What I mean when I talk about living gratefully

It’s been a difficult year for our family. So difficult some of our stories have been too painful to share here. My husband is healthy again, but inside we’re still healing from the trauma.

Reflecting back on it all, however, my heart remains full. I’m deeply grateful for the blessings God has placed in my life my family, my friends, my work, my home. I’m deeply grateful for this space, for the opportunity to connect with you. I’m deeply grateful for everything our family experienced this year — our joys and hardships.

I know giving thanks isn’t always easy.

We might be in a season of life where the lows outnumber the highs. We carry a heavy burden, we’re not sure how much longer we can lift it.

We might be looking at the world around us, seeing all the pain and suffering and hate, and feel utter despair. We might be watching our loved ones fight illness and feel utter helplessness.

We might be battling mental illness, addiction, depression, crippling anxiety or seasonal affective disorder. Happy pictures on social media make us envious or melancholy.

We might be feeling the weight of waiting. We’ve been waiting so long for the one, the promotion, the baby, the big break, the move, you name it — and we are tired.

We might be broke. We might be grieving. We might be barely holding it together. We are wrung out.

But.

We are breathing.

Let me tell you something about gratitude: I think living gratefully is an act of resistance.

In a world that tells us we are not enough, that what we have is not enough, gratitude pushes back and says the opposite. Gratitude says we are more blessed than we could ever imagine. When we live gratefully, we look beyond ourselves, rediscovering the invisible threads that stitch our lives together and calling them good.

You know what helps me cultivate gratitude? Yoga. When I practice yoga, I am reminded of everything within me I often take for granted:

  • My heart, beating strong and true as I execute a chaturanga jump back on my yoga mat.
  • My breath, heavy but comfortable as I flow in and out of shapes.
  • My mind, clear and sharp, listening to the instructor’s voice, tuning out to-dos and deadlines. Tuning in to my body, this space, this moment.

Gratitude, like yoga, is a practice. It’s the practice of tuning in, opening our eyes to the gifts around and inside of us.

Sometimes we become most thankful for blessings that were ripped away. We got sick. We got hurt. Someone else did. We moved. Someone else moved. We started a new thing; we miss the old one. Our car broke down. We broke up.

Through loss and hardship, we often develop a new perspective that helps us better appreciate all we have.

The lows I experienced this year gave me a deeper appreciation for my loved ones and my good health. I have a renewed sense of contentment with the life God’s given me. And I’m trying to use my blessings to bless others with love and kindness. I don’t always get it right. I mess up a lot. But I’m aiming to live gratefully.

This Thanksgiving and every day, my prayer is this: May God grant me the attention to pause and give thanks for all my blessings, big and small. May I live my life as an act of gratitude.

I think G.K. Chesterton sums it up quite nicely here:

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Amen.

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