It’s funny how, as a North American culture, we don’t get around to celebrating Thanksgiving until the end of the year: November for the United States, and October for our cousins in Canada. And what’s even funnier is how, after we’ve gone around the table and given thanks for whatever pops into our head and stuffed ourselves senseless on enough food to feed a third world country, we start bidding the current year goodbye and begging the new one to hurry up and come and please be better than the last.
When I was reviewing 2017 in my own life, I decided to look for great things that happened instead of focusing on crap that came my way, annoying people who wouldn’t leave, or, God have mercy, politics. And what I found was that, by-in-large, 2017 was AMAZING!
- I made it through a very difficult year of teaching – what a victory!
I finished a graduate program.
- I lost 53 pounds (there’s a 2017 resolution checked off!).
- We celebrated TWENTY YEARS of marriage!
- And we welcomed a new puppy into our home (yes, we are staying positive on that one).
So I decided to approach this year differently – starting with gratitude. And, after all, that’s why I blog – to keep track of all God’s tender mercies that He just showers on me, day after day, month after month, year after year.
It’s so easy to get bogged down with the daily grind, isn’t it? And that grind sometimes grinds a little harder than we’d like it to. And, for whatever reason, the negatives stick in our minds and hearts far more easily and for a lot longer than the positives. But if we can make a habit of being consciously mindful of the wonderful things that cross our paths, it really will make our lives better.
But don’t take my word for it…you’ll listen to Huffington Post, won’t you?
“Negative attitudes are bad for you. And gratitude, it turns out, makes you happier and healthier. If you invest in a way of seeing the world that is mean and frustrated, you’re going to get a world that is, well, more mean and frustrating. But if you can find any authentic reason to give thanks, anything that is going right with the world or your life, and put your attention there, then statistics say you’re going to be better off” (from The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier).
Now, habitual gratitude can be tricky to develop, so I decided to actually use one of those awesome Pinterest projects I perpetually pin; I made my very own Gratitude Jar! I put some serious effort into this jar – we’re talking paper tearing, Mod Podge (gosh, I LOVE that stuff, and the smell…I know, totally weird…), hand lettering even. Then I set up a little thanksgiving station in our dining room. It’s very obvious and we will always be prompted to take a moment, write down what we’re thankful for, and drop it in the jar. I think it turned out rather well!
Then, when New Year’s Eve rolls around again, we can spend the evening doing more than binging on Netflix and hoping the crazies won’t crash outside our house and wake us up (because we’re now old and we like to sleep in, rather than party in, the new year). We can go through each little moment of gratitude we’ve deposited and reflect on the amazing tender mercies of God as they’ve been bestowed throughout 2018.
And I daresay that, while we’re doing this, our overall outlook will be transformed. It is, after all, our mental life that determines how we interpret our outer life. The state of our mind is what primes us to recognize God at work, and also what primes us to miss His hand in our lives. Paul tells us this in Romans 12:
Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2, KJV)
I am determined to grow my faith in the Savior’s guidance, and am utterly convinced that cultivating an eye for what He’s doing and a heart of gratitude for it will do just that. And, as I recognize and give Him thanks for the small things, I will find bigger things to marvel in and bless Him for.
Have a simply BEAUTIFUL 2018!