It seems like every time I turn around I am hearing someone talk about making a gratitude list. I think it’s a great idea, but as I have admitted in the past, I have had a mental block about how to create one in a way that actually helps me access the “feels” that come with making one of my own.
I have tried it before and embarrassingly, felt like my repetition of the basics left me flat and bored with my blessings. I mean, how many times can I list my house, my family, my job, clean water, healthy food, good weather, etc.? I “yada yada’d” my blessings (for you Seinfeld fans).
You are all probably way ahead of me on this, but I have been considering some more creative categories for all the blessings endlessly swirling around me every day.
A thought that occurred to me this morning is that maybe my gratitude list should stem from the same hierarchy of what I strive give attention to. A mentor of mine suggests my priorities should be “God, Heather, Blake, family and everyone/everything else.”
In that order. Always.
So what might my gratitude list look like if I used this as a guide? Maybe something like this:
To/for God=Expressing my awareness for His gifts of grace, forgiveness, unconditional love, patience, understanding, peace that passes understanding. Thank Him for being all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, all-wise.
And it may be more than just a word or two. Because even in God’s case, I may run out of words. I can say something like, “God, yesterday I spoke harshly about one of your children, thank you for forgiving me and granting me grace to start fresh today.”
For Heather (This one will be the hardest, I think)=Expressing appreciation for how God has made me. This might include a positive quality (kind, conscientious, steadfast, loyal, etc.), a gift he has bestowed to me (ability to write, formulate content for conferences, sing with mild confidence, etc.), or, the hardest one for me to acknowledge, my body. I can be grateful that I have legs that work, that my hair grew back after chemo, that I don’t have long-lasting health issues from leukemia.
I think just the fact that I survived leukemia should be enough to never cease to be thankful for my body, but alas, I have a remarkable ability to forget the good in past (not so much the bad).
For Blake =My marriage has survived what most haven’t. I am acutely aware that we are a miracle. But I don’t always treat my husband as if I am the luckiest girl alive. I don’t always cherish the 32 years of ups and downs the way I want to.
Being grateful for Blake, his loyalty to his family, his fierce commitment to me, and his consistent dependence on God are just a few traits that make the top of the list. But I can extend it to being grateful that he does the dishes, does laundry, works in the yard, pays the bills. Things I typically take for granted.
For Family=This is one that might include my kids, but also my extended family. I can simply list a different family member each day and one thing about them that I love. It’s that simple.
For Everyone/everything else=My friends are the first group that comes to my mind. That’s a pretty easy one. Same as above, write down their name and one trait or sweet memory you think of when there name goes through your head.
For all of the above, if you are feeling a little “extra”, consider going the proverbial mile and let those people know they made your gratitude list and why. That’s a win-win.
But there is one more nuance to this category that I just love.
It’s the random encounters with strangers and those God puts in your path to bless you on any given day. You don’t have to list a name, but maybe you write down how a person paid for your coffee in the Starbucks line, went the extra mile to help you find an item at the store, was kind and helpful when you had to make the call to the doctor’s office or even, miracle of miracles, the cable company. 🙂
If you are super brave and feeling mature, you could even write down the name of a person that has caused you to learn forgiveness, tolerance, or face hard things about your own character. Someone whom God has used to sharpen you and burn away all that no longer serves you.
In other words, the guy who sat through an entire green light causing you to miss it, teaching you patience. Or harder yet, your enemy. Teaching you more than you wanted to learn. Ugh.
One of my most favorite things that I tend to be thankful for is when I have had a beautiful conversation with anyone at all about God (love for or from, resentment of, doubt about, etc.), cancer, recovery, or any common plague of the heart we all battle (worry, fear, comparison, control, resentment, just to name a few).
When I was looking up the definition of gratitude, I found it interesting that there were actually two parts to it. The first part is about the quality of being thankful. But sometimes I think we forget about that second part: readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. (Oxford Languages/Google’s English Dictionary).
Wait…what? Making a gratitude list is not just to make me feel better? Shocking!
It’s to help me re-center and re-focus as I remember that life is often not as bad as it might seem at the moment. That we can always find a nugget to nudge us toward responding by being a catalyst for someone else to be grateful.
The more we have, the more we should give.
And the more we give, the more we will most assuredly have.
Unpacking GIVING What are we giving? Grief, a hard time, trouble or grace, compliments, thanks, appreciation, or something else that lifts others with encouragement? Romans 15 v 4 And the Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by GIVING us hope.
GIVING Gets to the heart of life Invites us to share self Valid, whatever is given Is uniquely your GIFT Nurture & watch grow Give from a Joyful place
Unpacking THANK YOU These are the two perfect words when getting a compliment for doing something someone appreciates. Nothing more, nothing less. not to diminish and not to accept with any overconfidence or gloating.
Also, two great words when showing appreciation for the effort seen by someone else that impacts our day.
Ephesians 5 v 4 Don’t use dirty or filthy or foolish words. Instead, say how thankful you are.
Unpacking THANK YOU might look like this. Let’s break it down.
THANK YOU They work with sincere Have them ready to go All that needs to be said Not another word Keep doling them out
Yes reaching the helper Oh the impact made Use them with PLEASE as well
Or maybe it’s better to say that I invite you to join me in a challenge.
Lately I have been thinking about the principle of interval training and how it relates to so much more than exercise. In case you aren’t familiar with it (intervals or this mysterious thing called “exercise” 🤣 ), it’s a type of program where you bust your butt in spurts and with little breaks to recovery long enough to do it again. And again and again and again.
That’s the bare bones explanation that got me to considering what that might look like in my spiritual walk with God.
Because here is the deal. When I had Leukemia, I had no problem talking to God, pleading with God, resting in God, turning it all over to Him. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed His constant comfort and assurance that He would help me not lose hope.
I’d say the same for other drama and trauma I experience that is intense and threatens to pull me under. God and I are in non-stop communication during such periods.
But, when life is going smoothly and the seas are calm, I can go hours and hours without considering Him in any way whatsoever. I mean, I’d hate to bother Him with the minutiae of my life. I should save up my “credit” for when things hit the fan.
Actually, I tell myself that, but much of the time, the reality is that I don’t talk to him because I am self-absorbed. Thinking only of me and my tasks that need attending to.
So—back to interval training. I decided to try a thing. Here’s how it works.
I set an alarm on my phone for every hour starting at 8:00am and ending at 6:00pm. Feel free to choose your own time block.
When ever that alarm goes off, I stop what I am doing and spend 6 minutes recalibrating my heart—turning back to God. I either listen to a worship song, ask Him into my current activity, offer up gratitude, read scripture, recite scripture, send an encouraging text to someone he puts on my heart, meditate, sit in silence, step outside and breath in fresh air and appreciate His creation, read an excerpt from a book on spiritual formation, etc.
Do whatever you want, but try to give it 6 minutes.
Why 6 minutes?
In the Bible the Israelites were told to give their “first fruits”, the best of the best of their crops and animals to God. It was generally a tithe, which means 10%.
Today, giving 10% of every paycheck I receive goes back to the church. No questions asked. And that’s the bare minimum. There are occasions we double it or give extra for a season. We do this as an act of trust that by giving to God our “first fruits”, He will take care of the rest. I have about a thousand examples of how He has done this for us. We can chat about that in a future blog, maybe.
But for now, I’d like to challenge you to do the same with your time. When I start to overthink it and allow fear to tell me that I’ll never get anything done if I interrupt myself for 6 minutes every single hour of my super-busy day, I can remind myself of how my money has been stretched when I make the sacrifice.
I believe He can do that with my time if I discipline myself to offer it up to Him for 6 minutes of everyone hour. It’s kind of hilarious that I think I am sacrificing something that I only have because God gave it to me in the first place.
Think on that for a minute.
I love verses 10 and 11 in Malachi 3, the last book of the Bible in case you can’t find it. God is talking to the Israelites and accusing them of robbing Him. How? In their tithes and offerings. They were not bringing their whole tithes to Him. They were holding back.
Also, when they brought their harvest it was rotten and the animals they brought were lame, sick or missing an arm or leg. In other words, they gave the bare minimum. They were trying to work in the letter of the law but missing the whole point. The blessing.
Then, God gives them the challenge:
“Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit.”
I believe that if we can do this with our time throughout our day, we will see the same blessings. I have seen this in my life as I give my money, so I know I can trust Him when I commit to putting Him first, above all that pulls on me and demands my attention and loyalty.
I want to list all the benefits that could potentially manifest themselves if we do this, but I would hate to limit what God has in store for us.
Let’s give it a shot. Let’s see if He will “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing” on us.
And wouldn’t be lovely if, when our alarm goes off, we will catch ourselves already communing with God? Abiding with Him? Resting in Him? Trusting Him?
Oh Lord, let it be so. (Gotta go…it’s almost 10:00 )
Unpacking WONDER Do we WONDER why me? How about why not or why are we not getting what we want or desire right away or even after exhaustive work? Do we wonder what others are thinking about us? their opinion or perception? Can we look at our God and Christ in complete WONDER of their greatness? WONDER, what a great word
We break it down this way and have a conversation about the many ways to look at WONDER. Be full of WONDER
Why? the best question ever Oh, I want to know more Now let’s explore deeply Do today, tomorrow is not promised Ever curious to know how things work Realize life is WONDERFUL when we WONDER
I don’t think of myself as an obsessive person. But every now and then, and it seems to come more frequently these days, something horrific happens and I cannot stop thinking about it. I have had some significant growth opportunities over the past few weeks that I planned to write about today, but as I said, sometimes I get fixated on something that consumes my every thought, and today, I can tell that if I don’t reason it out in a blog (the way I have 500 times in the past to help me get perspective on the challenges of life), it will pull me under.
Just innocently standing there. They were heading into a mixer event for their sorority and a fraternity.
My daughter is also a senior at Pepperdine.
I am sure you understand that not only is it distressing and disturbing when I think of the girls’ families and friends, but is hard to not let images of my own child, also a senior female who has stood on that exact same stretch of road over the past few years, heading to a party or the beach across the street, add extra turmoil and grief to my mix of emotions.
I know enough to know that It is probably not healthy to continuously revisit the scene of the crime via social media and news clips, but I cannot seem to stop myself.
Last night I stayed up way too late watching anything I could find. Sometimes 2 or 3 times over.
My daughter knew one of the girls and was familiar with the other three. Pepperdine is a small campus, so it touched almost every student.
I didn’t know any of them and can hardly focus on life here in Illinois. I can’t begin to imagine the grief of those who were touched directly.
This morning I realized that I am going to need to shift my spirit if I am going to move on and get a handle on this obsession. There is literally nothing practical or physically helpful I can do from here.
So what? Do I just shove down the sadness and act like it shouldn’t effect me?
That doesn’t seem healthy either.
Now that I am willing to consider another solution, here’s what I know to be true about what I can do from here.
I can start by being grateful that for now, my little world and the people in it are OK, at least in comparison. I can say “thankyouthankyouthankyou God” a thousand times today.
But there’s much more that I am going to need to practice if I am going to be able to not get back online and ingest more of this story.
I can pray for everyone. I know, I know, I know — that sounds trite and dare I say, shallow in some respects. A pat, canned, weirdly Christian and aloof solution.
I guess it can be.
Or, it can be an opportunity to practice what that guy Paul from the Bible says: “Do not be anxious/worried about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus.”
Like I mentioned, I have been obsessed. Whatever I am doing, I am always allowing this to scroll through the backside of my mind.
But I cannot live like this any longer. I need a reprieve. I need hope. I need comfort.
The people who knew those girls need those things as well. So, instead of obsession about something I cannot change or even effect directly from here, I will turn it over to an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everywhere God who can.
Sometimes I struggle to remember to pray because I am going too fast through my day, focused only on me and routine life-stuff. But now, because I am feeling haunted by this tragedy, I can use the images of this horrific event and all those it impacts to pray.
Pray that God heals their hearts, helps them forgive and lavishes on them the “peace that transcends all understanding”, because no one can ever understand this.
I can also pray for that 22 year old boy. After I stopped raging about him, I started thinking about how, if I were him, I would wish I were also dead.
Who can live with what he has done? It will take the power of the almighty God to give him any glimpse of hope and purpose for the rest of his life. Same for his parents. They too will need that to recover and not crumple under the dashing of all dreams they had for their little boy.
I also have 2 sons, and again, it is difficult not to imagine what that boys’ parents are experiencing right now.
And so, I will be praying without ceasing from what I can tell.
Yesterday I was talking to my daughter while walking around Lowes, looking for wind chimes.
While I can’t do anything for the people grieving in California, I can do something for my friends who are grieving here. I know a couple people who have lost loved ones recently and when my husband’s dad passed, his work gave us wind chimes. They are hanging in a hall bedroom doorway so each time we walk down the hall, we lightly brush them and remember him.
When we feel like David did in Psalm 22:14, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me”, we can begin to heal by serving someone else who is also hurting, suffering, grieving.
We can call to God as David did in verse 19 and 24: “but you oh Lord, be not far off; O my strength, come quickly to help me…for he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
I invite you to practice praying without ceasing today.
Whatever is haunting you, that you are tempted to worry or fret or obsess over, let it instead prompt you to turn it over to a God who is ready to comfort, soothe and provide inner strength, hope and peace beyond your comprehension.
Are we doing things that FREEZE us? Let’s do something that FREES us. Are we stuck at times? FROZEN. Yes, we certainly can all be. What can we do that will help FREE us up and move forward? Especially in difficult times and struggles that might instead bring in Worry, Anxiety, and Stress. Also, as Christ followers, who FREES us and can we always learn to turn to Jesus? Bruce landed on Psalm 46 v 10. Be STILL and know that I am GOD. Wow be still for a moment, turn to him, and let him work so that his love, grace, and protection FREES us from the FREEZE FREEZE Frozen from actions Restricting my GIFTS Enlisting doubt Embracing CAN’t Zapped of Energy Endlessly trapped FREES Forward movement first Release the grip on results Embrace incremenal Ease in & keep going See how free it can be Learn more about Bruce Pulver, contact him to book a speaking engagement, and order Above the Chatter Our Words Matter at http://abovethechatterourwordsmatter.com/. Watch Bruce’s TEDx Talk at: https://www.ted.com/talks/bruce_pulver_the_secret_to_changing_negative_self_talk_by_renewing_your_mindset Learn more about Heather Carter, book a speaking engagement, and order Soul-Selfie or Soul-Selfie#NoFilter at https://heathercarterwrites.com Embracing the Impact of Cancer https://www.actiontakerspublishing.com/impact Author interviews. https://www.youtube.com/live/IoENr-34_sY?feature=share
What is the EXAMPLE we are setting and where does the light shine? Bruce and Heather unpack their perspective on this topic. Bruce draws on Daniel 6 v 26 where after Daniel refused King Dorius’ decree to only worship him and was thrown into the lion’s den for his “disobedience”. Acting by faith, Daniel did not fear this fate. King Darius rushed to the den after a restless and distraught night only to find Daniel unafraid and unhurt. This caused Darius to reverse his decree and command all to worship Daniel’s God, the eternal God. All glory went to God through Daniel’s act of faith. So can we set the same kind of example AND ensure that GOD gets the glory? Easy to set ego aside? No. Thank you Daniel for showing us through your faith. EXAMPLE Everything I do sets one eXamine all my actions Are they bright and bold? Making a difference? Painting the Picture? Light shining on HIM? Exercising my faith in HIM?