So it’s July and after six months I am still sticking to my New Year’s resolution! An exciting first for me since usually failure strikes by mid-February when my attempts to get the gym everyday or not eat so much junk food start to crumble. This year my goal has been to keep a gratitude journal. The idea was to compile a list of 1000 things that I am grateful for over the course of the year. In a notebook kept by my bedside, I’ve been listing, a few each night. In no particular order, I record small moments, big moments, opportunities, feelings, gifts, lifelong friends, or simple interactions with strangers. Here are some examples from my journal:
- The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking
- The first snow of the year
- Getting magazines in the mail
- Hearing childhood stories from my grandmother
- A steady job
- Helping a student understand something new
- Eye sight
- Hallmark movies
- Feeling inspired
- My spring bulbs blooming
- The loyal companionship of my dog
- Scrapbooks and photographs
- Skypeing with Erin
- Loving parents
- Finishing a good book
I have found this nightly ritual to be rewarding in many different ways. Firstly, it allows a few quiet moments to reflect on my day, and presents the daily challenge of keeping a “look-out” for reasons to be grateful. Secondly, I have found a change in perspective. Even on the most stressful day, I always have something to write down… my health, my family, living in a free country, things I’d easily take for granted if I wasn’t thinking about it. And thirdly, sometimes things that I perceive as negative can actually be a reason to be grateful. For example, when I’m not in the mood to do laundry, I add “clothes” to my list or when I am tired to getting up early to shovel the driveway during the winter, I remember how blessed I am to have a home and a driveway to shovel.
After a long day, or a moment of doubt, looking back at my list serves as a reminder of my many blessings and the many ways God shows me his love. Flowering trees in the first week of May, the sound of birds singing, and catching a beautiful sunset are all messages of love and hope from God.
So far my list is up to about 500. Looking back on my list has been revealing as I begin to notice some patterns. Although I try not to repeat, there are some definite reoccurring themes…my husband Ryan and the sweet things he does for me; my students at school and the meaningful and loving interactions we share on a daily basis; the beauty of nature, flowers, being outside. This list has confirmed my view of my life’s vocation, as a teacher and a wife.
When discerning your direction in life, it’s often helpful to consider what makes you feel alive. Think about what events, people, experiences are fulfilling to you. Keeping a gratitude journal is a way to help identify these life-giving moments, and could offer direction as one discerns (or confirms) a vocation.
Buy yourself a notebook and start a list…it is a simple task that could turn into a meaningful form of prayer, or an enjoyable daily ritual. God surrounds us with incredible gifts continuously; we need to remember to take notice!