Choosing Gratitude, Life

Choosing Gratitude: Three Thoughts

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A sprained ankle

A washer that stops working mid-load

Infertility

Cross country moves

Sometimes it’s the frustrating circumstances of life that teach me how to choose gratitude. It’s the unexpected inconveniences that remind me how much I have.

Gratitude is a character trait learned by choosing. It’s not one I grew up owning. Sometimes it takes difficult circumstances to teach me how to give thanks.

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A sprained ankle (read here)? A frustrating event. Being completely needy fits this independent woman about as well as a stretched out ACE bandage. Yet, in that place of dependence, beauty resulted from pain. Looking beyond my circumstances, I saw into the hearts of my family and those who helped me.

A washing machine that decides to stop mid-cycle and refuses to release the door? Definitely an inconvenience.

But . . .

I had friends offer me the use of their washers. Take it one step farther. I have a washing machine. And no, it’s not my two hands, a rock and a river, like it is for many in the world.

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Though these easier situations in life have taught me the beauty of choosing gratitude, the painful seasons also gave me opportunities to practice thankfulness.

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Walking through years of infertility? For a time, each day, each month’s reminder that my arms were still empty filled me with bitterness, even desperation. I had to come to a place where I chose to trust that God had a plan, it was different from mine, and it was good.

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Then, I could look beyond my circumstances into the hidden places and choose gratitude.

During that season of our lives I experienced God’s faithfulness and the love He has for me. He strengthened my understanding of who He is.

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Uncle Sam’s marching orders added a little crazy to our lives every time hubby received new assignments. Each move yanked me from a place where I was known and plopped me into a locale where I was unknown.

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My foibles, idiosyncrasies, strengths, weaknesses were all up for evaluation by those who didn’t know the “real” me yet. Those moves unlocked the vulnerability I’d rather not show. As I turned to God, I baby stepped into a heart-place where I could choose gratitude for the small things in my new life.

Is it easy to choose gratitude?

Not always.

But, it is a choice. A few things that have helped me grow in this are:

  1. Look beyond the most demanding circumstance (pain, loneliness, etc) to see the periphery. It’s usually on the edges of an event that I find someone or something to be thankful for. Sometimes blessings hide behind the obvious of a circumstance.
  2. Be intentional about opening your heart to see beyond the obvious. Search for the treasures in the hidden places of a situation.
  3. Be purposeful about looking for something good in each circumstance. At times I have to search hard to find it.

Often, choosing gratitude isn’t easy. It’s intentional.

What about you? How do you choose gratitude? When is a time when you had to choose to be thankful about something?

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8 thoughts on “Choosing Gratitude: Three Thoughts”

  1. This came at an interesting time for me.

    Since my wife’s mom died last month, Barbara has been going through old pictures, old memories. She’s been revisiting her past, sometimes with her brothers and father, sometimes by herself.

    It’s fascinating to hear – because my past is gone without trace. There are no pictures, no scrapbooks. There is no family, no old friends. The only ‘remember when’ moments I can share came after the age of 40. There are times when I feel like the walking dead, a shadow whose absence would leave little trace in the world of man.

    And I’m grateful for this. There is something liberating about having no scope for nostalgia, no need for sentimentality. I can’t see a younger me, so I’m not compelled to feel the weight of years.

    I think I like it.

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    1. Hmm, Andrew. I can see how there would be advantages to living without past difficult memories, or faces to remind you of hurts inflicted. Living in the present can be a good thing.

      I am thankful for a family history with many good memories. Yes, there are bad ones too, but the first ones that usually come to mind for me are good ones.

      I’m praying for you, Barbara and your FIL, especially with the holidays coming up. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective today!

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