If you’re in the US, like I am, you know that November is all about Thanksgiving. Where would we be if the Native Americans and the early settlers didn’t find a way to not only get along, but help one another? It was the start of something beautiful. You might say that in some sense, many chapters of our country’s history could only have been written because of what happened that first Thanksgiving feast.
I have to say, some of the best moments in my life also had their start with thanksgiving, with gratitude. I don’t mean the holiday in this context. I do mean the attitude. When things go wrong or life takes turns that leave me reeling, I have to look back for a while. I have to look back at the people and the events that have shaped my life in positive ways. There have been several. In the last blog post about Quita, I shared about how she challenged me to face my fears and move toward change with courage, rather than fear. (By the way, did you notice the new photos? I talked about the photo shoot in that last post!)
Giving Thanks for My Spiritual Director
In this post I want to tell you about Deb. Deb is a spiritual friend – or Spiritual Director. In case you are not familiar with the term, a Spiritual Director is someone that helps you learn to listen to what God may be speaking to you. They are not counselors or advisors. They are more like guides and when I first met with Deb, I had no idea what to expect.
Here’s a little story about how it went.
Deb and I sat in her home office. It was a cozy room, decorated very simply with few furnishings. A soft breeze whispered through the open window, the birds sang delightfully and Deb explained what we would do together. All was fine – until then. Reading Scripture 3 times was comfortable. I was used to that, of course. The next part was not something I was used to. I was going to sit in silence for twenty minutes.
It was beyond strange. My mind was pinging here there and everywhere. I thought about things I hadn’t thought of in years. I felt there was something I needed to do. How can I just sit here for 20 minutes? It was almost a sense of panic for a bit. Is she serious? How does anyone do this? How do I? Am I supposed to be able to hear something? From God? What does it mean that I’m not? (I really didn’t!)
Deb was so patient with me. She reassured me that it was ok to be wherever I was, to be thinking whatever I was thinking. She encouraged me to let go of any expectations and just be in the moment. Well, that was something! In the moment? I never realized I had such control issues till that day, in those. Twenty. Very. Silent. minutes. (Have you ever tried this?)
You may be wondering if I survived. The answer is yes. Not only that, I decided I needed to do it again later! It was probably the 4th or 5th meeting with Deb before I finally began to literally let go and let God. Rather than do anything or expect to feel any certain way, I just asked God to lead me and show me whatever he wanted to show me.
I am a visual person. I learn best with visual examples and God was and is so kind to speak to me this way. One visual He gave me in those moments of sitting silently, was that I was clinging to a cliff, just barely able to hang on. There I was- flailing and panicking! As I was about to fall, Jesus reached out and caught me, rescuing me. At that time in my life, this metaphor could not have been more fitting and I knew it.
Giving Thanks – for the Health of It!
I share this with you in hopes that it will cause you to stop and think about who in your life has been “Deb” to you.
Who has been an encouragement, an inspiration, a guide to you in your faith journey?
How has God used them to help you in your walk with Him?
When you have that person or those people in your mind’s eye, I would encourage you to reach out to them and just say thank you.
If you feel so inclined, share with them how much influence their prayers, support, teaching, etc., means to you. You never know: maybe they really need to hear it right now. Maybe they’re hanging onto a cliff of their own – or maybe they’re struggling in some way. This is more than “paying it forward.” Expressing gratitude is not only good for them, it’s good for you! Would you like to see some proof? Read on!
6 Reasons Gratitude is Good for Your Health
1. Gratitude helps you get better sleep
2. It makes you a more effective leader
3. You’re more likely to want to exercise – which has its own health benefits of course!
4. Gratitude strengthens your heart
5. Gratitude has been shown to decrease cortisone levels by 23% in some studies
6. An attitude of gratitude supports healthier emotions
As you can see from these various studies, gratitude is not just an abstract idea. It’s essential to life – or quality of life!
Like anything that’s good for us though, like eating well and exercise, gratitude needs to be practiced.
We are hard wired to notice the negative. Remember that time you bumped your head on the cabinet? Sure you do. Can you just as easily recall the last compliment you received? Maybe not. The difficulty in remembering is not your fault and it doesn’t mean you are a negative and pessimistic person by default. We just don’t spend as much time on the positive as we do on the negative. We have to decide to give the positive equal – or more attention. How though?
Here are some ideas on how you can practice gratitude. Some may be more appealing to you than others and that’s ok.
One of the most common ways to do this is by writing it-in a special journal just for this purpose. If you like to write, this is a great way to begin becoming more intentional about practicing gratitude.
Find a nice, attractive journal you’ll love to write it and start a habit of recording 2 or 3 things a day for which you are grateful.
If you’re not into writing, how about creating a vision board of sorts – just about things you’re grateful for. It can be as fancy as you’d like it to be. Include photos, quotes, anything at all that will serve as a visual reminder of all the blessings you have in your life.
Lastly, how about a gratitude buddy? Someone you can make it a point to talk with about your gratitude – and hear from them about their own? It can be a simple text, phone call or any other medium. The method doesn’t matter. The content is what’s important – and the habit/practice is important.
In conclusion, I wish you all in the US a Happy Thanksgiving and to anyone outside the US or not celebrating a “Thanksgiving” holiday, make today be a day that you purpose to give thanks anyway.
I will talk with you again soon. Please feel free to comment below! I would love to hear from you!