Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

I hope no one minds, but I decided since it's that time of year, I'll just stick to the "Gratitude" theme for all of November. I really feel strongly that finding things to be thankful for in our lives is one of the keys to finding abiding joy. I'm reminded of a story in The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. She and her sister Betsy were in a concentration camp during World War II. Betsy told Corrie that she was grateful for the fleas that afflicted them constantly there. That is incomprehensible to me, but Betsy was grateful for them because they kept the Nazi guards away from them and the sisters were able to enjoy a little more freedom. If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it. It is beyond inspiring. Corrie was able to rise above everything that came her way without anger and self-pity. And being able to find gratitude for something as miserable as fleas probably had something to do with that.

So, to keep our focus on gratitude, I have another challenge. I know you're all excited. This week's goal is to begin a "Gratitude Journal". Thanks to my mom, I started one the day after Christmas last year. It has been an eye opening experience and a blessing in and of itself. Some days I have many things to write about and other days, when I'm in a bad mood, I have to sit and think for a while--but I have never had a day without something to be thankful for. The greatest blessing of it has been to see how much God is a part of my life. Often I will notice that a decision I make one day will allow something wonderful to happen several days later--a connection I never would have made on my own and I know God is enlightening my mind.

For example, last week KN and I were given the opportunity to see the Rockettes in NYC. I didn't really feel like going because we had a lot of stuff going on already that day and it is a hassle to travel there, but I found myself agreeing to go anyway. Even as I was driving there I was questioning why we were doing this and regretting the decision. We enjoyed the show but my breathing became very painful about halfway through it. We stayed with my parents that night. Had I been at my own home, I probably wouldn't have gone to a doctor because that is such a hassle with two small children. But because we were at my parents' home and my mom made all the arrangements and watched my kids for me, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pre-pneumonia. The doctor said I was very lucky to have come in so early and that they've been having some more serious cases of pneumonia in this area. I feel so blessed to have had such a mild case that I easily and rapidly got over. I am grateful to my mom for all her help and to my Heavenly Father because I believe He influenced my decision to go.

And things like that have happened time and time again. I'm sure I would have realized some of them, but certainly not as much as I do when I sit and reflect at the end of every day at the blessings it brought. And it's hard to not have my mood brightened when I recognize and appreciate the good things that happened to me.

So, feel free to share anything good that happens to you. And how searching for something to be grateful for, even when it seems like there is nothing, helps you find joy.

My mom sent me this and I thought it was applicable here. Thanks Mom!

Gratitude First by Joseph Walker

Now, keep in mind that I’m talking about a candy necklace here — nothing special at all. It was just a stringy loop of elastic with multi-colored candies strung around it. I had handed some of them to the ten-year-olds to whom I had been teaching Old Testament stories for the past year (what, you don’t see the connection between candy necklaces and the Old Testament?), and I had an extra one.

Kayla is quite special indeed. She has long dark hair. Gorgeous eyes. A beautiful smile. The sweetest voice you’ve ever heard. And she’s six. In all the world there is nothing so wonderfully adorable as a six-year-old girl.

Which is probably why I gave the necklace to her. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

When I slipped the necklace into her hand she smiled that beautiful smile of hers, and I considered myself adequately thanked. Then I settled back to enjoy the church meeting. As enthralling as church was that day, I did notice a couple of things about Kayla. For one thing, although she wore the candy necklace around her neck, I didn’t see her actually eating the candy. By way of comparison, my son Jon had his necklace consumed and was asking for more before we sang the final “Alleluia” in the opening hymn. The other thing I noticed was that she seemed quite intent on something she was drawing. I couldn’t see it, but whatever it was it certainly had her attention—so much so that she paid almost no attention to the candy strung around her neck.

When the service ended I stood to leave. Then I noticed something small and cute in the aisle beside me. It was Kayla. She didn’t say a word. She just handed a piece of paper to me. It was the picture that she had been working on throughout the meeting. It showed a tall stick figure man with glasses and most of his hair, holding a candy necklace in his hand. Next to him was a shorter stick figure girl with long dark hair, gorgeous eyes, and a beautiful smile. Over her head was a cartoon balloon with these words: “Thank you.”

It was a lovely gift and a marvelous work of art—far more valuable than the candy bauble I had presented to her. As I thanked her for her gift, I noticed that she was finally starting to eat the candy that I had given to her.

“It looks like your Daddy wouldn’t let you eat your candy until after church,” I observed.
She shook her head seriously. “I could eat it,” she said, shyly. “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ first.”

I was touched by the gesture and inspired by her message. It was so important to her to say “thank you” that she couldn’t really enjoy the treat until she had expressed her gratitude.
That’s why there’s a new piece of art in the gallery that is beginning to fill the nooks and crannies of my office. Kayla’s picture is the first to be so enshrined that wasn’t created by one of my offspring. I’m including it as a way of reminding me to be grateful.



Melissa said...

Oh my goodness!! It is a good thing you were at your Mom's!
I was just called to teach the 4-5 year olds in church. I am NOT grateful for this calling...yet. I am trying to look at is as "maybe this will help teach me the patience that I lack." I am trying to be greatful, but I don't know how long it will take until I am truly thankful for this opportunity. I've been having really down week and I am having a hard time not being grouchy. Thank you for this post and I really like the idea of a gratitude journal!

Kristen said...

I love the idea of a gratitude journal. I try to be grateful for something each day.

Kristen said...

One more thing- Do you mind if I link this post to my joyfuljourney blog.

Cheryl said...

There is a new comment on "Time to Give Thanks!" Thanks, Jen!

Linda said...

I'm experimenting upon your words by trying to remember to thank people more consistently. A lot of the time I forget to tell others how much I appreciate them. I've found that as I thank someone, then they tell me more about what they did and/or why they did it, and after hearing them, I am even more grateful. Aren't people amazing?! And isn't it amazing how much we all need to be appreciated? I hope that these habits are becoming permanent. :)