My Focus for 2015: Gratitude

Just as I did at the start of 2014, I pondered, prayed, and reflected over the past month to come up with one word that I would try to focus on for the year. The word that came to me was “gratitude.” Gratitude

Gratitude is easy when you are clearly surrounded by life’s blessings and you feel like things are going well for you. But what about when you are going through a tough time? Unfortunate circumstances can make it difficult to see the good and to be grateful for what is happening to you or around you. It can be especially hard to discover the silver lining in the dark clouds at this time. But, I believe, in many cases, if we look hard enough, we can find something in each moment to latch onto and to be thankful for.

“I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances. I can do everything
through him who gives me strength …
God will meet all your needs.” 
Philippians 4:11, 13, 19 (NIV)

Attitude of Gratitude

My goal for this year is to “Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude” despite my circumstances. I created a place on a whiteboard (see above) to remind myself of some of the things I am grateful for on an ongoing basis. Currently, it shows things like family, friends, Bart, Bella, work, nature, and books. What I’d like to do throughout the year is to replace these easy-to-come-up-with concepts with things that might not at first seem to be something one would be thankful or grateful for. I want to dive deeper into my feelings and my life situations and attempt to discover the good within the “bad” or the uncomfortable.

Gratitude_Tip

 I invite you to join me on this journey. I’m thinking about creating some “Growing in Gratitude” kits (including colorful string, mini-clothespins, and pieces of paper in various shapes, sizes, and patterns) for my Etsy shop, depending on interest level. So, let me know if you might be interested in something like that and if so, I’ll put some kits together. Otherwise, it’s very easy to create your own gratitude journal or board, using regular paper and colorful markers or pencils, or whatever strikes your fancy. You can update the concepts daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever the mood hits. There is no right or wrong way to highlight or reflect on your blessings.

Too many blessings

“God, send me anywhere, only go with me.
Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.
And sever any tie in my heart except the tie
that binds my heart to yours.”
David Livingstone

As Zig Ziglar says: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

What helps you maintain an attitude of gratitude? I would love it if you would share some of your thoughts on this with me, as I plan to continue writing about this topic throughout the year.

Thank you, and have a blessed day.

Grateful for trees

“The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust—not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.”  —Brennan Manning

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Having a Bad Day? You Are Not Alone.

Despite our best efforts to keep our lives on a steady track, like a carousel, life is typically more like a roller coaster. We have our ups—things are great, life is good, we’re on top of the world. And then we have our downs—those trying times when it seems that everything that can go wrong does.

Personally, I am only on a small slope right now as I experience a little uncertainty about my income in the upcoming months and continue to deal with the on-again/off-again issues of carpal tunnel and fibromyalgia. However, among my family and friends, there are several people experiencing more traumatic issues like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, multiple surgeries, major medication and rehabilitation, long-distance moves, and various other shake-ups.

Today, whether you are experiencing a steady decline or you feel like you are descending at a rapid rate, remember: looking back does not change the course; every down is followed by an up; and finally, whatever you are going through, you are not alone.

Roy Lessin image

Virginia Knowles, who writes about motherhood on her blog (This Mom Grows Up!) posted this today: “When Life Is Not a Bowl of Cherries”

“So much we go through, the good and bad mixed together. It stretches our faith. It teaches us life lessons. It connects us to those who want to help us. It draws on our capacity to love others. It shows us where we need to put forth more effort.”

Another blogger I follow, Susie Middleton (at SixBurnerSue.com), shares some of the crazy downs experienced in farm life:

“It’s … easy, this time of year, to look around a farm and get discouraged. Weeds are ravenous, pests are ravenous, farm stand customers are ravenous. (And our egg supply isn’t keeping up with demand.). The pretty green frilly stuff of spring has fled, replaced by dying pea vines and bolted lettuce and plants ravaged by potato beetles.

But wait. That’s only one way to look at it.”

She goes on to comment on the cheerful sunflowers and zinnias, the bountiful tomato harvest, and the fresh black raspberries now ripe for making homemade berry ice cream.

Copyright © 2014 Susie Middleton

Copyright © 2014 Susie Middleton

Sometimes, how you look at your surroundings and what you choose to see is more important than what appears at first to be the overwhelming “reality.” Changing your focus is not always easy to do, especially if you are experiencing financial difficulties or overwhelming grief, but you can often find the silver lining in many situations if you try and/or if you give it time. (Of course, there are some things that we will never understand or see the good in … at least not during our earthly lives. For those things, we simply have to trust in God and His plan.)

JoAnn Potter, shares some really good thoughts on bad things in her blog post, “God Never Says ‘Oops'”:

“Whenever something bad happens to me, my first reaction is to think that I don’t belong in my situation. Surely, there’s been some kind of mistake.

My son shouldn’t be sick. I shouldn’t have constant conflict with my boss. I’m not supposed to have broken my mother’s prized china. My husband wasn’t supposed to be downsized out of a job. Our car shouldn’t have broken down. …

Regardless of what I want to believe about my situation, I am in it for one of only two reasons: Either God has willed it, or He has allowed it.

If I do not admit this, then God becomes subservient to my will, to the devil, to chance, or to something else. And He can’t. If He does, He is not God. …

God is not selectively perfect. He is not selectively knowing. He is not selectively loving. God is these things all the time.

He does not make me do stuff, but He does work all things together for good. He can turn my bad decisions, eventually, into good. He can turn evil inside out. He does it all the time.”

PEACE - I Have Overcome the World

Whatever you are going through, I pray that your burden will be eased; that you will receive encouragement through your connection to God, friends, and family; that you will find relief from your pain and comfort for your sorrow; that you will discover the desires of your heart and the path that will get you there; and that you will find rest, peace, and renewal at the end of the “ride.”

Dr. Charles Stanley says, “Perhaps the hardest part of receiving the desires of our heart is waiting for them to materialize. Yet God’s Word insists that we rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. This means relying on Him to work out circumstances even when achieving our desire seems impossible.”

 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing
the Lord is about to do…”
1 Samuel 12:4

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.”
Jeremiah 17:7

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Stop Worrying