This week in our character series, I wanted to talk about Gratitude. My search for a great quote led me to many that really resonated with me. It was hard to choose …so I probably won’t pick just one 🙂 I’m starting off with this – “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
I loved that quote the first time I read it. I was really thinking about it today and that made me love it even more. It also goes along with 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks…” Not for everything, but in everything. There’s a difference. God doesn’t expect you to be thankful for the bad things that have happened to you or the hard experiences you’ve had, but when you find something to be grateful for in the middle of the pain, it’s amazing how that frees your heart. I’ve gone through a lot of very hard things, but when I sit down and really look at those situations and find something that I can be thankful for, it changes me. Those hurts in the past lessen in the light of gratitude, I can find peace in the hard things going on right now when I am thankful for the God Who never leaves me, and gratitude brings hope for a better future.
My family and I went through a pretty hurtful church situation years ago and had true reason to be bitter, angry, and upset…and we were, at first (we’re human). But as I’ve chosen to look at the good that came from the whole thing, it’s amazing how my heart has changed. I can be thankful for the friendships I gained (some of whom I am still friends with, and those I’m not, I’m still thankful we had those years). I can be thankful that I learned how to be a leader, to minister to others, to build a team, to step out of my comfort zone and speak in front of large groups of people (and realize I kind of liked it, even though I was sure I would pass out before I got up to speak every.single.time). When I look back now, it’s not that I don’t remember the bad things that happened, but my focus has changed to the good that I gained. It’s like forgiveness…forgiving someone doesn’t change them, it changes you. Gratitude for the good that I got out of my years there has changed my heart from hurt and angry to peaceful. And lest you think the next day I was all sunshine and rainbows, it’s definitely a process. There were some things that I was immediately grateful for, but many were things I slowly realized as time passed. Am I thankful for the bad things that happened to me and my family? Absolutely not! But when I took the time to look beyond the bad that was trying to steal all of my attention, I found the good.
I’m sure you have hurtful things in your past, too (or even your present). Otherwise, you wouldn’t be human. I encourage you to try to find some good, be thankful for that and focus on it. Maybe you found a strength to persevere that you didn’t know you had in you; maybe you forged a friendship with someone who shared your experience and who has now become a lifelong friend; maybe God brought peace to you in the middle of your storm in a way you never thought possible; maybe you just survived! It’s not easy. The bad screams for our attention and it’s not shy about pushing its way to the front of the line. But if you’ll make a conscious decision to live a life of gratitude, you’ll be amazed at how you change. Notice I didn’t say how your circumstances change, because sometimes they don’t, at least not right away. But you can.
“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. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie
Before we go, I wanted to talk a bit about Facebook (that’s why I put it in the title 🙂 ). Studies are showing that many people are becoming depressed because they see the “perfect” lives of others on Facebook and realize they will never measure up. I can see that. Most people only tell a small snapshot of their day, leaving out the mundane or the less-than-wonderful. Facebook brings into our homes a seemingly constant barrage of that Mom whose kids excel at everything and whose home looks like a magazine cover. You know the one – the Mom you avoid at the soccer games or see coming down the grocery aisle and so you duck and run behind the stack of cereal… The truth is, we can all find someone who is a better housekeeper, better Mom, better wife, more patient, more loving, more creative, more, more , more…. but the harsh voice of comparison drowns out the sweet song of gratitude. There will always be someone who is better off than us…and there will always be someone who is worse off. When we start comparing ourselves with others, we begin to stop being grateful for our own lives and start being critical of ourselves. I get it. It happens to me, too. And I’m also guilty of fluffing stuff up. I don’t like to read a constant barrage of negativity (life is hard enough without adding everyone else’s hard to mine) so I figure others don’t like it either. Not that I don’t post when I’m having a tough day sometimes, we all need support from our community of friends, but I try to remain upbeat for the most part. I realized that I must be pretty good at hiding the bad when a friend told me at church that it seemed like things were going really well for me. I kind of looked at her funny, because the truth is, I’ve had one crisis after another for the last couple of months (and not like a “broke my fingernail” or “stepped on the cat” kind of crisis either…although for the cat that probably is a pretty big crisis 😉 ). And it made me realize even more how life can look one way on Facebook and be totally different in reality. So, why did I say all this? (I promise there’s a reason and it has to do with gratitude)
I love to peruse through Facebook. My coaching groups are there so it’s open all day long and I periodically peek in to see what my friends are up to. Being a work-at-home, homeschooling Mom can be very isolating, so I love seeing pictures and posts about kids or pets (especially cat videos – Did you see that one where they just keep knocking stuff to the ground? That cracked me up because Gia’s always doing that), hearing about what everyone is doing, where they’re going, etc. (I also like it when my friends ask for prayer or advice or just someone to relate to their struggles because that’s real life.) But I try to guard my heart. It’s easy to see the snapshots, think that’s the whole story, and believe that my life will never be as wonderful as “hers”. So, while you’re bumping around on Facebook, keep in mind that no one airs their deepest, darkest places…ok, well some do, but that’s a whole other blog post…and make sure to guard your heart so that you can be happy for others and celebrate with them, but that you maintain a spirit of gratitude for all the awesomeness in your life.
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar
Be encouraged, my friends! You have so much to be thankful for. Look past the attention-stealing bad stuff and find the good. It’s there. I promise. 🙂
Keep Dreaming ~