Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Levels of Gratitude and Thanksgiving

One of the biggest misconceptions is that everyone's gratitude will look the same. That is the biggest downfall of practicing gratitude: comparison. 

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a group of church ladies. When I arrived, I had no idea that they were studying: Lord, Change MY ATTITUDE by James McDonald & Barb Pell 

The chapter just happened to be about gratitude

I love how God works all things together for our good. He even works out the smallest of details and if we are present and conscious enough we won't miss them. 

I can vividly take myself back to that moment in the small church that so much resembled the little church I grew up in. Their smiles, their stories, their hearts opened up so much love in my own heart. I was so glad I took my oldest daughter with me. We were able to share our mission of #OperationLove with them and to sit with them during their study of McDonald's book.

My biggest takeaway was this: Our gratitude cannot be compared because we are all on a different level on any given day. 

When we look into a mirror we see our own reflection. We do not look exactly like anyone else. We do not think like anyone else. We do not THANK like anyone else. 

"Faith grows in the soil of gratitude." 

Earlier today on https://www.facebook.com/40daysofthankfulness I posted this photo: 


This level of thankfulness is what we all want to achieve but just like we cannot go from kindergarten to college we cannot easily be thankful for the bad. 

It's easy to be thankful for the good. To be thankful IN the bad, THAT is what we all need to strive for daily. 

Some of us are on the "kindergarten" level of thankfulness. We are thankful when the good stuff happens, when it's Thanksgiving Day/Week, when we are reminded by others to be thankful for what we have, but mostly the feeling just isn't always there and we fall into complaint more often than we'd like to admit. 

Others of us are on the "high school" level of thankfulness. We are thankful and can make the choice to be thankful. We also can always find something to be  thankful for, but in the bad times we are, typically, tripped up and fall back into the "why me?" state of mind. 

To experience pure joy, we have to reach the collegiate level of thankfulness. "To give thanks always for all things." That's the goal. To be able to be thankful even in the bad things, even in the things you wouldn't choose - that's where the joy is. 

I'm often told "This isn't as easy as I thought. How do I find gratitude now? I just can't be where you are. I just don't know how you are being thankful while cancer is changing your life."

BUT I AM. 

Granted, I've had lots of practice. 



If you took time to read the journals shown here and were able to weed through all of the "boy nonsense," you'd be able to see that I have always tried to see the good in the worst situations. I could look at my life as a journey filled with the worst, but doing that only makes my present worse. As my journals become more recent, my gratitude comes out in full force and is much more apparent. I began seeing what was REALLY important and that put me on a spiritual journey that I'm still growing in. 

It did not happen overnight. Nothing ever does. It's all about being consistent. If you aren't good with consistent healthy eating, working out, spending, or prayer, then you can bet your consistency with gratitude will also need some work. 

You didn't graduate from kindergarten and immediately graduate from high school. You had a lot of work, practice and consistent accountability first. The same thing has to happen with your gratitude. 

Leave a journal by YOUR bed, leave a sticky note pad, keep a stack of 3 x 5 cards and every night before bed write down ONE thing you're thankful for EVERY night. That alone will take you to a new level of gratitude and change your attitude. 

If someone were to be able to see your thoughts, would they mostly see negative, unappreciative, and petty frustrations? Or would they see you being full of praise even during illness, loss, or struggle? 

In every moment, ask yourself: AM I CHOOSING THANKFULNESS NOW?

Gratitude isn't something I've "achieved." Gratitude is something I have to consciously choose every second just like the next person. I just know from a lifetime of experience that gratitude will ground you so that even tragic life-changing events cannot tear you down. 

And on that note, from my family to yours, we wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving Days filled with joys, laughter, and love even if it's in the midst of loud kids, dirty dishes, or lots of travel. 

"The smallest things really are BIG things." 

Love & gratitude,