The past several months have been insane, to say the least. Six months ago we were such in the thick of messiness, unsettledness, and uncertainty that we never would have expected to wind up where we are – loving our new state, career, and home. And while there are for sure things that have yet to be settled and communities that have yet to be formed, we feel so thankful for the work God has done in bringing us into this new season of life and are so excited to see how he continues to move in our midst.
Perhaps it is the move and all that has happened over the past six months or maybe it is just with the seasons changing around here and Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, but I have been thinking a lot about gratitude. How do we cultivate a heart of thankfulness year-round, not just in November? How do we seek out opportunities to share that thankfulness with those around us, both friends and strangers? Today I’m sharing my top five favorite ways to practice and remain thankful twelve months of the year.
If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.
Rabbi Harold Kushner
1 | Acknowledge what you have and pay it forward
It seems like so often we can lose sight of gratitude because we lose sight of what we actually have. The American Dream that always looms just out of grasp is daunting, telling us more, better, faster, stronger. A huge part of gratitude is finding contentment with what you do actually have.
But I love taking this one step further. After reading the chapter on item accumulation from Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I felt so encouraged to sort through what we have too much of and donate. The reality is my instant is to cling to everything I have because “someday” I might need it. And yet there are people today who could use or need what I’m clinging to. It is so freeing to find contentment and thankfulness in acknowledging what we do have (as opposed to focusing on what we don’t) and then donating the duplicates, triplicates or excess of items to families in need.
2 | Send a hand-written note
How cute are these cards from the dollar section of Target? Every time I’m in Target I make it a habit to swing by and see what new stationary they have – it’s always easier to write a quick note to a friend when you have cute cards!
Who doesn’t love getting mail? In this season of change, transition, and constantly meeting new people, I find myself missing my people the most. Instead of just wallowing in that, though, I have been trying to find intentional ways to stay connected and tell them just how much they mean to me. It doesn’t have to be as long as the last book you read, but a quick note saying hi, giving a specific example of something you miss about them, and telling them what you most appreciate is huge. Sometimes I like including a favorite quote or Bible verse that reminds them of me as well, adding an extra touch of individualization.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18
3 | Say hello to the cashier
Gratitude is so much more than simply saying “please” and “thank you” or stating what you’re most thankful for around the Thanksgiving table. It seems like the people I know who most exude gratitude are ones who find joy and contentment everyday. They know how blessed they are and, because of that, they are quick to extend grace, share a smile, and not rush through a transaction in a check out line.
Several years ago I was shopping at a local clothing store near my college. I was checking out, paying for my purchases, and smiled at the check out lady, asking her how her day was going. She paused, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Wow. You are like the first person today to even smile at me.” I didn’t know how to respond, but instead stood there, saddened by the hustle and busyness that has invaded our culture. For me, gratitude is so much more than being thankful for what I have but it is also expressing thankfulness for the people around us, including those who often go ignored. Say hello to the person holding the door for you, as the cashier how their day is going, smile at the bank teller helping you out.
4 | Give away food leftovers
This one is along the same principles as number 1 by acknowledging that we have more than enough, but it is much more spontaneous than sorting, planning, and donating. And my husband is a rockstar at this. A couple times a month he’ll go out to eat with coworkers and tell me he didn’t finish his meal and has leftovers for tomorrow. But then the next morning I’ll see him packing his lunch, ask what happened to his leftovers, and he’ll simply say, “Oh, I gave them away.” So, ask for the doggie bag next time you’re out to eat and then be on the look out for someone in need. It may be uncomfortable to walk up to someone the first time, it is always worth it.
5 | Post quotes & reminders around your home, office, car, etc.
How about a quote on your daily planner or to do list, a way to help keep things perspective throughout the day?
Or a “good morning” quote next your nightstand, helping you start the day off with a great outlook?
Finally, this is my favorite way to keep my mind focused on the things I want to fill it with, not the stress and distractions that the world places before me. I’ll write a Bible verse I’m trying to memorize on a post-it note and stick it on my computer monitor or a favorite quote on my bathroom mirror or a loving reminder on my car’s dashboard. Placing these reminders in everyday places can do wonders for a grumpy early morning brain, a mid-afternoon attitude shift, or a long day pick-me-up. Tiny Prints currently has an amazing list of 100 quotes on gratitude – check it out for some inspiration!
// How are you choosing to show gratitude this week?
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