November’s Focus = Gratefulness
My goal for November was to become more grateful [thankful for God’s blessings] by doing a “30 ways I’m grateful for you” project for John, recording 5 things daily that I was grateful for in a gratitude journal, praying for those less fortunate than myself daily, and voicing my appreciation daily. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.
- Faith- (I) Pray every day that God would increase my thankfulness, (II) Thank God everyday for at least 5 specific things, and (III) Pray daily for those who are less fortunate than myself.
(I) I did this almost every day this past month.
(II) Again, there were a couple days I didn’t physically write down five things I was thankful for, but I probably still thanked Him throughout my day a minimum of five times. I have been thanking God in my journal for three things daily since the first of the year, but this month I increased it to five items. It’s definitely been a beneficial habit, but I think three things a day is a more realistic number.
(III) This definitely got me thinking about all the ways in which I am blessed. I prayed for a large range of people- from those suffering from persecution to those with physical ailments. From individuals lacking more rest than myself to those struggling with loneliness. I found that anybody can be “less fortunate” in one way or another to me. It didn’t cause me to look down on people, but to be aware of their needs and how I could lift them to the Lord.
- Marriage– (I) Voice my appreciation to John daily, and (II) create a “30 ways I’m grateful for you” project.
(I) I developed this habit early on in marriage and it has served us well. From taking out the trash to running an errand for me, I always try to thank him for all he does. In reciprocation, he thanks me often, as well.
(II) Every day of the month I finished this statement regarding John, “I’m grateful…” I plan to type up, print, and tape them to one granola bar each. He always takes one to work with him, so it’ll be something he can look forward to reading every day and will hopefully encourage him.
- Health- (I) Create artwork that highlights what I’m most grateful for every day.
(I) Thanks to my new nanny job, I had plenty of opportunities to work on my gratefulness art project as the children colored or painted beside me. I love coloring, and it’s even better when you can get paid for it!
- Homemaking- (I) Thank God for each chore as I do it.
(I) This was usually an afterthought, but at least I never complained about doing any of my chores.
- Interactions– (I) Voice my thanks at every opportunity, and (II) Write a personal thank you note weekly.
(I) Though I’ve always tried to voice appreciation, this month I especially tried to be genuine in my thanksgiving. Having been a cashier, I know the difference between a genuine thank you, and a forced, but polite thank you. I really don’t want my appreciation to fall into the latter category.
(II) I did this three out of the four weeks this past month. My husband does this far more often than me, and I would do well to emulate him.
WHAT I LEARNED
One of my favorite books is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father were arrested during WWII for hiding Jews in their home to protect them from the Nazis. Corrie and Betsie found themselves in a Nazi concentration camp where they continued to serve God and give Him thanks. One particular evening they prayed out loud together, giving God thanks. The excerpts below are from Corrie’s book:
“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for-“The fleas! This was too much.“Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,'” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Betsie was waiting for me… Her eyes were twinkling…“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well, I’ve found out.”That afternoon, she said, there had been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it. “But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?” Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!'”
Reading those passages have forever changed the way I look at awful circumstances. Of course, it’s far easier to have Betsy’s attitude after the fact, when God reveals why things occurred as they did. To be thankful in the midst of chronic pain, joblessness, or discipline issues with a child is a completely different thing altogether. Well, God gave me many opportunities to practice gratefulness in far from ideal circumstances.
I have so much to be grateful for, especially this past month. God answered several of my prayers, accomplishing things only He could do.
The first answered prayer was in regard to the marathon I was able to complete at the beginning of the month. As mentioned in my post about October’s goals, I was experiencing excruciating pain in my right leg every time I put pressure on it. With my marathon less than a week away, I questioned why God was allowing this to happen. I’d worked so hard for so many months and now with every stride I felt a sharp, shooting pain go down my leg. How was I going to get through 26.2 miles of agony? Then, God reminded me that even in this I was to praise Him and thank Him.
Thank Him for pain? Thank Him for allowing something that could shatter my dream of completing a marathon? What could I possibly be thankful for in regard to this circumstance? Well, I thanked Him that He was still with me, regardless of whether I could run pain-free or not. I thanked Him for all He’d allowed me to accomplish thus far. And I thanked Him that the pain reminded me to pray and rely on Him. I was also honest with Him and said, “God, You have only to gain by allowing me to run this marathon without pain. I will give You all the glory. Will You please take this from me?”
I went to bed the night before with a limp, but the next morning throughout my 4:21:43 race, I experienced minimal pain! Praise God! I know He answered my prayer because to this day (a month later), I still cannot run pain-free. But He lavished His grace upon me during that race increasing my gratefulness all the more.
I had another amazing answer to prayer this past month, as well. For months during the summer and into the fall I searched for a new job, to no avail. I was hired one day a week at an assisted living home at the beginning of October, but I knew I needed something more. What I really wanted was to be a nanny, yet nobody seemed to be interested in hiring me. One day my co-worker called to ask if I could switch from Mondays to Fridays and I agreed.
Literally a day later I was contacted by a woman on care.com who had seen my profile and wanted to interview me for a nanny position. She needed somebody Monday-Friday, but when I told her I was only available Monday-Thursday she said that’d be perfect since her old nanny was able to only watch her kids on Fridays, now. At the interview they asked if I could start the following week. I was blown away! It was only a couple days earlier that I had switched shifts, and I hadn’t even applied for this job I was being offered on the spot! I was completely in awe of God and His perfect timing.
I am now into my third week as a nanny and I absolutely love this job. It has its challenges- mostly in the form of an obstinate 4-year-old boy- but it’s so rewarding and loads of fun. I have to remind myself of the good times when I’m stressed out over having to discipline one of the children for the second or third time that day. Discipline has always been the most difficult part of babysitting for me, and one particular child was making my job especially wearisome. But I realized my problems with this child helped me to be more aware of my need for God.
Often I can go through an entire day hardly acknowledging the Lord apart from my daily quiet time. But facing this issue has caused me to cry out to God for wisdom and help repeatedly. And time after time, afterward I see His hand in it and how He gave me the patience or words or love I needed just when I needed them. I’ve also found that thanking God for this difficult child and praying for him has helped me respond more graciously in the trying moments.
One evening, after day two of my new job, I was venting my frustrations with a friend. She mentioned (in the context of potty training) that praising kids for their accomplishments seemed to be effective. That’s when God opened my eyes to realize that I had been so focused on this little boy’s naughty behavior that I’d failed to encourage and thank him when he was doing the right thing. The next morning I bathed the day in prayer and asked God to change my heart toward this 4-year-old. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through that day had God not changed my attitude. Right off the bat, his parents left when he was in the middle of a tantrum and he was bound and determined to get into mischief.
Praise God He helped me diffuse the situation and convince the little boy to help me put a puzzle together, instead. I know it was all God because had I faced this same scenario 24 hours earlier, both he and I would’ve been miserable. Instead, we had the most fun together, to date!
That isn’t the only trying circumstance I faced this month. Another test of my thankfulness came in the form of a negative pregnancy test. It’s no secret that John and I are trying to conceive our first baby. For several weeks I thought for sure I was experiencing pregnancy symptoms. My luteal phase was several days longer than the previous past two months’, so I was hopeful God had answered my prayers. I finally broke down and took a test, but when it came back negative I convinced myself it was still too early to tell. A few days later, however, my menstrual cycle began.
While preparing my breakfast of four over-easy eggs, I couldn’t prevent the tears from streaming down my face. John happened to have the day off and was pacing and praying throughout the downstairs of our apartment. I turned toward the cupboards and was careful not to draw his attention to my tears, but he sensed something was wrong and paused to peer at me near the kitchen stove. When I finally turned to look at him slowly, he gently wrapped his arms around me without a word, allowing me to sob all over his clean shirt. He didn’t have to ask what was wrong, for he figured it had something to do with my childlessness. This was certainly not the first time in our 5.5 years of marriage that I’d broken down about this very issue.
Later that same day God reminded me yet again that I need to be thankful, even in this. At first I gave Him a laundry list of reasons why this news was not to my benefit. I had to fight lies about Him withholding good from me and other fearful thoughts about Him never allowing me to bear children. But, eventually I gave in and thanked Him, writing these words in my journal: “God, thank You for my period, that I’m not pregnant, for a fun date with John, for Costco shopping trips, and for relief from cramps.”
In short, I have much to be grateful for, even when I face less than ideal circumstances. God is good!
What are your thoughts on gratefulness?