Subject line of advertisement for Lasik surgery that popped up in my emails this afternoon:
Restore 2020 Vision
I had to laugh! Remember the excitement in the air as we approached January last year? 2020! A year of perfect vision! Focus! Clarity!
Riiiight. It’s been clear, for sure; clear as mud.
I’ve had such a hard time focusing during covid and about the only thing that’s clear is that I am not in control of much.
If, like me, you’re counting down the days until January 1, 2021, here’s a thought:
Instead of wondering what the new year will bring, what if we ask ourselves, what will we bring to the new year?
Grateful hearts? Or grumbling hearts?
How is your heart these days?
In a year when every. single. day. feels like a replay of the movie Groundhog Day, it’s been hard to not get sucked into grumbling; let’s face it, there’s been lots to grumble about. (I’ve got my list, I imagine you’ve got yours, too.)
But I really don’t want to bring a grumbling heart into the new year. Or into Thanksgiving or Christmas, for that matter.
The only antidote I know to grumbling is gratitude. But while grumbling seems to come naturally, gratitude usually doesn’t.
Gratitude takes effort. It’s a practice that takes practice.
Not bragging, but I do consider myself kind of an expert at this gratitude thing. I’ve posted a nightly gratitude list on Facebook for the past six and a half years; it’s called #countingitalljoy.
You might be thinking, “She must have a pretty great life to have that much to be thankful for,” but the main reason my life is great is because I’ve learned how to be grateful.
There was a big learning curve, however; it didn’t happen overnight. It was a process.
It’s one thing to count your blessings when you can look out your rustic farmhouse window, watch the sunrise and the light fall on that patch of glorious sunflowers you planted last spring. I looked out the window and all I could see was the dumpster.
You see, I learned the practice of gratitude through loss: a job loss that led to foreclosure and a repossessed car. A massive pulmonary embolism that nearly cost my husband his life (he flat-lined for 26 minutes).
We’re still trying to rebuild after all the loss, but I can tell you this: I could never have gotten through it without my practice of gratitude. No. Way. Impossible.
The scriptures seem to present us with quite a few directives that at first glance seem impossible:
Consider (count) it all joy
Do all things without grumbling
Pray without ceasing
Take every thought captive
I will bless the Lord at all times
How in the world is that possible?
Even after I was well into a daily gratitude practice, some days were still a battle. The enemy would taunt me: “God’s not good. He’s not going to come through for you.” When I listened to that voice, I’d spiral into anxiety and depression.
Finally, one day God asked me flat out, “Who do you say I am?” I knew exactly what He was asking:
“What do you really believe about me… Am I good?”
How could I count it ALL joy if I didn’t believe God was ALL good?
In order to count it all joy, do all things without grumbling, pray without ceasing, take every thought captive, or bless the Lord at all times, there are two things of which you must be convinced:
God is who He says He is.
You are who He says you are.
What do you really believe about God? Is what you say what you truly believe? It makes such a huge difference, friends.
If you’re wondering how to start practicing gratitude, my advice is to start small, and if you’re in a hard place you’ll want to start really small. We’re not thanking God for world peace here; we’re simply saying, thank you, Jesus, for that first cup of coffee in the morning.
Ask the Holy Spirit to ramp up your senses. Pay attention to the little things that delight you. Jot them down. I keep a list in the notes folder of my phone.
Phil 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise let your mind dwell on these things.
That word DWELL means to count or take an inventory.
The longer I counted gifts and took that nightly inventory, the more I realized, “You know what? Life is Good.! God is Good!” The gloom and haze that plagued me for most of my life began to lift.
When you begin to intentionally look for things to be thankful for, I guarantee you will find them, and gradually they will begin to add up. It’s almost like they accrue interest. The more you count, the more you’ll find.
Gratitude chasing is like a never-ending treasure hunt.
Stick with it and one day, you’ll realize that all your practicing has become a practice. It will be natural. You’ll find you’re grumbling less and “gratefulling” more. (Grateful should be a verb, don’t you think?!)
You’ll wake up in the morning excited to see how many blessings you can count today. When you seek, you will find.
I found more things to be grateful for than I could have ever imagined, but ultimately, this is what I found:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
Gratitude probably won’t change your circumstances all that much, but it will, for sure, change you.
I hope you’ll give it a try, but remember, friends, the point isn’t writing a list. The point is a deeper relationship with Jesus.
God is good and you are loved.
Written by Susan Ely
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Shay Mason