Living gratefully is a theme often found in self-help books today. A few weeks ago Kandi White shared with us how the Lord is transforming her through hymns.
She returns today to share a personal practice that has led her to experiencing gratitude every day and how it has changed her life.
I’m so glad to invite my friend, Kandi, back for a second time to our blog series about being transformed.
Here’s Kandi’s story about being transformed by gratitude:
In November of 2015, the leader of our journaling group challenged us to write 1,000 thankful entries in a numbered and dated journal. Just write three entries a day and in one year we would have 1,000!
The goal in this writing exercise was to see the good things that were happening in our lives, to focus on that, and in one year's time we would be able to see how God had worked in our lives and shown us His love. Simple right?
Nope, I only recorded 700 that first year. It was hard to think of something different every single day. My natural tendency was to see the negative in my life and the positive in others’ lives, so being discouraged, I gave up.
The summer of 2017, my life was NOT going at all the way I had planned. I was suffering from severe anxiety, dangerously high blood pressure due to stress and debilitating migraines.
I was again challenged to write a list of things I was thankful for. The leader asked for only thirty, but I knew that my life and my attitude needed to change, or I was going to suffer irreparable damage to my mind, soul, and body.
So I re-committed to writing 1,000. This time I would not allow myself to skip a day. Past history showed me that once I skipped a day, it became too easy to skip more. And then I became embarrassed that I skipped so many that I hid the journal and stopped.
But this time I dug into the Bible and searched for comfort, wisdom and promises from God, and in the three plus years I have learned that keeping a Gratitude Journal can be really difficult.
It meant I’d need to look beyond the negative and hard moments. I’ve had days that I just can't come up with anything positive and just sit there with my journal and blank pages staring and mocking me.
But instead of giving up, I whisper a prayer asking God to show me one good moment that I was thankful for that wasn't trivial or trite. (ie: thankful for sunny weather, that dinner was good, that today is over...).
I challenged myself to go deeper and really look for people and moments that encouraged, motivated or made a moment better. I’ve had to retrain my mind to look for the positive and the encouraging bubbles of joy that can come unexpectedly.
Some days gratitude comes easily; I LOVE those days! On the not easy days I find I have to dig deeper and ask some questions like:
In my home and family what good things are happening?
What do I like about my job and the people I work with?
What did I learn from the sermon, my devotions, the podcast?
What is Jesus teaching me today?
What verse or quote encouraged me today?
The results of this challenge have been life and attitude changing! I have become encouraged and much more positive. Now, I see God's hand EVERYWHERE I look!
With hard work and dedication, my written gratitudes have progressed from simple and sometimes trivial to thoughtful and, dare I say it, even insightful.
This simple and yet difficult discipline has many times brought me to my knees crying at the foot of the Cross, asking God for strength. And then RETURNING to the Cross praising Him for ALL that He has done and the ways He has protected me and brought family and others into my life to encourage and support me.
I have learned to cling to Christ and the promise that He gave me in 2015:
"I shall remain CONFIDENT in the GOODNESS of the Lord!"
I had the opportunity not long ago to reread all the entries from my journals and seeing on paper all the things I’ve learned and how much I DO have to be thankful for. It was so encouraging.
I would like to challenge you to be BRAVE and start your own Gratitude Journal. Number the entries and date them. One day, you will be able to look back and read them like I did and be encouraged by ALL the GOOD things that are really happening in your life, when you stop to look up and see them!
“He whispers His love and I murmur my thanks.”
“This writing it down – it is sort of like… unwrapping love.”
- ANN VOSKAMP
Why number gifts? It’s a good question and the basis of Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. She shares her discovery:
“I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: "And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” EPHESIANS 5:20
And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.”
But in this counting gifts to 1,000, more, that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life…Life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.”
Pull up a chair and sit still
Kandi adopted Ann Voskamp’s method of writing and numbering thanks each day. I, too, write gratitudes regularly. It’s helpful to have my journal readily available.
Have you considered a way to incorporate a thankful spirit into your daily journey with the Lord?
And thanks for sitting still with me, and Kandi, today. :-)