you are and the life we have been given, for it is good. 

Thanks for joining me as I wrote almost daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.

The Scenario

The building dryer breaks, leaving you with four big loads of laundry that need to dry and only two drying racks. Not to mention your son doesn’t have enough warm clothes to wear for these wintry October days.

The Solution

You pull out the two drying racks, leave baby’s clothes in the dryer while you run it multiple times in the hopes that by evening after at least seven hours in there it will be marginally dry. You hang the remaining laundry on the racks in the living room.

The Attitude

And here is where you have choices.

Choice 1 – Complain

I can’t believe the dryer broke, God only knows we pay enough rent for this apartment, and they can’t even keep a dryer running. 

Choice 2 – Compare

I’m sure no one else’s dryer breaks. Most of my friends own dryers, what’s wrong with us. I can’t think when there’s no space in my living room this is driving me crazy. 

Choice 3 – Thankfulness

For a way to dry our wet laundry

For the joy on Small One’s face when he first saw the racks with laundry on it, like he thought I was surprising him with a game. 

For the endless rounds of hide and seek we played in, around and through the drying clothes.

For those giant eyes lit up in wonder as he walked through the drying rack, under the sheet, like he was enjoying his own tiny cave.

For the way he couldn’t stop wandering in and out of the drying laundry because the game never got old.

For an idea of how to build him a fort in the future. 

For how he scurried under the drying racks to be sneaky and get away from me even though I knew the whole time where he was going. 

For the squeals, for the giggles, for the laughter that came from his heart. 

For the freedom it gave me to play, to just play with my son. 

Thankfulness works. It is the only thing that can change our attitudes, our outlook and our character without changing our circumstances. 

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.

Or the post where I channel Ann Voskamp.

We bought a new-to-us dining table in May. It is perfect, old, wooden and rustic, smaller than the one we have and not too high. Best of all, we’ll be able to attach a baby seat to it, so that small one can sit with us at the table and not at a separate high chair. But we haven’t been able to use the table because it has taken this long (and counting) to sell our old dining table.

For the past almost-six months, I swung from content to angry to frustrated to just-deal-with-it to content to angry to frustrated to why-is-this-happening-to-me and on and on it went. The list of reasons of why I was allowed to be unhappy was long. Compared to other people’s beautiful dining rooms – and Pinterest’s! – ours was bizarre with two large tables.

What do we do in these situations when what we want isn’t happening? When we compare ourselves to others and we lose? How do we get out of this?

Be thankful. Write down the reasons to be thankful. In everything there is always something for which we can say, Thank you. 

This dining table holds a crucial part of Husband and my story. He fed me at this table for the first time in February 2009, plates and wine glasses sitting on the IKEA table runners, both of us thinking we would never see each other again. We sat at this table again as each other’s fiancee. It was our table as a married couple. Husband cooked our first meal together as man and wife at this table. Baked fish with a tomato and basil salsa on the bachelor IKEA plates.

We ate most of our meals here before Small One was born. This table held our tears, laughter, stony silences, encouraging words, difficult conversations and impassioned discussions. We welcomed many visitors around it, all of us gathering, eating simple food, opening our lives, sharing.

The truth is that my heart hurts when I think about letting go of this table because it represents a treasured time of life.

Small One also loves this table. The glass table top sits on two thick wooden pillars, which make for fabulous hiding places for him. He has a little obstacle course between the chairs and pillars, and we have both mastered our hide-and-seek game around this table. No other part of our apartment captivates him in this way. We jump out from behind chairs and scream at each other, he doubles over in laughter. He runs between the pillars, waits, peeks out from one side then the other to see if he can spot me. It is hands down one of my favourite things to do with him during the day, and when this table is sold, it will be gone, the moment finished. 

This is what I need to think about to keep my attitude in check. When I focus on my goal – a “decorated” dining room, all the patience with my now and all the joy I could have in my now are sucked out of me by frustration. But in the very thing that brings me frustration, there are also many things that bring me pure, unadulterated joy. There is always something for which I can be thankful. 

What situations in your life are bringing frustration, anger and disappointment to your life today?What can you find in each situation that you can be thankful for? Write it down, let your mind dwell on it and see your attitude transformed. 

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.