Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Fifth Pause in Lent - Gratitude

Hi and welcome to the fifth Pause in Lent! Time is really moving along here! The other participants are listed in the sidebar to your left and I hope that you enjoy visiting them over the next few days - I am still getting a lot out of reading the other posts each week. There are no new garden photos this week because I've lent the camera to Son 1 who is in central Toulouse with Ben and some visiting friends today (Saturday afternoon - I'm preparing this post in advance). But for the record, most of what seems to have grown in the garden this week is clover in the lawn. As soon as it cools down, I'm going to have to mow...
And that leads me on quite well to the idea of the Gratitude Journal, which I first learned about from the lovely lady over at Homemade and Happy. She really seems to be someone who practices what she preaches, so I paid attention to what she told me! The thing is, that I have always seen myself as someone who looks on the positive side, so that, for example, when I think about the rampaging, mile-high clover in my 'lawn', I think MORE about the beautiful weather in which both the clover and I have thrived this week.So maybe a gratitude journal wasn't necessary for me? It seemed worth the experiment, as it was a big part of the Simple Abundance book, which had clearly had a big impact on the happy life mentioned above! It also wasn't difficult for me to find either a note book or the time to write in it each evening, as I have been in the slightly on-off habit of keeping a prayer journal for the last 17 years or so.

So the cute 'strawberries' notebook you can just see above became my first gratitude journal. I'm onto my second one now, in a special journal so kindly given to me by Lululiz!


I'm going to let Sarah Ban Brethnach, the author of Simple Abundance, explain the Gratitude Journal to you in her own words:


"There are several tools that I'm going to suggest you use as you begin your inner exploration. While all of them will help you to become happier and more content and will nurture your creativity, this first tool could change the quality of your life beyond belief: it's what I call a daily gratitude journal. I have a beautiful blank book and each night before I go to bed, I write down five things that I can be grateful for about that day. Some days my list will be filled with amazing things, most days just with simple joys... Other days -rough ones - I might think that I don't have five things to be grateful for, so I'll write down my basics: my health, my husband and daughter, their health, my animals, my home, my friends and the comfortable bed I'm about to get into, as well as the fact that the day's over. That's okay. Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only survive but surmount our difficulties."
These photos are all nabbed from 'gratitude' posts I've written before, as this idea of listing five things to thank God for began to take a hold in my life. You'll find the original lists here, here and here.

Here are a few things I've noted, first from the point of view of others, and then from my own experience:
A Gratitude Journal doesn't suit everyone - Gretch Reuben of the most excellent and helpful Happiness Project tried one and, as she had predicted, gave up on it. Maybe it could have worked for her if she'd kept on going, but more likely, different things just suit different people and you have to find the ones that work for you. She was approaching this from a non-spiritual point of view and maybe it seems a bit more silly to be saying a general 'thank you' than a specific one to someone whom you believe gave you these wonderful things.
The converse of that is that I read, soon after my Happy friend had told me about her Gratitude Journal, a Christian writer whom I generally admire, on the subject of saying 'thank you' for five things each night. She wrote along the lines of how 'even non-Christians (editorial cringe, cringe) feel that they can benefit from saying thank you for the little things they observe in their lives. How much more can we (BIG editoral cringe) thank God knowing as we do His salvation and mercy!'
Now, I'm not cringeing about the fact that she felt that our salvation through Jesus was the biggest thing we can thank him for - not at all! But I felt she was pretty condescending to a whole lot of intelligent and truly grateful non-believers/people of other faiths out there.
In fact my own experience has been that, whilst a Christian can pay lip-service to the big things - God created and loves us, Jesus died to save each of us and rose again, the Holy Spirit is our daily guide and help - it's not always a very DEEP gratitude. It can become simply what we feel we should do.When I am busy feeling guilty about the clover in the lawn and not remembering to really dwell on the wonder of this super hot-summer weather in April, I am not living with an attitude of gratiude (yes, it's your turn to cringe). My 'thankful' words to praise God are sadly rather meaningless because they skim the surface of my thoughts, and don't tune in to a genuinely grateful heart. So thanking God for seemingly 'little' things, and just taking the time to note them to myself ('must write that in my gratitude journal tonight'), have made me grateful for the big and the little things, and have given me a more genuine resillience to the hard times - more than any amount of Christian theory did before. So here is my gratitude list for right now - expect some little things!


Thank you God for:

Lizards on the wall - their legs are just fantastic the way they move!

Our friend from Yorkshire visiting us, with his great new fiancée.

The smell of the flowering olive in the evenings.

Glasses which mean I don't get a headache at the computer any more.

My family and our love - often imperfect but always there.

Linked to Spiritual Sundays - more inspiration through blogging!


Serenata said...

Good post Floss, and one I'm sure many of us good benefit from reading and perhaps putting into place...sometimes we need reminding and a gratitude journal is a great way to do that. I am in a good place at the moment and I think that taking note of what sometimes seem like 'little' things to be grateful for are good to reflect on when times are sometimes tougher. I hope I've managed to get across here what I am thinking, sometimes the mind and fingers don't quite work together to form coherent sentences!

Betty said...

Since you made me aware of Simple Abundance a year ago and I read the book from the librar,Floss, I managed to get my own second hand copy recently and am reading it again... I have started a gratitude journal in the lovely covered book Lemonade Kitty gave me in our recent swap. So many things can be turned around can't they, from negatives to positives when we think of what we can be thankful for from a situation but it doesn't come naturally, we have to work at it I think! I try to see 'inside' what happens in life to understand why God put me in that place as no doubt everything is a lesson on our spiritual journey. Betty x

Pom Pom said...

I got my gratitude journal from a discount store when we were in Australia. I had just looked at it right before I read your post. It's fun to read what I wrote: my short fingernails, the buzz of the refrigerator, technology at school, piano music.
A great post, as always, Floss the thinker.

Elizabethd said...

Thank you Floss, you do write from the heart.
It isnt always the big things that are important. I can be so grateful for a flower, or a new book, or just a note from a friend. They are all meaningful.

Carolyn Phillips said...

I think learning gratitude for the small things leads in the end to a real gratitude for the larger things.My word for this year is Thanks because I want to develop this type of attitude.

I tried to keep a gratitude journal and it didn't work for me...but having the word thanks above my desk does, each day at some I will catch sight and remember why I put it there and think of what I am thankful for at the moment...well that is my intention anyway.

Kaye - SandwichINK for the Sandwich Generation said...

Hi Floss, I've been traveling with grandchildren all day and just got to pop over and enjoy reading your post. You gave me such a smile over your thanksgiving to God for lizards.

When my kids were young, I managed to lose my checkbook and was so upset because it had important notes in it that I really needed. I had been praying and praying to find it for a couple of days. Then, I was sitting in a chair in my living room, reading to my kids, when EEEK! I spotted a lizard run under my chair in the adjoining room. I immediately went to investigate. NO lizard BUT there was my missing checkbook! I never saw another lizard in the house again but yes, you are right I was SOOOO praising God for that one sweet lizard! Fun family memories! :) Have a blessed week. You're in my prayers.

Heidi said...

I can't believe Lent is almost over It's gone by so week is the heavy heart week and then Easter! I'm ready. I love your son in the tree and I loved those shoes in your previous post my computer has been a pain lately!

Charlotte said...

There are so many things in this life that I am grateful for. I'm grateful for bloggers like you who share with us each week.