The Practice of Gratitude: Part 1
We purchased a house needing tons of work during my fourth pregnancy. As moving day approached, the doctor placed me on partial bed rest. It was a stressful time: moving preparations, finishing our home school year, caring for my boys and the little one inside me. Life found me tired, overwhelmed, and huge. Not the epitome of a grateful human.
Cheating on the doctor’s orders one morning, the boys and I snuck to Trader Joe’s. My blood pressure began to boil as we shopped. My brood behaved badly. Instead of helping me as planned, they argued. Then, when not arguing, two of them made gun and burp sounds while the one in the cart barked like a dog at full decibel.
I walked away from our cart o’ fun to a small corner of the small store. As a mental breakdown took place in my head, I wondered: Why did I ever have kids? Why were my kids the naughtiest children ever? Was I CRAZY in having another one? Why hadn’t God just given me one little girl as my plan had been? How was I going to handle an eternity of listening to burp and gun sounds?
Once I semi-got a grip, I turned around and there standing next to my cart talking to the boys was my friend. My infertile friend.
Poor thing, I unloaded on her. As I spoke, her eyes clouded, while she listened sweetly. She then replied, “Kris, I know you are hormonal and tired. The boys are challenging. But think about this: I wish I had your life. I just want one child and you have four.”
So, I got down on my swollen knees and begged her to trade lives with me!
No, I didn’t. But I wanted to. Instead, I hugged her, thanked God for my kids, pondered her pain, and increased my prayers for her situation.
Convicted by her words, yet I did not allow them to shift me. I was too overwhelmed and in a survival mindset. Had I taken up intentional gratitude, that period (and many others) may not have been as emotionally heavy for me. Unable to rise above the mire, I did not often see my blessings clearly.
You may have experienced similar situations- where, like me, your ungrateful self-gets put in its place. I have had oodles of them. Yet, even so, I have excelled in pity-parties and poor-me periods. Knowing this was not how I wanted to live, I became intentional.
On December 30, 2015, I began a daily gratitude diary. A simple numerical list I add to most days, separate from my journal. As of today, I have two-thousand, four-hundred, and forty-two entries.
Some of my simple entries include:
clean sheets~running water~Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups~my cuddly dog~the privilege of motherhood~opportunities to trust God in deep waters~the book of Psalms~ God giving me the courage to face a scary situation~ freedom~laughing with my kids~flowers from my buddy~fresh cut grass~a car to drive~ the color green~ my boys’ friends~my friends~money to pay a huge medical bill~healthy kids~healthy parents~working legs~food on the table~a table to put food on…
Since that December Wednesday, the tornadoes have struck. Some days, mining for gratitude is difficult. Terribly.
Yet, I have learned the practice of gratitude shifts me unlike anything else.
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
I learned that the discipline of daily gratitude equals sanity. That thankfulness equals proper perspective. This discipline enables me to press on. It purifies. It eases bitterness. It heals.
We are early in 2017 still. It is not too late to make it The Year of Gratitude. How about making a daily intention to jot down a few things you are grateful for, then, see what happens.
I will be praying for you as you begin this practice of gratitude.