For the last six years, there is one character trait in particular that I have been seeking to develop in myself. It’s a trait whose absence, both in me and others, causes me great ire. In fact, I would say it’s what’s lacking in our modern entitlement mentality. And although I have grown significantly in this area, I realize I still have not mastered it.
I’m speaking of gratitude.
Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, energized my passion for gratitude as she challenged me to count the many daily gifts, or graces, that God bestows on us. And I found that as I searched, I had been missing so many along the way.
Acorns with hats
Naps, complete with drool
My washer and dryer
Siblings voluntarily hugging one another
Becoming a sleuth for His glory changed my perspective, caused me to become happier, and resulted in far greater contentment. EVEN THOUGH MY CIRCUMSTANCES DID NOT CHANGE. Actually, some would say my circumstances got worse! For instance, watching your grandfather, fraught with dementia, slip away is not usually regarded as a plus, yet there were graces.
Assisted living caretakers who are aptly named Joy
Kids playing with a ball, entertaining the elderly
Teen son saying “I like this place” when “this place” is an assisted living facility
Holding Granddaddy’s hand has he passed from this world to eternity
Fast forward three years. I was diagnosed with cancer right before Christmas. Merry Christmas! No, not exactly the present I was looking for, but I continued to look for the gifts. And I found them.
Colleagues who fill in for me
A good prognosis
My voice! God saved my voice!! There was a big risk that the doc could accidentally damage my vocal cords and I would never speak again.
Friends and family who pray, cook, provide financially and comfort
As with any habit, gratitude can be forgotten. My nearly daily practice of writing down gifts became less frequent and then non-existent. Oh, I still noticed gifts, but not like before. And then I came across a few verses in Numbers 11 that jumped off the page like a a flashing neon sign saying, “Sarah, it’s time to restart that habit. There’s value in being grateful, in being content with your circumstances.” Here’s what I read:
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.
Uh, yeah. So the LORD doesn’t take kindly to complainers. Let me repeat that: the LORD doesn’t like it when we complain! He’s quite serious about us noticing all the ways He’s provided for us, the good things He’s given us, the ways He’s blessed us. Even in the dessert, He wanted His people to be grateful for what He’d done.
So about that gratitude journal. Yep, I’ve been writing in it again. I’m looking forward to the contentment that follows and the joy that wells up in me, as I focus on all the blessings that God has given.
P.S. I wrote this blog post a little over a week ago. Little did I know the curve balls that life would throw us since. I won’t go into detail, but it’s been a hard week, and even though I’d been growing in gratitude, I still found myself seriously struggling in my faith. And that’s when I called in some reinforcements.
Family and friends who pray for you when you’re weak.
Being reminded that faith is NOT a feeling.
Knowing that I can trust God even when I can’t see Him.
Knowing that God works ALL things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.