Potentially, summer can be a time to recalibrate after a full school year or seize opportunities for a mid-year inventory on the goals set at the first of the year. For some of us, the slower daily rhythms can allow more space for processing and reflection. Others of us try to find ways to sift through the nuances and recent events of life despite barreling forward with busy schedules.
As is typical of life, the harder moments have inched their way into all that’s good and pleasant, asserting their existence—making sure I won’t evade their ability to discourage. The past several years of my life have been a beautiful mess: a co-mingling of blessings and hardship that has often left me feeling raw and vulnerable, like a dirt-faced child who muddied up her Sunday’s finest.
For sure, there have been brave and intentional steps to restore harmony in marriage and in my family; there’s been carefree joy and plenty of moments to appreciate the new surroundings we live in, all of which I’m most grateful for and have celebrated to the fullest. But there have also been setbacks, adversity, health issues paired with scary diagnoses, grief, anxiety…you know, the things that no one really likes to talk about—the things that can keep one in a dark, inner headspace if she lets it.
There are several things going on in my life right now that are out of my control.
It’s uncomfortable, and I’ll be blunt by saying I don’t like it one bit, but what (recovering) control freak would?
Yet, the more I find myself enmeshed in seasons where blessings and adversity appear to have some sort of love affair, even more do I begin to recognize more fully the power of gratitude.
Give your self permission to find gratitude through the good and the bad.
Gratitude flows freely when goodness abounds, and when life seems to be moving in a smooth, steady cadence. But gratitude is counterintuitive—for me, at least—when the unknowns are scary, and the pain keeps one awake at night, seeking to impose itself into every waking thought. However, when the hard overwhelms the easy, I must remember what I’m discovering to be true and what I long to instill deep within the minds of my daughters and my own, and that is: gratitude is a game changer.
On some days, it’s a sheer act of the will to muster up the strength to look at a seemingly hopeless situation and invite God into it. On other days, the glimmers of light pierce through the dark, re-igniting my hope, and I’m better able to consider it all joy as I’m faced with various trials or challenges (James 1:2).
I know there are some of you facing life’s toughest and darkest battles. For anyone who’s walking through a season of mingled celebrations and sorrows, please don’t hear me saying you need to become the next Pollyanna to get yourself out of the pit.
No. When the time is right, allow yourself to feel the pain and give yourself permission to grieve, throw yourself on the floor like a toddler, scream, breathe deep, and do whatever you need to do to release your emotion. Then, when you’re ready, put these uncomfortable (yet guaranteed to be experienced at some point) aspects of life under a microscope and dissect them until you’ve discovered their hidden redemptive qualities.
The beautiful part about intentional gratitude is not denying any of the hard, but rather looking deeper into reality to see the good and positive aspects that may be overlooked.
A lens of gratitude enables us to dim out the hard so that light creeps in.
Gratitude is learning to see things as they really are. Then comes an undercurrent of hope and glimpses of joy on the horizon. There’s beauty in the mundane. Stillness in the storm. Feasts in the scarcity, and richness along the journey.
May we learn how to celebrate every moment of this life, the good times and the bad. We won’t do it perfectly—nor will we ever—but we can learn how to savor the fullness of this journey no matter what it may bring, with high measures of grit and grace.
“Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, TPT)
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