Cultivate Gratitude in Life

When we are little our parents are frequently reminding us to say thank you, whether it is for the lollipop given by a friendly cashier, or a birthday gift from grandma and grandpa, they encourage us to remember our manners.

Having a grateful spirit doesn’t come naturally, it seems so much easier to grumble and complain and even when we remember to say than you often they are just words without the heart of gratitude.

I want to cultivate a heart of gratitude. Not just saying thank you for sweet surprises and gifts from family or friends but being grateful to the Lord throughout the moments of my day.

I am finding that in choosing to be more present, I am recognizing more gifts in my day-to-day life. It is often easy to be grateful about large awesome gifts but the less obvious we frequently miss.

This week we had some snow, I woke up to see my yard look like a beautiful winter wonderland. The tree branches were covered with snow. The ground was white, and the snowflakes continued to fall adding to the inches that were down. I went out to shovel in the cool crisp air and marveled at the beauty of it all. I said “thank you” to the Lord. I thought, if snowflakes were blessings, I suddenly had become rich, but my thinking was wrong. The Lord showers me with many blessings everyday they just are not always as visible as the snow blanketing the ground. I miss them in my busyness. There is so much to be thankful for.

The Bible is filled with verses giving words for our thanks. Some of my favorites are:

1 Chronicles 16:39 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you LORD, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 “…but thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

The themes for giving thanks that we see here are for

  • the Lord’s goodness
  • the Lord’s love
  • the Lord’s wonderful deeds
  • the Lord’s meeting our needs
  • the Lord victory through Jesus
  • good things
  • God’s grace

Think about how the Lord has shown His goodness and His love to you? What wonderful deeds has He done on your behalf? How has He met your needs? How has He given you victory through Jesus? What good things has He given you ? How has He been gracious unto you? I don’t know about you but just thinking about the answers to these question leads me to quite a list of reasons for thanksgiving.

I am realizing being thankful is something you have to be intentional about. This year I am choosing to do just that. I began highlighting verses in my Bible that spoke of thankulness. I also am keeping a gratitude journal, although, honestly, I am more consistent some days than others. It is also my hope to be more spontaneous with saying thank you to the Lord and others throughout my days. I am often not very observant, my husband will do something and two weeks later I will make mention that it got done, and then he will tell me it was done days ago. I want to do better with that.

It truly is the little things in life that matter, like the unexpected text from a friend or a call from my husband. Or the time taken to share lunch with a friend you rarely see. There is so much to say thank you for.

There are so many little things that can go unnoticed because we are focused on expectation of greater things. or because the negative things in life seem to loom larger than the positives that seem more trivial.

But taking time to thank the Lord for the gifts He bestows on us as well as thanking those around me is something I want to work on in 2018.

Is cultivating gratitude something that you are doing this year? Please share what is helping you.

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Joy

Joy, it is something we all long for, search for, and desire. But it seems so fleeting. When we are without joy in our hearts, depleted by life worries and busyness, it is easy to begin to feel as if we are losing hope.

Ann Voskamp says that our joy is related to the depth of the thankfulness in our hearts. I guess that seems like an obvious truth but I have never taken into consideration the reality of that correlation. It is too easy to dwell on the frustrating, the overwhelming, the worrisome, the painful; these seem to drown out our ability to know thanksgiving in our hearts. At other times we may be so focused and busy that we miss the blessings of life. The blessings come and go and we are oblivious to them. The sadder part of this is that we also lose sight of the Giver of those gifts and do not thank Him.

We get involved in the stuff of life and are blind to the goodness of God. I know for me that actually almost did happen about a week ago. We were blessed with some very warm-for-February-in-Wisconsin days and in my being busy inside, I almost didn’t stop long enough to go out. I finally decided that I needed to take advantage of the beautiful weather. The few moments I took, gave me so much joy, just taking that little break, breathing the fresh air, and writing in my journal a little restored my energy. It felt so nice to feel the warm breeze, hear the birds, and sip my frothy coffee. My heart was so thankful for all of that beauty it did overflow with joy.

Then, just the other night, I almost missed another blessing. I decided to clean my bunnies playpen, but I thought that I wouldn’t go in to sit with them. Instead, I ended up changing my mind. I felt such peace pour into my heart as I sat their on the floor petting them and playing with them. I felt myself slow and breathe deeply. The love I felt for little Lulu and Leila was wonderful and they, too, gave love in return. These few moments also gave me reason to be thankful and joyfilled. Furry babies can breathe relaxation into your soul.

Such simple pleasures bring so much thankfulness, leading to such great joy. It is true, when you recognize all that you have to be thankful for, you do feel joy in your heart. And the joy, that has bubbled up from your thank-filled heart, brings glory to our gracious, generous God. Joy somehow empowers you with new vigor. I know it does me. So, I ask you…

Are you a thank-filled person?

Are you a joy-filled person?

The yes or no answers you give to these question I would guess are the same for each. Give it some thought, can you see how having a thankful heart leads to joy in your life?

I want to recognize and be aware of the sweet blessings the Lord puts in my moments and my days. Oftentimes, I think we are apt to miss the little things, looking for something bigger and greater. I want to grow in awareness of His presence with me, seeing what He is doing and giving. I need to see the gift so I can thank the Giver. Our own desires can often blind us to the blessings. We are wishing for something specific that our heart is set on and in that yearning we miss all the other blessings. The simple sweet ordinary gifts might be overlooked.

I am guilty of this with my husband, for example, in my wanting to hear loving words of romance. I miss recognizing the love in his helping hand. I have to give credit to Ann Voskamp for helping me see the error in my thinking here too. My desire for one thing can keep me from seeing the beauty of another way of loving.

The same thing happens in our relationship with the Lord in prayer, we ask for something that we think is best and miss the goodness of the gift given that is in reality even better than we can imagine.

I want to see the Lord’s gifts, I want to allow them to fill my heart with thanksgiving so I may know the joy I have in Him, in His goodness to me. It is that beautiful joy that will give me strength in the hard and hurt-filled times.

I hope that your heart is encouraged as mine is to enjoy the Giver, to be aware of the love He shows us in His many blessings to us, to have hearts filled with thankfulness, and to know the amazing joy that is ours in Him.

May His sweet blessings to you fill your heart with joy and refresh your soul!

 

 

 

Five Simple Lessons from the Christmas Tree

What can you learn from a Christmas tree? I find that the Christmas tree has much to teach us, simple reminders that truly keep Christ in Christmas. 

First of all, the Christmas tree is shaped like an arrow pointing to heaven. This is a good reminder for us to keep an eternal perspective. Stress can takeover when we become obsessed with the here and now. We fuss and fret and forget what really matters is Jesus birth. He is the reason for the season. So look up and remember.

The glimmering lights on the tree can help us remember to shine for Jesus. We are called to be lights in a dark world. There are lights of every color available for your tree, bright, beautiful, and blinking. Use your own unique personality and giftedness to brighten others lives this Christmas season. 

Then, there are all of those special ornaments carefully placed on the tree. Ornaments on a tree are like blessings in our lives, both adorn our lives with beauty. Whether you decorate with a theme in mind or just have a menagerie of trimmings, what really makes the ornaments themselves special often is the meaning connected to each one. Somehow even a tarnished ornament has beauty if it reminds you of a loved one that has gone to be with Jesus, or makes you think of a friend that you seldom see. Take time to remember, count the blessings in your life. Gratitude leads to joy. Decorate your heart with a thankful spirit and let the inner joy that fills you bring beauty to each moment of this season.

The Christmas tree is often topped with a glittery star or an angel. The star in the sky in the Christmas story led the shepherds to find Jesus. And the angels told the shepherds of the glory of the baby born.  This Christmas lead others to see Jesus by demonstrating Christlikeness. Sometimes the holiday seasons are the most difficult seasons to live out His love in our lives. When you see a star remember where it led the shepherds, and choose to do likewise.

The gifts under the tree capture so much of our time and attention. Let each gift remind you that God gave us the gift of Jesus the Savior of the world. He came to earth for the purpose of giving us the free gift of salvation, eternal life. What He has given is the one thing every human needs more than anything else on this earth. Is there a special way that you can share about the true Gift of Christmas this year?

Christmas, it is all about Jesus, we are just so easily distracted by all the hustle and bustle. This year remember all of the ways that can help you keep your focus on the real Reason for all of our Joy and Hope at Christmas!

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