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Finding Gratitude

I got a call today from a dear friend celebrating what appeared to be a small victory, but really wasn’t small at all. She had taken a first tentative step and had done it successfully.  I was thrilled for her!  I so understand how those little moments can represent so much more in our lives that we can give them credit for, and I was proud of her for owning that particular moment in her life.

The more I find myself in a season of challenge or refinement, the more important I find it to cling to what is good, to notice the small victories all around me.  It’s not my first instinct.  My natural tendency is to doubt, to second-guess myself or worse, to second-guess God.  It’s really easy to see the stormy waves all around me; it takes focus to to notice the beautiful rays of sunshine peeking through the dark, gray clouds hinting at a brighter day to come.

A few things really help me to stay positive in the midst of struggle.  Friendship.  Deep, healthy ones with folks who build into me and remind me about the good things inside of me and around me when I need reminders.  The kind that tell me what I need to hear even when hearing it hurts, because they love me too much to leave me stuck and broken.  I call them my Wise Advisors, and they are priceless to me.

Gratitude.  It’s a simple word but on it hinges a world of joy and even peace in the midst of the hard.  I live in the United States.  I have a roof over my head, a mind that functions, food on my table, clothes on my back, and the added blessing of a family that is close and sees the value in each other.  Anything else is really a first world problem.  Reminding myself of that gives me tremendous perspective.  The UN reports over 7.6 million people die each year from malnutrition.  That’s 1 person every 4 seconds.  Yay.  My stuff’s not that bad.

But my secret weapon, the one thing that always brings me back to a space of feeling known, valued and loved (which makes me deeply grateful) is God and His word.  I am reminded of the ways He has taken care of me, how He’s allowed me to move forward through tremendously difficult circumstances in the past, and even used them to do some really cool stuff in the future.  It reminds me that I’m never truly alone.

I read His words of truth in the Bible about how He has plans for me and those plans are good (Jeremiah 29:11-13), and that I will find those plans when I’m seeking Him with all my heart.  His path for me has been a remarkable one, and it allows me to trust He still has me in the midst the tossing waves.  I thank Him for every blessing, every instance of faithfulness I can recall, and my joy grows.

So, I claim my small victories and search for gratitude, acknowledging the little steps here and there that over time lead up to the big win, the turning points and the deep character changes that can only be achieved over time.  Like my friend, I know I can forget the good that is happening if I don’t make space to notice and celebrate it.  I make a point of noticing because as simple as that sounds, it’s what helps me see God’s hand actively moving in my life.

For Further Thought: A spiritual rhythm I’ve added to my life that in many ways has been a game changer for me is to keep a gratitude journal.  Every night before I go to bed, I write down how I saw God move in my day, the victories I’ve had no matter how small, the things I’m grateful for, and the prayers I saw answered.  Then when I’m stuck, I can read all the ways God has been there for me over time.  This week, consider starting a gratitude journal of your own and commit to writing in it consistently for 30 days.  I bet you’ll notice a difference!  And, if you’re not doing it already, get out and volunteer to help those less fortunate than yourself.  We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Helping others not only allows us to build into someone or something else, but it comes with the added blessing of being reminded of all the blessings you really do have!

Key Scriptures: “O my soul, come, praise the Eternal; sing a song from a grateful heart; sing and never forget all the good He had done.” Psalm 103:2

“To You, Lord, I give my whole heart, a heart filled with praise, for I am grateful; before the gods, my heart sings praises to You and You alone.  I bow before You, looking to Your holy temple, and praise Your name, for Your unfailing love and Your truth; for You have placed Your name and Your word over all things and all times.  On the day I need You, I called, and You responded and infused my should with strength.” Psalm 138:1-3

“Be full of joy always because you belong to the Lord.  Again I say, be full of joy!” Philippians 4:4

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