At Starbucks with a new friend from my 12 Step group, she handed a gift to me across the table — a gratitude journal. “It helps me to start my day with ‘Thank You’,” she said. I copied her ways and it hasn’t just helped me, it’s a game-changer.
Instead of starting my morning God time with, “So, here are the situations in which I need You,” I first take my gratitude journal (I’m on my 10th or something by now) and recall that for which I am thankful in the previous day’s adventures. I write them down in conversational style as if God has His coffee in the matching chair, which He very well might be. You know what happens next?
What happens next is that I wear a new pair of glasses. I see things through a lens of “Let’s see, where is the silver lining?” or “That stinks, but the good thing is …”
This change of perspective manifested itself when I heard some jarring news while standing at my kitchen island one evening. My first thought was that punch in the gut feeling and my second thought was, “Thank You, God.” I could see that the upsetting happening might be the thing needed to change what was not going well, the thing about which I had prayed for God to act. Turns out that upsetting thing changed everything — for the better. It was officially an answer to prayer, although not exactly the way I pictured. The point is, a practice of thanksgiving was becoming a reaction of thanksgiving. That is no small mark of progress.
Okay, there’s one way towards living a life of gratitude, you say. Hit me with the other four. Here they are. Not epic revelations but most good things we do come from practices that are not epic, they just get practiced.
In his NY Times bestselling book, The Way of Serenity: Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer, Father Jonathan Morris makes a fascinating point. When Jesus asks the one cured leper who returns to thank Him, “Where are the other nine?” whom He also healed, there may be a deeper reason for Jesus’ sadness at their neglect. “Thanksgiving makes us better people. He wanted their hearts and souls to be cleaned and healed, not just their skin. And because gratitude makes us better, it also makes us freer. To be able to forget yourself for just a moment is a first step toward a truly free spirit.”
Gratitude recorded shows me that God works overtime to bless me.
As Morris writes, “When we see the good, or at least the good side of events, we become more aware of how much in our lives is positive and how much we are loved and cared for. And this is the kind of awareness that provokes a more hopeful and trusting outlook: we realize that, even though there are things we cannot change, we are going to be okay.”
Need some Christmas in this post? Me too. Fifth graders sang this at my niece’s Holiday program and the lyrics get me weeping every time.
Somedays, we forget to look around us.
Somedays, we can’t see the joy that surrounds us.
So caught up inside ourselves,
We take when we should give.
So for tonight we pray for,
What we know can be,
And on this day we hope for,
What we still can’t see.
It’s up to us, to be the change,
And even though we all can still do more,
There’s so much to be thankful for.
Who doesn’t love Gratitude tip #6 from Bing Crosby to Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas?
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessing instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.