“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.” –Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go, quoted in Real Simple magazine, Nov. 2014
This month I took on a gratitude challenge, three thanksgiving’s each day for the month. Like most challenges, it started easier than it has finished (though it’s not over yet). Over a particularly busy few days I recorded nothing at all, and gratitude in extended hindsight doesn’t work as effectively – what moments of grace did I experience last Wednesday? Oh goodness, I can’t remember this morning let alone last week!
Yet as with most disciplines, the effort, imperfect as it so often is, pays off. I am grateful to have recorded these gifts, to be able to look back over the month and see God’s goodness played out in the details of my life. How quickly time passes, and how full life can be, especially when I take time to say “Thank you!”
I found confirmation of my experience in this gratitude experiment in this article in Real Simple. Gratitude leads to feelings of happiness, boosted energy, greater health, resilience when necessary, improved relationships, and acts of kindness. Gratitude changes us and those around us in a beautiful cycle of thanksgiving.
This month I have given thanks for shared love and laughter with my family; specific acts of kindness by friends; dog snuggles; a flock of favorite birds in our backyard tree; quiet moments; unexpected words when I needed them; natural beauty; opportunities to serve; fun adventures; home. All this in the midst of so much more.
Some of the “more” in this month has been painful, hard moments filled with negative emotions and tears. Even when life is good it can be up-and-down overfull of good and bad. Which is why I – we – need so desperately to recall the truth: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). God is the God of hope, worthy of praise, Savior who allows us to associate with Him so personally, “my God.” My God!
Which begs the question: just how much harder might this month have been had I not engaged in a discipline of gratitude?
This morning we met up for a beach walk with friends we haven’t seen in a while. SoCal weather has been in the mid- to high-80’s, bright blues and vivid greens-turning-to-browns prevailing. The breeze couldn’t defeat the beating sun, nor did we need it to. The forecast says much-needed rain is coming and for today we enjoy this unbelievable Thanksgiving weather.
Our friends downsized when they moved NorCal south. In their move they gained easy beach access and a simpler state of being. Funny thing, we moved the opposite direction and while we drive much farther to access the coast, we also gained a simpler state of being, a slower pace, the community for which we so longed. As much as I need to remember that, I do miss this:
Sitting and soaking in the view will always be good for my soul, and an extra-special gift this Thanksgiving.
This afternoon the guys and I prepared delicious and (our version of) traditional holiday food with my side of the family; we enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal together with my mom, sister, brother, and nephew. The food and drink was special, the table beautifully set, we wore something a little nicer than our usual scrubs. For a time, any drama was set aside and we enjoyed one another’s company. We laughed and told stories, we remembered those who cannot be with us, we created new memories for times ahead when we cannot be together.
We said thanks, and appreciated this day set aside in honor of thanks-giving.