Lessons in Thankfulness: 4 Tips to Practicing Gratefulness

I find myself writing a lot about gratitude. I talk about thankfulness and how it has affected me. And my life. But then I continue on. I continue with life without ever going into details. I continue on without sharing what thankfulness means and how to practice it in a practical way.  So today, today I will stop rushing past. Yes, today I am pausing and reflecting. Today, I will share what gratefulness is to me and what it has done in me.

practicing gratitude

ONE THOUSAND GIFTS

About a year ago I was given a book. One Thousand Gifts by Ann VoskampThis book changed my life. Seriously, I don’t say this lightly. At all. I have never read something so profound (you know, other than the Bible), that it literally changed the way I lived and viewed my life. Ann shares so vulnerably, so personally her own journey of gratitude and grace. She walks us through her life, her story, and her journey through thankfulness. Her journey began with a challenge. A challenge to document 1000 gifts. A challenge to live this life, with the ups and the downs, to the full. She began with a journal and a pen and then began using a camera to document the small and big ways she experienced gratefulness. The small and big ways she experienced the love of her Heavenly Father.

MY JOURNEY OF THANKFULNESS

That is where I met, Ann. I met her in the middle of the easy and the hard. I met her on my own journey through life with a special needs child. I met her on my own journey of understanding who I am outside of motherhood or marriage. I met her on my own journey to understanding the love of the One who created me. And honestly, I began this journey of gratefulness thinking it was a bit silly, even unnecessary. I practice thankfulness at the dinner table daily, with my children. We recount our days for one another, grateful for the hearts that beat so closely together.

And then one day, as I read the Psalms, something reminded me. Something triggered that the simple act of remembering and writing it down was important. Telling of my gratefulness in passing was beautiful, certainly. But writing the words and reflecting on them was more. And it was necessary. So I pulled out a journal and I began. I was a few weeks into the new year, so I wrote a few extra items each day until I “caught up.” You see, the 1000 gifts dare is to name 1000 gifts, 1000 items of gratitude each year. This equates to roughly 3 items a day. Some days are easy but others, just one item can be oh so rough to get to. You know, those hard days, the ugly days where you weren’t great to yourself, you weren’t great to those you love, and you certainly weren’t great to the strangers you met at the store. Or waiting in line, if you’re anything like.

But. But God met me there on my hard days. He met me at my thankfulness journal as I sat, trying to think of one good thing from the difficult days of our neuropsychology appointments. It’s still hard to think of something to be grateful for during those days, those appointments. But this practice of gratefulness is nothing without grace. So on the hard days, I thought of one item. One point of thankfulness. And the next day I caught up. And if I didn’t, that’s okay too.Because grace.

And now, I am here, 5 months out from those long and difficult appointments for Boy-Child, and I can see the grace in them. Now, today, I am able to catch glimpses of how God is working my story for His glory. I am able to catch glimpses of how God will bring Himself glory through Boy Child’s special need, yes, even through our hard days. That is the evidence of my thankfulness journey. I pray you would join me and experience the beauty and grace of living daily, in gratefulness. And to make it easier, I’m sharing a few easy and practical tips. Because if you can make something fit easily into my daily life, the more likely I am to actually do it!

TIPS FOR PRACTICING GRATEFULNESS:

  1. Set aside a time each day to reflect and remember. If you’re like me and it’s hard to remember the events that have transpired that day (or the day before if your time is first thing in the morning), use your calendar to help you rememberI have my quiet time in the morning, after the kids are off at school. Every day, at the start of my quiet time, I sit with my journal open in front of me. And I think on the day before. I remember the good moments and the bad. I think about the words that were spoken, and those that were left unspoken, to dwell in my mind and heart. But this act of me sitting in silence, reflecting, remembering, caused me to grow.
  2. Use a journal. There is truly something about writing thoughts down that gives them weight and makes them real. Plus, having them all together makes it easier to reflect on and remember your journey through gratefulness.
  3. Think of THREE specific things you can be thankful for each day. They can be small things like the smile of your little one or hearing your favorite song on the radio. Some days this is easily accomplished and I add a few extra. Other days it’s difficult and I only manage one.
  4. Don’t stop there! As you continue on your day, think on what you can be grateful for in that moment, in that interaction. And watch it change your mood and your life! Honestly, as I grew more comfortable in this journey of thankfulness, I began practicing it outside my quiet time. Outside the safety of my journal + kitchen. But it grew me. Without me even knowing. I began seeing gratefulness more easily throughout my day. I could more easily express it, show it, to my children so they too could experience the grace that is thankfulness.

Will you join me in this journey of gratitude? What thankfulness tips would you add? 

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41 thoughts on “Lessons in Thankfulness: 4 Tips to Practicing Gratefulness

  1. I’ve been feeling like a whiner and complainer lately, like when my husband gets home I don’t have anything good to tell him. This is a good reminder for me – I’m going to try the 3 good things one tonight. Thanks my friend.

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    • Oh, friend. I am still a complainer and an exaggerator. My darling husband is constantly (I may be exaggerating right there) asking me about my perspective. But these 3 thankfulness items are definitely helping me learn to change my perspective on my own. Though it’s still a sin habit I’m needing to break.

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  2. I cannot tell you how much I need to practice this! I start off great with quiet time and it only lasts a few days till I am about to crack then I try to go back to it. I NEED to make it a priority! Quiet times are often me getting a few minutes to myself very very early in the morning before the hustle and bustle, but I find myself using those minutes to work and try to catch up instead of breathing and remembering why I am thankful. Thank you for this post!

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    • Oh Wendie. I am so right there with you. I find myself feeling so overwhelmed and stressed and wondering why. Then I remember I gave myself zero opportunities to rest and find peace. But finding that time and making it a priority (making YOU a priority) can be so very hard. I will be praying for you this week!

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  3. Those are great tips!! I’m thinking about getting a gratitude journal. Would be a great way to channel thoughts, and also nice to have when you feel like you’re having a bad day 🙂

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  4. I find a daily gratitude practice difficult. It feels like I reach for things that while nice don’t necessarily merit that much attention, if that makes sense – like they are the trivial things that I’m just naming because I need something for today. I try to focus weekly…or when a day is particularly hard.

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    • Honestly, it is difficult. And I completely understand what you are saying. I actually felt that way. Do I need to be grateful for the bright green of the grass today? Or the way the sunlight is shimmering off the rain on the trees? But I would challenge you that those small, seemingly unimportant and meaningless things are actually vitally important. They help us to appreciate the small things. They help us to appreciate life, when things are hard and ugly. They help us appreciate art and creation and nature. Weekly and general thankfulness is certainly wonderful, but I would challenge you to try daily thankfulness again. It seems silly and trivial, but stick with it and I think your perspective on it may change.

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  5. I really love this. Anytime I’m feeling down I try to remember a few specific things I’m grateful for and it helps so much. I’ve been using the Day Designer planner and there’s a spot in it to write down something you’re grateful for every day. Love that.

    Esther
    The Cuteness

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  6. I love this! I intentionally reflect on things that I’m grateful for on a regular basis, because I think it does so much for a person. When I don’t, I always see a shift in my attitude and not a good one. During those times I always make a more concentrated effort to focus on gratitude. One thing I like to do is write down things that I’m grateful for daily on a post it and put them up in a place where I will see them daily… like on the door to my bedroom.

    I have a copy of that book but haven’t read it yet. I should pull it out soon!

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  7. Beautiful! A Thousand Gifts is one of my top favorite books of all time. I’ve read it 5 or 6 times and it challenges me and points me to Jesus even more deeply each time! So, so good. These are great practical tips of how to apply what she talks about and I’m so glad you shared them! Your heart to find gratitude and joy in the midst of hard things is beautiful.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this. As I’m currently struggling through some transitions in life, this post was a great reminder of what I have in my life. A reminder of being thankful even though I have a hard time getting through the day. I haven’t read the book but it’s going in my iPad right after this post. I’m thankful that you’re in my life!

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  12. I love this so much! I appreciate how you are honest about having days where it is harder to find things to be grateful for, because let’s be real- we all have those. Writing them down helps me so much, too. It helps to actually see them on the page because so much can happen in our day that we may forget… so reflecting is good. A few months ago I was struggling with happiness- I was living in the future and always thinking about the next best thing- constantly looking up grad school programs and other jobs- confused about what I wanted to do and if what I was doing currently was the right thing. I still am confused about that, totally- but the difference is that I started realizing that so much thought of the future was making me unhappy in my present- and I changed the way my mind thought and a huge part of that change was finding gratitude in my every day life, even the little things. I have a few posts on similar things like this- gratitude, mainly. If you want to check them out! 🙂

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