Sometimes it’s difficult to realize how blessed you are, or how much you have to be thankful for until you’re face-to-face with something B-I-G. Whether it’s positive, less than favorable, or even a little bit of both, often times it takes a major life event for us pause long enough to let the “attitude of gratitude” wash over us. For me, it was my recent surgery that put my perspective back in place, but I think the holidays are quite a big enough life event all on their own.
We’re not perfect, and even though these major moments can jog your perspective back towards gratitude, it can be hard to stay there. When traffic is heavier, schedules are crazier, and life, in general, seems to be more taxing, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the struggles. This is going to happen regardless, we’re human! While we definitely should be kind to ourselves during the extra-special stressful times, personally, I find it helpful to go back to three things that keep me grounded in gratitude - saying “yes” to help, making time for yourself, and keeping a gratitude journal. Accepting help and taking time for myself give me the distance I need to look around and count my blessings. Then, taking the time to physically write these things down (great and small) keeps me conscious of everything I've already been blessed with.
Say “yes” to help.
This is hard. It defies our inner desires of perfectionism to admit, “no, I’m not Superwoman,” and “yes, I would really love some help… any help,” but, in the past, it’s been incredibly difficult for me to accept it. While I'm more than happy to bend over backward for you I, wrongly, assumed that I would be inconveniencing my family and friends to ask them for anything. What I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that they are not offering assistance just to be nice - they love me, and genuinely want to help us out. I think people (most of us) love to help one another. It brings us joy, and, honestly, it feels fantastic to be on the receiving end. In the last two weeks, since I’ve been recovering, we’ve had people show up for us in all kinds of ways - Mike's mom even cleared her entire schedule for two months so she could be 100% available for us (WOW!). While it’s a little awkward to sit there and watch people fold your clothes and feed your children it has helped us tremendously! So, the next time someone offers to bring you a meal or pick up your kids from school - say “please and thank you!"
Make time to take time.
It’s happened dozens of times. I’ve been home all day with kids who have been less than joyous to be around that day. By the time my husband gets home from work I'm more than ready to throw him the reigns, and bolt out of the house. Providing there’s nothing else going on, he’ll usually tell me to leave, and take a few hours off. Sometimes I'll go for a walk, head to Starbucks to write, or maybe even get my nails done, but I have to get out of the house and breathe. It doesn’t take more than five or ten minutes of being gone for me to feel thankful again - thankful for my healthy children, our home, and my seriously amazing husband. It happens every time, once I get just a little bit of distance and separation, my brain clears up enough that I truly see the greatness of everything I’ve been blessed with. The only trick to this one is I need to remember that amazing husband of mine needs a break too. He’s just as busy and equally deserving. Marriage can be tough. We’re not about keeping score of who gets what, but maintaining the balance of "give and take" is crucial for our health as a couple.
Keep a gratitude journal.
A couple of years ago it was suggested to me that I start a gratitude journal. I had gotten bogged down in the daily struggles of life, and begun to lose sight of everything I had already been given. I was way too focussed on what had gone wrong, or what I still “needed" and, in turn, I felt cranky and unfulfilled. Once I started a gratitude journal, my attitude turned around quickly. Being consciously aware of all the gifts God has given me, was an instant attitude adjustment, and, as it turns out, I’ve got it pretty good. I am blessed in a million different ways every day, and when I am most aware of God’s love for me, I feel satisfied and safe. My journal stays on my bedside table, and every evening I write down 10-12 items, and they range from small things like, “going to Starbucks” to bigger ones like, “our jobs."
I love all things paper, so half the fun of keeping a gratitude journal is that I get to use some beautiful paper products. While we all probably have something around the house we could use, it’s usually fun to start fresh so here are three of my favorites… in case you’re interested.
I’m currently using their Medium Travel Journal, and have been since the beginning of the year. There is a bit of travel information in the back that isn’t relevant, but I love the size, bright color choices and it will last you all year long. They also have a ton of sizes, and colors available in their refillable journals. If you’re looking to save your journals for years to come, then the softbound option is probably best, but if you like the idea of flexibility you can’t go wrong with their refillable ones!
Be still my ever paper-loving heart, because I do love all things Erin Condren. I think the Horizontal Life Planner or their Deluxe Monthly Planner options work perfectly for a gratitude journal. The Horizontal Life Planner gives you a place to write every day, which is good for accountability, while the Deluxe Monthly Planner is nice because you can work a bit more freely. Using a spiral bound notebook is a little easier for working in bed, and I like that both options have a monthly calendar for writing in prayer requests or highlighting special moments from your days.
Val Marie Paper
If you’re looking to start small, or if you want a very portable option then “Thanks God” may be just right for you. This journal has a lower price point, but it's a great choice. Val Marie Paper has excellent products, including prayer journals, and there’s something to be said for it’s smaller size so you can keep it with you.
Remember that "big life event" I had? My sister-in-law, Judy I. Francis (aka: photographer extraordinaire) documented surgery day for me, and here are some gems from that day... enjoy!