Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights.
Every night as we get our kids ready for bedtime, we have a ritual. Everyone shares their low point and high point of the day. Our kids love thinking about and sharing their reflections on the day. "My low point was when I fell down and scraped my knee." Or "My high point was going on a field trip with my class." After we all share, we have a simple conversation with God, usually involving asking God for what we want, and thanking him for what he has given.
I love this ritual, mostly because of the truth that it ingrains into our family - God gives good gifts. Each day we have something (usually lots of things) to be grateful for, and it is appropriate and right for us to respond with gratitude.
When we practice gratitude, we become grateful people. The virtue of gratefulness becomes a part of who we are and how we view the world. To be grateful is to worship God as our good Father, allowing his Spirit to birth in us joy and contentment and hope. Conversely, a deficiency of gratitude results in worry, bitterness, and doubt in God's goodness.
I'll be honest. Some days gratitude isn't my natural, immediate response. I can quickly become focused on the ways life feels burdensome. I look at the dishes in the sink, I hear the kids squabbling with each other, and I begin to feel like I'm fending for myself in life. But if my heart pauses to reflect on the good things I've been given, there is always something to be thankful for. And in that moment, I am reminded of my good Father who loves me and provides me with what I need.
Here are 3 simple steps to nurturing gratitude:
Step 1: Notice good things.
Pay attention to the good things in your life. Look for the small everyday details in your life that you might sometimes take for granted.
Step 2: Let those good things affect you.
As you notice the good things in your life, pause. Allow gratitude and thankfulness to fill your mind and heart. Notice and absorb those feelings of gratitude, savoring them.
Step 3: Express gratitude.
Offer thanks and express gratitude. If there is someone who is a source of gratitude for you, let them know. Tell them "Thank you" or "I really appreciate you because..."
Those 3 steps - notice good things, let the good things affect you, and express gratitude for the good things - will nurture gratitude in you.
There are many ways to cultivate gratitude. Here are some specific, practical ideas for practicing gratitude in your daily life:
1. Start a Gratitude Journal. Keep a running list of all the good things in your life, both big and small.
2. Create a daily gratitude ritual. Say thanks before a meal, end the day with a prayer of thanksgiving, find a point in your day when it is most natural for you to pause and express thanks.
3. Express your appreciation to the people in your life. Tell people why you love them or why you are grateful for them. Tell them in person, with a phone call, or through an email.
4. Banish criticizing and complaining from your life. These poison our hearts and kill gratitude.
5. Be generous with genuine compliments. When you interact with people, think of something you enjoy about them. Let them know.
6. Create a Gratitude Jar. Find an empty glass jar, and use it to collect small notes of gratefulness. On days when you're struggling to have gratitude, pull a few notes from the jar and read them.
7. Express gratitude by doing something kind and generous for someone else. Donate time or money to an organization. Help someone with an act of kindness.
8. Make your Christmas tree into a Thanksgiving tree for the month of November. This is a family ritual that we began doing. We put up our tree on November 1st, add notes of gratitude to the tree throughout the month, and read through all the notes together on Thanksgiving. This tradition helps our family celebrate our gratitude together.
9. Each day think of 3 things you're grateful for. You'll be amazed at how your heart will expand with gratitude when you practice this habit every day.
10. Create a timeline of your life, and highlight all the things you're grateful for. You can make a timeline of your entire life, or the last year of your life. Look back, and write down the good things. Sometimes we don't even realize the good things from our past until there has been some time and distance.
Oh Lord, help us practice gratefulness. Nurture a grateful spirit in us that allows us to experience and live in your goodness. Amen.
ACTION & PRACTICE
What is one thing you can do to cultivate gratitude in your life? What would you add to this list? Please share in the comments.
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