Faith and Gratitude. It’s a chicken and the egg kind of thing…because the more I grew in one, the more I grew in the other. The practice of gratitude gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of my faith. And as my faith grew, I felt a profound sense of gratitude to everything in my life. This post from October 2013 documents the first time that I really got a taste of how gratitude can change the way you see things.
It had started out as a good day. Kelsey was getting into the swing of her senior year and that weekend she was heading out on a vocal ensemble retreat. Tripp and I decided that we would take a quick little weekend trip to the lake, just the two of us. Everything was going just swell.
As Tripp finished getting the truck loaded up, I grabbed my latest issue of Creating Keepsakes magazine which had just come in the mail the day before. And so we pulled out of our drive and set out on the short drive to our cabin at the lake.
It was a beautiful, late-summer morning…perfect for a drive to the lake. Tripp was flipping between the country music presets in the truck. I was flipping through the pages of my new magazine – it was the back to school special edition. But somewhere between the Muskogee turnpike and the Princess Drive-in, my good mood took a turn for the worse. Page after page of back to school photos and layouts had given me a bad case of the ‘bawlies’. It had unleashed my empty-nest anxiety and all I could think about was the fact that I wouldn’t be taking any more ‘first day of school’ pictures.
After we got truck unloaded, I decided that a nice, long walk would do me some good. And so Daisy and I took off down the gravel road towards the boat dock. As I walked along the road, A was thinking about kelsey. How I knew she was so happy in her vocal ensemble group, thinking about what a great time she was having bonding with her friends. Thinking about how much I loved seeing her happy. Seeing her beautiful smile. From there, one thing led to another, and before long I was compiling a list of things that I loved about my daughter.
In the process, by the time I got home, I was no longer feeling sad or anxious. In fact, I felt completely inspired to make a scrapbook page about those ten things. To this day, I still don’t quite understand the mechanism that changed my outlook, but I what i do know for sure is that it started with gratitude.
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. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie
It’s too bad that lesson didn’t stick. Because it seems to me like I could have saved myself a lot of heartache these past few years. But that’s me…stubborn and pigheaded…resisting, fighting it all. I hadn’t yet figured out that gratitude would be the key to my entire journey.
I recently finished reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and I was profoundly touched by her story. I could so relate to her quest to find joy in her everyday. In the book Ann chronicles how she discovered a way of living fully through keeping a list of God’s gifts.
It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted…a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. we come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God.
So now here’s the thing, I am no theologian. I could never describe gratitude and grace in such a poetic, lyrical way as she does. But i know this to be true. I have lived it.
Along the way on this three year journey, I have not taken the time to make a daily list of God’s blessings. But I recognize them everywhere. And I can tell you, from personal experience, whenever I truly connect with the blessings in my life (which are numerous!) I experience a sense of peace. Of joy. It seems as if gratitude somehow softens my heart, and looking back over these past almost 30 days, where I can connect the dots a little better, I now see where gratitude ushered in the healing of my life. Gratitude was the vehicle through which my transformation was accomplished.
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
The irony, though, of this whole journey in self-discovery…no, the ridiculous absurdity of it…is that from the outside, my life is exactly the same as it was the day that Kelsey went off to college. It’s true! I have the same spouse, the same home, the same job. I drive the same car, I have the same friends. I write on the same blog and take pictures with the same camera. Nothing about my life is different.
Except everything about my life is different.
No doubt that gratitude was the key to changing my life. But I don’t want to give you the wrong idea….gratitude isn’t always easy. It’s not slapping on a smile, burying your head in the sand, and pretending that nothing is wrong. Because believe me, I tried that too. And that is just denial. Finding gratitude in life when things hurt and don’t make any sense requires faith and trust…it is having eyes to see Grace. And I believe here is where the real power of gratitude lies.
I’m not sure if i will every fully understand this mystery…how the the simple, yet profound practice of gratitude took all my lack and completely transformed it into abundance. When I see the joy and full life I have now I wonder…how is this even possible? But then I remember, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Yes…gratitude changes everything.