Last month I participated in a writing challenge for bloggers in which we posted 31 days in a row on one topic. I chose to write about Gratitude. It is something so simple and so needed, yet there are times when it is hard to be thankful, especially when you are stressed or carrying a heavy cross. But life without gratitude sets us down the path of bitterness and negativity. Nobody wants that!
Here are some practical things I’ve been doing to cultivate gratitude in my life:
Turn It Around – This is the simplest solution; yet, I struggle with it the most. When I am up to my neck in a messy house and the noise level in our home is about to make me explode, I have to force myself to turn it around. I have to see those dirty dishes and thank God that we have plenty of food to eat. I see mounds of dirty clothes and thank God we have clothes to wear. I look at that dirty toilet and thank God that we have running water. When the kids are driving me crazy, I recall the years I spent crying myself to sleep for want of a child of my own. Re-directing our thinking can sometimes feel weird in a Pollyanna sort of way, but eventually God’s grace helps you to find perspective as you practice the habit of gratitude.
Think of Others – When we live in our own little bubble, it is easy to get caught up in our cares and forget the bigger picture. If recent news has taught us anything, it is that there are people who are suffering unimaginable pain. When we reach out to those who are hurting we are acknowledging that we are blessed and we want to share that blessings with others. Whether it is volunteering at a soup kitchen or collecting Christmas toys for a homeless shelter, giving money to a non-profit helping refugees or bringing a meal to sick friend, we are not focused on what we want but are thankful for what we have and desire to share it with others. This is gratitude in action.
Let the Holy Spirit Do His Thing – Along the same line of “think of others,” helping out with time and money are not things we can do all the time but practicing gratitude can be turned to a missionary’s prayer. When I am scrubbing those dirty dishes and thanking God for the food on our table, I can also spiritually give of my blessings by offering my act as a prayer for someone. That way, not only are you turning your daily chores and little crosses into an opportunity to be grateful but you are super charging them by offering it to the Holy Spirit for the souls in your care. Like St. Therese, your acts of love and gratitude to God can change unseen lives.
Get Outside – Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed and negative thoughts are taking over and we are having a hard time being grateful, we need to step away from our situation, even if it is only for a few moments. Nature has a way to turn our hearts back to God. The sun on our face, the sound of the wind through the leaves, the smell of morning air, or the glow of sunset can sooth your weary soul and give a needed boost to your spirits. Just as the sun will always rise and set, so God’s love will carry you through. Right there, something to be thankful for.
Write It Down – At the end of the day I take a few moments to review the last 24 hours and ask God to forgive me for the ways in which I failed him. I also take a few moments to thank him for at least three things that happened that day. Sometimes it is big news that filled me with joy. Other times it is for something simple like the kisses of my babies. Some days I’m simply thankful for making it through the day alive. The mere act of taking a few moments to stop and think about what we’re thankful for and writing it down helps to continue building that habit of gratitude.
God Can Take It – There will be times in life when we are carrying a cross so heavy that gratitude feels out of our reach. I experienced this when my husband, Brian, had cancer two years ago. There were days when the last thing I wanted to do was to be thankful. The love of my life was undergoing surgery and chemo and thoughts of his possible death wouldn’t leave the back of my mind. Besides worrying about him, I had the added stress of caring for the kids and the household by myself.
There were moments when I just wanted to shake my fists at God and yell at Him for letting this happen. I remember my mom telling me to go ahead and have it out with God. She said to yell into my pillow and get it out of me. Afterwards, I was to pick myself up, take a deep breath and leave it at His feet because I had work to do and couldn’t let myself get sucked into a 24/7 pity party. I followed her advice. After I let it go and surrendered myself, God showed my heart all the moments that He was taking care of me. He showed me how family and friends pulled together to help us in countless ways. He showed me “coincidences” that made our cross a little easier to carry. Suddenly I was realizing that I had so much to be grateful for. He had not abandoned me, rather, he was giving me, Brian, and the kids all the things necessary to get through this crisis. (Thankfully, we got through the crisis and Brian is well now.)
God Is the Source of Grace – Lastly, living a life of gratitude is not possible without the grace of God. Spend time each day in His word and speaking to God from the heart. Ask the Blessed Mother or your favorite saints to pray for you so you can see life through the eyes of grateful love. It is a love that will keep you going and touch the lives of those around you. God bless you!
Bobbi Rol is a wife, a mama of four and a blogger learning to love God in the midst of dishes, laundry and swinging light sabers. You can find out more about her here.