True Gratitude Can’t be Captured in a Glossy Catalog

Happy Almost Thanksgiving! 

If you are in frantic, freak-out mode, please know that’s how I feel every night when I have to cook dinner! And, yet somehow we all eat.

Below is my most recent post in The Florida Times-Union. It’s all about sturdy gratitude – the kind that’s imperfect and the kind we tend to need most because life can often be more freak out than fine china.

Enjoy this holiday and the many blessings in your life. And, know that I count you among mine. ~ Love, Lara

On Thanksgiving, it’s easy to wonder why the picture of your holiday sometimes looks like a dysfunctional diorama instead of a page out of the Pottery Barn catalog. The mute, lifeless images of a burning hearth, spice-scented candles, tables set with garlands of leaves, vases of burnt-colored flowers, and origami-shaped napkins folded into gold leaf-embossed rings set an impossible standard.

Sometimes I wonder if they look so perfect because there aren’t actually people in those images.

As the annual host of my family’s Thanksgiving, I send a group text the Sunday night before the big holiday and ask everyone what they are bringing. We push two picnic tables together in the backyard and set up another folding table with mismatched chairs. Because I’m fancy and I read my mom’s discarded issues of Southern Living magazine, I cover the tables with tablecloths and do my best to make some kind of centerpiece out of what I can find in the yard or lanterns that I keep in the garage. I buy paper plates with harvest designs along with complementing cutesy paper napkins and I congratulate myself on my hosting skills.

And, I’m grateful.

It’s not that I can’t appreciate all of the fineries. It’s just that one of the things I’m most grateful for is that I’ve learned to accept imperfection and even see the strength in it. The way it shines despite being more Goodwill than good china.

It’s easy to think of gratitude as only the best things in life — the pretty pictures and perfect settings. The prestigious titles, gifted children, and magazine-perfect houses – any of the colorful accolades or achievements that we can fan like prize turkeys are easily recognized as blessings. But genuine abiding gratitude, the kind that sustains us through loss, disappointment, and failure isn’t showy so much as it is sturdy. It’s the kind of gratitude we cultivate by noticing the way big things appear small like the simplicity of a goodnight kiss or how the hungry feel after a hot meal no matter how mediocre it tastes. It’s the gratitude the grieving feels to have loved so deeply; the appreciation the lonely have for the person who for a moment made them feel seen, or the relief a young person experiences when they feel accepted.

Sturdy gratitude recognizes how the mundanity of housework is meaningful. It understands that serving others is a gift to ourselves. It sees how the dullest days can be made beautiful through an act of kindness. Gratitude helps us see beauty despite imperfection; our worthiness despite failure; and reminds us there’s hope no matter how devasting the disappointment. This type of gratitude is gritty and often quiet enough to miss if we aren’t paying attention. It’s the blue flame of our deepest prayers that recognizes that the superficial is just smoke and mirrors. It’s less likely to be captured in a glossy catalog than in the chaos of a kitchen with its foil-covered casseroles, store-bought pies, and diverse guests who remind us that differences are something to be grateful for too.

Gratitude isn’t something to recognize for just a day or even a month. It isn’t something we celebrate only when things are going our way. It’s something to feel in the busy, the messy, and especially in the hard. It’s less perfection and more the people we love who have their own kind of sparkle. For that, I’m thankful. 


3 thoughts on “True Gratitude Can’t be Captured in a Glossy Catalog

  • November 24, 2022 at 11:07 am

    I’m grateful for you, Lara, for always sending just the sentiments we can all relate to!

    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  • November 22, 2022 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you Lara for all of your thoughtful words. You touch many more than you know. I look forward to your posts even though I don’t always comment.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family.

    • January 12, 2023 at 11:33 am

      I know I’m like two months late but I wasn’t able to get into my site when you first left this message because technology doesn’t love me and then life got life-y! BUT, I super appreciate you reading and taking the time to share your kindness. It really does mean a lot! Happy New Year!

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