November is a month when we reflect on gratitude. But why just November? Why not accept the challenge to have an attitude of gratitude all year long! I want to share with you some lessons I’ve learned the last few months on the transforming power of practicing gratitude in daily life.
Say Thank You
My parents taught me to say please and thank you all the time. Saying thank you was almost an automatic response. But more than being polite, saying thank you with intention has a way of blessing all involved. I especially noticed how important it was to hear “thank you” after I became a mom. Go figure!
Compliment Your People
Lately I’ve been more intentional about being grateful for the people in my life. My husband parents our kids differently than I do. I realized lately how good this is. Because he parents differently, he is able to fill in the (many) gaps of my parenting. Together we make a pretty amazing team! So when complimenting your people, make the effort to affirm who they really are, not just who you think they ought to be.
Ok this one is a big one for me. Raising six kids (including two year old twins) isn’t exactly a walk in the park… But why do I let little things like poopy diapers and messes after meals bother me so often? It’s so easy for me to huff and puff about the constant onslaught of tasks. Yet when I stop complaining something truly magical happens. I kind of… sort of… enjoy those tasks.
When I complain, I am comparing whichever chore to what I would rather be doing, and the task at hand never wins. I mean who WANTS to change urine soaked sheets? But when I simply stop complaining and comparing, these tasks sort of melt into a prayer. They become a way I can love better, affirm my calling as mom, provide peace and comfort for my family. I feel honored, privileged, joyful and even happy.
Examine With Gratitude
Have you heard of the Examen? It’s an Ignatian way to prayerfully reflect on the events of your day each night. One of the key aspects is to reflect on the things that went well, where we saw God’s blessings. God speaks blessing fluently into our daily ordinary lives. But often we are moving so quickly that we miss him and the blessings just for us. Taking time each night to reflect sharpens our vision to more clearly see the goodness of God.
Use Your Senses
Sometimes it may be difficult for us to come up with something to thank Jesus for besides the usual (yet still very important) health, family, friends, faith, etc. Lately I’ve been paying attention to my senses. The fuzzy comfort of my weighted blanket, the smell of essential oils in my diffuser or a clean toddler’s fuzzy head. The sight of a sunset or a clean house, the sound of music dancing across my living room, filling the house and my soul. And of course the taste of all sorts of good things from cheese to wine to cookies! How could you EVER run out of things to be grateful for!?
God loves when we thank him, but he can also see through our BS. God loves honest prayer. If you’re upset with God, let Him know. If you are unhappy and sad, let Him know. If you’re crabby and don’t want to pray, let Him know. Gratitude should come from a place of honesty. If you’re not ready to be grateful it’s probably because you need to move past whichever emotion is blocking it. Instead of trying to force yourself to be grateful, be honest in your prayer and then move towards gratitude.
Pray the Psalms
The Psalms are full of honest prayer. Many of the psalms are psalms of praise. But many others are David yelling at God. Many are of sadness and despair, or even anger towards others! The psalms teach us how to really pray, not just say pretty words. They teach us to pray honestly and not stop praying in the middle of anger or jealousy or despair. Let it out and let God carry you towards joy and hope and praise… and gratitude.
Matt, my husband, has taught me so much about prayer. He is the one who taught me to pray honestly, even if that meant yelling at God. He showed me all of the psalms and how they illustrate a huge range of honest human emotion. He also taught me to often pray with my hands open, palms up when praying. This shows God that we are ready to receive whatever he wants to give. Gratitude is a way of thanking God for what he has given, but don’t stop there. Be open in your prayer stance, in your prayer life, and in what you are ready to receive. God is a God of abundance. Are you showing him that you are ready to receive his blessings?
Praise God (alone and with your family)
Praise is such a practical way to increase your gratitude. When I am feeling “blah” I often put on an awesome Praise and Worship playlist my friend gave me. I lift my hands and sing loudly (usually in the car with the windows up) and ugly cry. I let the lyric of praising God speak what my heart wants to speak… and the grace comes pouring in.
Life is lighter, brighter and better when we praise God. Recognizing all the good things about God and your life, shifts your attitude which shifts your family’s attitude. I highly recommend having a regular opportunity for you and your family to praise the Lord together. This can be playing praise and worship at home and in the car or even just going around and asking for one thing everyone is thankful for at the dinner table.
Receive the Eucharist
I wanted to end with perhaps the most important thing we can do to practice gratitude: receive the Eucharist. Eucharist is a feast that literally means Thanksgiving. It is a celebration of gratitude for the perfect sacrifice made by Jesus. We have the privilege to offer this perfect sacrifice to God every time we receive Him. I could write another entire blog post about the graces of receiving the Eucharist, but here I’ll focus on one in particular: The grace and strength to be grateful.
Go to Mass as often as you can and let God’s grace flood your life and illuminate the goodness of God in your life. Go to Mass as a family, too! Our family likes to ask/tell one another what we are thankful for after we receive communion. It helps us to link what we are thankful for to receiving the Eucharist!
So as we gather around our Thanksgiving tables this year, promise me your attitude of gratitude doesn’t run out when the turkey does. Let’s be a people of thanksgiving now and until the end of time!
THANKS for reading!
Copyright 2020 Stacy Halbach