It is so hard to believe that Thanksgiving is upon us. Even though the weather turned cold and the days have definitely gotten shorter, it just hasn’t quite felt like the holiday season yet. But I am not worried. Between long-basting a ham and the smell of stuffing and turkey and pies and the sound of football and family – the holidays are almost here.

It would be very easy to spend my time today writing about all that I have to be thankful for. After all, I am married to a wonderful woman, we have 3 healthy kids who are the center of our world and who we adore (because they are all very adorable). We live in Austin, which is one of the best cities in the greatest nation on this planet. We have a faith that gives us hope and a love that sustains when times seem difficult. I have MUCH to be thankful for. But I want to think about something a little different that deserves our thanks.

With each year that passes, I am seeing more and more clearly that the things in this life that really matter are not measured in dollar signs or in social standing. The accomplishments that make me smile have nothing to do with fiscal attainment or back-pats from other people. In fact, the things that really make me smile don’t even belong to me.

I actually challenged myself to keep track of things that made me happy this past week and to make a Top 10 list of those things that made me smile or laugh. I challenged myself to really pay attention to the things that made me truly happy. Here’s my top 10 list:

  1. My oldest daughter sank 2 free throws with 3 seconds left to ice the game last night. It could have been the MVP of the Superbowl, World Series, and NBA Finals all in the same year and I could not have been happier than I was at the end of that preseason girls basketball game in the BCS gymnasium played in front of about 100 people.
  2. My youngest daughter met Jon Godwin from Duck Dynasty and got his autograph. Watching her light up and smile and act shy and then talk to him really made me smile.
  3. During church on Sunday we sang “How Great Thou Art” and it was one of those moments when I was singing and I closed my eyes and I felt true peace. It wasn’t the quality of the singing or any new revelations from an old song. It was just a moment when I felt complete in my faith and it mattered to me.
  4. I laughed out loud during last week’s 200th episode of “Supernatural”. It was silly. It was goofy. And I laughed. Is there anything better then a surprise laugh?
  5. Saturday my wife and I were getting ready for a fundraiser for our school and she told me that she was proud of me. Just a few simple words and I was walking on air.
  6. My son aced his English test. He had been struggling for a few weeks and he really studied and he did it. He had a look and tone of pride that was exceeded only by mine.
  7. My 4 year old nephew stays with us most weekends and he demonstrated his version of “twerking” for us. I thought I was going to hurt myself I laughed so hard. Good grief, is there anything funnier than a child?
  8. I received an e-mail from a lady who likes my company’s offerings and she was so complimentary and so genuinely nice in her e-mail that it made me feel proud.
  9. I went to lunch with a friend last week and we tried Korean food. I ordered a pot of spicy seafood and it was unbelievable. I ate every bite and I did not offer to share. My afternoon that day was a little lazy but there was a smile on my face!
  10. It turned cold here this past week and I went out on the porch at 4:00 in the morning and sat and just watched the leaves blowing off the trees and listened to the wind and sat in silence for about an hour. Moments of silence, moments of contemplation, moments of discernment are moments of gold.

So there you have it. A Top 10 list that was kept with the intent of finding those moments and those people and those things that bring about happiness that make me want to give thanks. What I found were people and thoughts and emotions and contentment. Oddly, none of my moments brought me wealth or furthered my popularity. None of my moments padded my portfolio or gave me anything tangible beyond memories and recollections.

thankful

Yet as I looked back on my list, and there were lots of other things that happened that made my list, what I realized is that I would not trade one of these moments or words or feelings or thoughts for anything. I would not trade the pride I felt for my daughter for a new car. I would not trade the kind words from my wife for cash. I would not trade a moment of spiritual clarity for any level of popularity. These moments were free of charge and free to be replicated, but none can ever be replaced.

So this year, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to love and be loved. I am thankful that I can be proud of others and honestly want more for them than I do myself. I am thankful that laughing for a moment can ease the worry of a day. I am thankful that quiet still exists. I am thankful for not being alone. I am thankful because I should be.

We have a week until Thanksgiving. Challenge yourself to make a list of the things that really make you happy this week. See how many are tied to material versus emotional. I am guessing your smiles will be tied to the things in life that are free.

Now that I have taken the challenge and figured out the things that are making me happy I am going to take the next step and go back to those things and, whenever possible, I am going to make sure they know they made me happy. Just think, I might end up on their list of things that made them happy!