Five years ago, a mentor of mine suggested that I start making a daily list of things I was grateful for. Because I am a perfectionist and an overachiever, I went a bit over the top. For a year I carried a gratitude journal with me everywhere I went and wrote down all the beautiful things I saw or experienced.
I no longer carry a journal with me everywhere, but I have continued a daily practice of the spiritual discipline of gratitude. I still make lists, but now only one - usually at night when my brain kicks into overdrive and I can feel anxiety creeping in. That is when I take a deep breath and begin a prayerful gratitude list. I pray to God, “Thank you for a beautiful day, thank you for the changing colors of fall, thank you for time to play a game with my kids, thank you for delicious grapes, thank you for good conversation with colleagues, thank you for my sweet dog and purring cat…” And as I list out my gratitude from the day, I feel myself calm down as I settle into the abundance of God’s good gifts.
By doing this daily over the past 5 years, I have found that I am much more aware of the good and beautiful things throughout my day. Even when I’m not intentionally listing my gratitude for them, I notice them more. I stop and notice the colors of the sky or the sounds of nature and I appreciate the beauty of the mundane in my life - the chance to help my daughter with her hair, the way the sunlight shines through my window, or the joy of singing along to a favorite song on my way to work.
None of this removes the hard things in life. In fact, my prayers of gratitude are often followed by “please help!” prayers - lists of things in my life that I am overwhelmed by and cannot handle on my own. But by intentionally focusing on the good and beautiful things in my life, I have found my happiness has grown. Not because there are less hard things or more things to be happy about, but because I have grown more aware of all the beauty that God provides each day.
November is traditionally a time where we stop and give thanks. An annual moment to take stock of all that we have to be grateful for. This November I invite you to enter into a daily practice of gratitude. Take some time each day to pay attention - make a list, if you’re so inclined - to all the good and beautiful things around you. This simple practice can help open your eyes to see the many ways that God is present and at work in your life.
Pastor Heather Grell