Saturday, November 16, 2013

Living in a Spirit of Gratefulness

Gratitude is a lifestyle choice.  When we choose to focus on the things that are good around us we can do great things for ourselves, our families, and our community.  Choosing gratitude literally changes our lives spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  There are many resources available to scientifically show the benefits to us, as well as those around us, when we practice gratitude in our daily lives.  The more we are aware of the abundance in which we live the more we are able to give of ourselves.

As a child of God, wife, mother, home educator, and nana it is important to me to feed my soul so that I have enough left of myself to give to those that count on me as well as those that God puts in my path during my day to day living.  Over the years I have learned a few simple ways to keep my spirit fed, and I have gathered a few tools that help make the task a little more simple.  To maintain full disclosure you must know that I have neither maintained all of these practices during all phases of my life, nor have I practiced them all simultaneously.  They are simply things that I know from experience that are beneficial to a strong and consistent spiritual walk as well as a healthy outlook on life that keeps my focus where it should be in order that I may be as healthy as I can to perform my God given responsibilities in my daily living.

There are many resources for the study of God's Word.  I have a couple favorites.  The first is the Women of Faith Bible Study Series.  This is a collection of guides on various topics that can be studied alone or in small groups.  Normally when I do these studies I space each chapter over a week's time.  It is easiest for me to find say 15 minutes preferably at the start of my day, but anytime throughout where I can sneak in a few minutes works for me, so these studies are ideal.  I recently discovered that Women of Faith also has a free app that offers an abundance of free resources.  My second favorite resource is available through YouVersion.  It is a bible app that I access through my computer, smart phone, and my Kindle Fire.  It is free, so I am very grateful for that.  :)  Personally, I use it primarily for the actual bible studies that it offers.  There are literally hundreds available.  It is easy to sign up, and the "catch me up" feature is my favorite.  Anytime I manage to fall behind, and this happens more than I care to admit, I can simply ask it to restart from the last date that I completed.  On any given day I do anywhere from one to say three or even four studies.  I am currently doing a parenting study and a faith study.  In the past I have completed studies on the topics of marriage, Christmas, Hosea, Finances, and Easter to name a few.  The list of topics is limitless.

One of the most beneficial practices to my mental health and my ability to maintain a spirit of gratitude is journaling.  Over the years I have kept my gratitude journal in various formats.  It is simply not necessary to spend a bunch of money on a fancy journal.  You can write in the data processing program on your computer, keep a blog, write in an actual journal or even a simple pad of paper.  I have a simple strategy I implement when journaling.  I begin by listing five things that I am grateful for which can be anything from a patch of daisies I saw on the side of the road to surviving a car accident to the health of my children.  If we stop to think about it there really are so very many things to be grateful for in our lives.  Too often we get so caught up focusing on the negative that we forget the many things we have to be grateful for in our daily walk.  After listing the five reasons I am grateful I continue to write a minimum of three pages in my journal.  There is no rule to the content of this writing.  It is simply required that I write.  It is fine if it is aimless.  The simple act of writing is good for our mind, body and soul.

I love exploring and sharing on Pinterest.  One thing I discovered on one of my creative exploits is an idea that I like a lot and will be implementing in our home for the coming year is a Thankful Jar.  The concept is a simple one with big implications.  You keep a special jar on the counter or another location where all family members have easy access.  As things happen throughout the year that are a reason to give thanks they get written down and dropped into the jar.  On New Year's Eve the family gathers and reads about all the reasons they have had to be thankful for over the past year.  Focusing on what we are grateful for on a regular basis more greatly impacts our lives than when we just do it sporadically.  

As a home educator I am always looking for different ways to instill positive habits with lifelong implications into the daily practices of my children.  There are many ways we can teach our children to live with a spirit of gratitude.  In our home we pray at meals and bedtime and anytime that a special need arises.  I always model prayer by beginning with reasons we are thankful.  For me this is the easiest way to consistently model gratitude to our children.  We also practice the apparently dying art of hand written notes of thanks.  I hold it in high importance to openly express thankfulness to others for gifts, both material and intangible.  There is nothing quite like receiving a hand written note of gratitude to warm our hearts and boost our esteem.  We also consistently go through our belongings for things that no longer fit us or items that have outgrown their usefulness to us.  We keep in mind our favorite charities, family members and friend when deciding who might benefit from things we can no longer use, and the kids participate in the actual act of preparing and giving the items.  Also, as a family we are always looking for ways we can serve others within our own home, our family, our church family, and our general community, even the world.  This year our family is participating in Operation Christmas Child and Friends of Foster Kids, as well as donating to Grace Centers of Hope through our business.  We involve the kids in all these acts of sharing as much as possible.  Our family has also sponsored children through Compassion International for over 10 years now.  We currently have a boy in Bolivia and a girl in India.  On occasion I have the kids color or draw a picture to send to them.  There are many ways to involve our children in world wide outreach as well as within our communities if we just take the time to look for the opportunities around us.  Currently, a group of children within our local homeschool group is collecting food for an awesome organization right here in our county call Hunter Hospitality House.  My children will be helping me go through our cupboards to put together a bag of food to donate from our family.  They love to be included in these activities, and you can just see their little eyes light up when they participate in the giving.  Our 4-H Club also participates in the adopt-a-family program through The Salvation Army each Christmas season.  All of these activities foster a spirit of giving in our children and unite us as a family in the act of giving.

As you can see, there are many ways for us to learn about, practice, and teach the art of living a life of gratitude.  The implications for ourselves as well as others are limitless.  The key is to start.  Choose an activity, and begin.  Based on my experience the best place to start is with ourselves.  When our spirits are well it will simply spill over to the others in our lives.  Caring for ourselves first gives us the strength and knowledge to share with those around us.  Just like the oxygen mask in an airplane, if we first fill ourselves with gratitude we can then share it with others.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

- I Thessalonians 5:18

1 comment:

Dina Lauzon said...

Enjoyed reading this post. Very timely information for this season of thankfulness:-)


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