from the archives: not just bandwagon gratitude
It's appropo, don't you think, to write some nifty little post on thankfulness? It's what everyone is doing this time of year and typically, there is enough of a child in me that, by nature of the everyone-is-doing-it fact, I want to rebel and post about something entirely different. I admit this openly. But for what it's worth, if the bandwagon confronts something in your life that is untoward and jumping on could actually benefit your family and bring more glory to God, then for the sake of all that is good and just get on that wagon!
A friend recently shared that she'd noticed a "thankful tree" at another friend's house...on the refrigerator, the family had made a tree of construction paper and was adding leaves daily, listing things for which they were thankful. When the first friend commented on the tree, the second replied something to the effect of, "Oh, don't over-spiritualize this. We've come to realize we're really ungrateful at times and we need to shape up. This is helping discipline us for gratitude." While I don't know if those were her words precisely, I am struck again with the necessity of gratitude as a discipline.
Disciplines do not come easy.
Who among us has to discipline ourselves to breathe or to blink? We don't have to discipline our brain to tell our hands to move or our feet to walk. It comes naturally to us to rise in the morning (well, some of us!), brush teeth, dress for the day, attend to tasks. We certainly don't discipline ourselves to buy new clothes or go out to dinner or hang out with friends (though at times we may discipline ourselves to do those less). We typically have to discipline ourselves for those things which do not come naturally or for which we have little time allotted. We discipline ourselves to be kind to those who frustrate us, to attend to work we despise, to exercise our bodies & minds, to care for our homes.
Discipline requires discernment, not motivation - discernment of the value and necessity and benefit of the thing, because heaven knows if we waited for the motivation we'd all be eating bonbons in our yoga pants, in messy homes, being sassy to our frenemies.
We've got a bit of a higher calling, don't you think?
The value and necessity and benefit of disciplining ourselves to gratitude cannot fully be measured. But for the sake of this post, which - gratitude is the whole point, you see? - I am going to attempt to measure it.
Two years ago, as part of a "30 Before 30" project, I began a gratitude journal. This was my discipline of gratitude as I approached my 30th birthday. I kept a hot pink composition book in my bag and wrote down everything...everything I encountered for which I could be grateful. Sunlight on the carpet. Hot soapy water. Cool breezes. A baby's screaming laugh. A roof over my head. Acorns. Grace. Forgiveness. Coffee. Fuzzy socks. Garage sales. Community. Friends. Stretching in the morning. Life. I began that November and by January of 2012, I wrote eagerly on line 400something: "today I am thankful we saw our baby's heartbeat." That was the last entry I would write, because a few days later, I began miscarrying and we lost our fourth baby. I put down the book for a while, not because I was suddenly ungrateful, but because it hurt a little to see that last line & know that little heart was no longer beating.
Now, to be sure, I did not stop being thankful. Any of you who have followed our story since then [to catch up, read here] can attest to my thankfulness...less than three months after that miscarriage, we became parents to a gorgeous little angel baby and our lives have been in fantastic, glorious upheaval ever since! But there is something to be said for those months in which I made the conscious decision to acknowledge on paper those things for which I was grateful...little and big...grace gifts from God, who is ever-loving. It required me to be attentive, to be intentional. It required me to look around me, to be aware of things I was taking for granted, to confront my selfishness. This conscious acknowledgement that everything I have - EVERY THING - is a gift...well, it put things in perspective.
I wasn't looking at what I DIDN'T have or what I lost, I was looking at the hundreds of gifts in my life...the sweet, overflowing, holy generosity of a God so outrageously gracious as to give me life, to the glory of His name!
So this is what I'm getting at:
The lens of gratitude changes everything, because instead of feeling abandoned or unloved when things are not going our way, we begin to see those things the Lord IS doing in our lives, in our circumstances. Our perspective begins to shift. Our prayers begin to change. Our hearts are softer, our homes are happier, our thoughts are set on things above.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Phil 4:6-7]
Look at that – it’s even biblical. We present our requests to God with thanksgiving. With gratitude.
So as I near the end of this month of pursuing a contented hear, I am encouraging you and me to pick back up the discipline of gratitude. It can be hard to do, I admit. But grab yourself a notepad and a pen that make you happy and get to thanking Him.
Write it down, say it out loud, be grateful for the extravagant gifts we have, because of an extravagant God.
I've even included some links below to help you out! Click on the image to visit the original blogger's post for info & downloads.