Yesterday, as every November 1, I replaced all of our light-up smiling pumpkins, candy corn bowls, and silly costumed stuffed animals with "Give Thanks" plaques, cornucopias and a light-up fiber optic turkey. Yes, that's a real thing.
But in the center of our kitchen table went my most favorite November decoration of all: a cardboard oatmeal canister wrapped in construction paper and adorned with crayon-colored leaf cut-outs.
It's the cheapest decoration we own and its hodge podge style, it is the most juvenile as well.
Every year until now, I swear that this will be the year I replace it with a giant jar decorated with chalk paint and a pretty orange chiffon ribbon. Or something equally as trendy and cute. But, every year, instead I find myself stuffing the oatmeal tube back into the tub again unable to part with it.
Yesterday, I decided to stop promising myself a Pinterest worthy centerpiece. I decided I'd embrace the silly canister and even applied a heavy coat of Mod Podge to help sustain it over the years to come.
We'd just moved back into our home after a 3-month evacuation due to the Missouri River flood. Scott was working a new job that took him away from home at the drop of a hat and usually when it was most inconvenient. I was too busy to think straight, rockin' my Avon business,working for corporate from home and president of the Parent-Teacher League. Money was tight. Time was even tighter. Stress and exhaustion hung heavy in our home and heavier on my heart.
Yet, I was grateful. Every where I looked that fall, I saw a reason to be so thankful. And I didn't want that moment to pass. Not for me, not for my kids. It seemed the least we could do was be thankful once a day, every day for one month.
So we sat at the kitchen counter one night after supper and fashioned this thing -- this thing that no one has a name for -- with the intention of filling it with notes of thanks. The construction paper leaves are scribbled and not cut-out very well. I couldn't find markers, so I just used black crayon to write "Thanks" down the side. Gracey, a three-year-old with the attention span and energy level of a pinball, was bored almost as soon as we got started. But we did it. And every day after until Thanksgiving, we each wrote down one thing we were thankful for and slipped it into the canister.
On Thanksgiving, we read them aloud. Things like friends, a job, and no school came out of the tube. Then came the notes that told more about where our hearts were: "God is always faithful" wrote my husband. "Thank you for a long, dry fall so we can complete our flood repairs" said one note I'd written. And my favorite, "Just thanks." Because sometimes there's just too much to list.
Now, four years later, our little oatmeal canister still holds every year's thankful notes. I've stuffed them into a Ziploc bag and we'll toss in this year's notes on top of it. But as I read the notes of the last three years, some of them aloud to the kids, I couldn't help but smile. I couldn't help but be thankful. Because for this little oatmeal canister, tomorrow was never planned; it was only meant for that one season.
And isn't that just how it is? Tomorrow isn't promised to us. We only have today. And today, we will be grateful.