“What are you grateful for?”
My coach’s question took me by surprise.
I felt grateful…but still I struggled with aching depression. Some days were pretty good—I felt grateful. However, there were far too many days when I’d rather stay in bed. How could I express gratitude when I struggled?
How do you make the difficult change and express gratitude when life stinks?
In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp explores what it means to live a lifestyle of radical gratitude. In her beautiful, unique style, Voskamp draws you into her personal struggle to grieve and search for hope and grace amid life’s challenges. I think one of my favorite stories involves soap bubbles . . .
“The water is hot. I wash dishes. On my arms, just below the hiked sleeves, suds leave delicate watermarks. Suds glisten. And over the soaking pots, the soap bubbles stack. This fragile tension arched in spheres of slick elastic sheets.
Light impinges on slippery film.
And I only notice because I’m looking for this and it’s the rays falling, reflecting of the outer surface of a bubble . . . the rim of bubble’s inner skin . . . and where they meet, this interference of light, iridescence on the bubble’s arch, violet, magenta, blue-green, yellow-gold. Like the glimmer on raven wing, the angles, the hues, the brilliant fluid, light on the waves.
I touch wonder and fragility quivers . . . and bulges. Merges. Melds. Ripens full round, time shimmering clear.
Science may explain mechanics, but how do the eyes of the soul see? I seize the pen on the sill, and I can record another one. With my hand still dribbling dishes, with the breath all caught, I etch it down in that journal always lying out flat.
Suds . . . all color in sun.”
Challenged to read this book and begin my own gratefulness journal, I asked God to show me one thing each day He meant just for me in this time of difficult change.
Yet my wounded heart struggled to hope He would answer that prayer.
One night I sensed God nudging me outside after dinner. It was a beautiful summer evening. Dave was on a trip so I felt free to disrupt our normal routine. I finished loading the dishwasher and set it to run. Grateful for the dishwasher.
I wandered out the front door, off the porch, and looked toward the west. Before I knew it, I followed the dirt road toward the setting sun. Hawks soaring above my head, a gentle wind tossing my hair, tears slowly wound their way down my cheeks. The sky undulated with brilliant color and gently faded toward dusks muted blues and purples.
“Thank you, Father, for your beautiful creation.”
I breathed in the sweet pungent scents of a summer evening in the country, gazed at the horses snuffling the grasses, and heard the cows lowing to be milked. Grateful for the peace God provided for my recovering heart.
It takes practice to learn to appreciate your life as it is. And that’s the key: as it is.
“Things that you appreciate get better; things that you don’t, won’t.”
Too often we waste time wishing for things to get better. We don’t want to deal with the difficult change we must make in our mindset. It’s hard work.
What if we invested that time appreciating what we have right now, especially people?
How would that impact your life and mine?
My challenge to you: find the good in each day.
When life stinks, learning to appreciate, or express gratitude, for what you do have changes your mindset.
Focus on what is:
There is always something good. Corrie Ten Boom praised God for the lice in her hair because it kept the guards from entering their barracks and harassing them.
Even in the depths of depression, I could recognize the things around me that were right. My husband stood by me. My children were healthy and making their way into the world. I didn’t attempt suicide. God maintains control over the world and my life.
We take much for granted. When I think about abundance, it is believing the best about your world at the moment. It means there is more where that thing came from. Some people would say you have faith in the future. You don’t believe the sky will crash down around you any minute.
The Bible says it this way:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Instead of concentrating on what you perceive as lack, think about such lovely things.
Learn to express gratitude—train your brain.
When you do, you’ll discover more abundance. But if you choose to focus on negative, pessimistic things, you’ll continue to find more just like them.
My challenge to you—and to me—is to express appreciation or gratitude for life even in times of difficult change.
How will you find your good, right, and abundant today? Understand that today is a gift. And act like it. You and I aren’t promised tomorrow.
Stop waiting for what’s to come. Or staring backward at the past. Instead, choose to live completely present today in wide-eyed wonder and gratefulness. What joys can you find?