“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” —Melody Beattie
Since my mom’s passing in 2015, I have tried to be extremely cognizant of year-round blessings. The easy blessings. The hard blessings. The punch-you-in-the-gut blessings. The everyday blessings. The tiny, unexpected blessings. The blessings that sneak up on you. The blessings you don’t initially think of as blessings until they surprise you and become some of the greatest blessings.
Belly laughs. Farmers markets. Birthday dinners. Mermaids.
In 2016, I went through a major transformation. I’m not talking beauty or fashion or weight loss; I had a complete mental makeover. I was suffering from grief-induced depression, and I recognized that I needed to do something to bring me out of my funk. I was having a really difficult time finding anything about which I felt positive.
Somewhere along the way, I had lost my way. It had become second nature for me to focus and dwell on the negative aspects of my life—to keep a “record of wrongs”—rather than look at the positive things. What’s worse: if I did recognize something positive, I would immediately find multiple negative things to overshadow the good.
So that summer, I read One Thousand Gifts by author Ann Voskamp. In it, she challenges readers to start a gratitude journal, seeking out one thousand things that bring joy. How do we fully live when life is full of hurt? The answer is eucharisteo: to be grateful; to remember Christ’s love and sacrifice and give thanks in everything. Even when it hurts. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s ugly. Hard eucharisteo.
“Remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust; to really believe. Remembering, giving thanks, is what makes us a member again of the body of Christ. Remembering, giving thanks, is what puts us back together again in this hurried, broken, fragmented world.
“He asks us to eat the mystery of circumstances we don’t understand. How to find gratefulness when we weep? Does it comfort at all to know that in the midst of our pain, God is keeping a list? A list that turns us and the cosmos inside out and changes everything, changes me and my perspective and the way I brain-film my life:
‘You have recorded my troubles.
You have kept a list of my tears.
Aren’t they in your records?’ —Psalms 56:8, NCV
“God does not slumber for He cannot cease to bear testimony to our hurt. God keeps a list. It’s the wildest love that drives the Father to record his child’s every lament. We never ache without God attending, and he can’t stand to see a tear fall to the floor. God cups our grief and puts our tears in his bottle. It’s love that makes God a list-keeper of our brokenness, and it’s love that can make us list-keepers of our blessings. In this we might meet together in communion.”
This book came at a pivotal time in my grief journey, and it definitely threw down the gauntlet: Grow closer to God, trust fully in Him, receive His full love and grace…by giving thanks for my grief? Giving thanks for all of the wrongs? Seeing blessings instead of misfortunes?
So how do we find joy in the everyday?
It sounds so simple, yet is so much more complex. Retraining myself to seek joy, to record the good, to completely change my perspective on my circumstances, to fully let God in and work His magic in me—that is a challenge not for the weary.
It was difficult at first, but it is getting easier. It is a complex process to rewire your brain to purposefully look for all of the right things in your life. I am definitely a work in progress.
Burgers and beer with Dad. Old photographs. Pie (because… pie).
Freshly cut grass. Sand between my toes. Ice-cold Coca-Cola.
Back-to-school shopping. Movie dates. Girl time.
It really is the simple things that bring the greatest joy when we take the time to truly appreciate them. This was such a profound book to read during a really low point in my life. Because of this book, I now carry around a gratitude journal and make notes in it every time I see something, hear something, or experience something to be grateful for—a “record of rights,” so to speak. It has really changed my attitude and outlook on life.
Random acts of kindness. Sunflower fields. Long massages.
I am now thankful for at least one thing every day, even on days when I feel like crawling in a hole and hiding from the world. Even on days when there are more tears than laughs. Even on days when nothing seems to go right, and everything and everyone is plotting against me to have the worst day ever.
Find at least one thing to be thankful for.
And you know what? No matter what I’m going through or what I’m feeling, just practicing that one act of thankfulness completely changes the rest of my day. Sometimes, I have more than one blessing for which I am thankful, and I make sure to write them all down. But my goal is one a day.
Girls in the sandbox. Nature hikes. Homemade biscuits. Silly, made-up songs.
I challenge you to start a gratitude journal and be thankful for at least one thing every day. You will be amazed at how much more positive and affirming your life will become.
Bird watching. Old hymns.
Sonic Happy Hour. Day trips. New pets.
Mom’s Night Out. Funnel cakes.
What is your “record of rights”—your 1,000 gifts? What are you thanking God for every day? Don’t know? There are blessings and joy all around. Train your brain to look for them, and start recording…
Finding joy and gratitude amid life’s struggles is part of being a strong woman! Listen to this podcast to learn what else characterizes a woman of grit and grace: Are You a Strong Woman of Grit and Grace? – 072