Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gratitude is an Attitude

I guess that is a pretty cheesy title, but it is what has really been on my heart lately. Seems like everywhere I turn-Face book, my pastor's sermons, songs on the radio-my attention has been placed on gratitude, being grateful, and thankful for each blessing. Think someone is trying to tell me something???

A few weeks ago as I was scanning status updates on Face book, I read this quote: "If you aren't grateful, you aren't paying attention." Wow, I thought, that's great! So I immediately stole it for my status and said a few quick thank yous, then went about my day-smiling, happy, and full of gratitude, but ended it ill, grouchy, irritated, and bemoaning every inconvenience that had the audacity to cross my path. (I know, I'm not proud, but honest.) Sunday rolls around and my pastor announces he will be preaching a series of sermons from Philippians-the book of joy-he declares. Uh-oh. After listening to his wonderful and heart-felt sermon, I had officially slid my way down the pew in shame, for I had walked into the sanctuary that morning in silent rage. I had spent the morning, cajoling, begging, then yelling at everyone to get ready, hurry up, did you brush you teeth, then asking again, did you brush your teeth? Yes, you ARE going to wear that dress. I don't care if you like it or not. On the ride to church, more yelling, threatening, stay on your side, leave your sister alone. Through Sunday school class, I was making a to do list and getting really stressed over the mountain of school work, laundry, and housework that was already overwhelming me. Not my "one shining moment" I know. Yes, for sure, I need a shot of gratitude! ASAP!

I have so much to be grateful for. The Lord has greatly blessed me in so many ways that I cannot begin to list them all. I SO want to be a calm, peaceful, graceful presence in the lives of those who surround me. Several people who have this trait cross my mind and I want to be like them. I have the desire, but then I turn into Category 5 Hurricane Becky and everyone near me seeks shelter. I let the day-to-day stress, headaches, and problems block that desire to be more grateful and lose the ability to shake off my troubles. Usually, it takes a tragedy or some horrific event to make me snap out of it, and realize how lucky I am. So that's my question-can we be grateful without misfortune?

For example, when am I most thankful for rest? When I am so dog-tired that I collapse. When am I grateful for a clean house? After I have totally cleaned and recovered it from being shut down by the health department. All of us are so happy for a good rain after going through a drought. We appreciate our loved ones more and vow to spend more time together when someone we know loses a family member. I guess it is just human nature, and perhaps these are God's ways of reminding us to be thankful in each moment, not just once per year, over turkey and dressing. I love this quote and think of it around Thanksgiving time- "Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel." Maybe I should post this quote throughout my house, classroom, and in my car, and not save it for a Thursday in November.

After really pondering this, I realized that gratitude, pain, loss, and suffering are all intertwined. We are thankful when a loved one passes on after battling a painful illness. There's a promise of heaven, but a sense of loss as we live out our time on earth without them. Losing the 5 pounds after struggling to diet and exercise. Working for hours to weed a garden, but then looking at the beauty of it and realizing the hard work was worth it. The tough love you must give children as you teach them right from wrong, but seeing them grow into responsible, happy adults. The child who strikes out 100 times, but finally hits the ball on the 101st at bat. It's worth the effort it took to get there. In other words, "Praise the bridge that carried you over." ~George Colman.

One of my favorite picture books is called Fortunately. The book follows a pattern of fortunate, then unfortunate events, such as "Fortunately Ned got a letter that said please come to a surprise party. (Next page) Unfortunately the party was in Florida and he was in New York." Life is just like that. Ups and downs. Hits and misses. Clouds and rainbows. Would we really appreciate one without the other? Oprah says,
"The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get." Notice she said what you have, not what you don't have. Keeping in mind that the things we have that really matter, are not things, but the people that move in and out of our lives, and the joy that they bring with them. Many years ago, on an episode of Oprah, she asked her viewers to keep a gratitude journal, listing things they are grateful for, and looking for new things each day. I did that for a few weeks, but stopped, for whatever reason. Maybe I need to try again. I am a die-hard list maker, so this is something that comes naturally to me. Taking the time to write down each day's blessings  and reading over the lists might help me to focus on the rainbow, not the storm that came before it.

Hoping you find joy in each day,

As we get ready for the last holiday of the summer, here's a quick and tasty recipe for a family gathering.

White Castle Sliders:
1/2 cup dried onion flakes
2 lbs ground chuck
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
6 slices cheddar cheese
24 small party rolls
24 dill pickle slices

Evenly spread onion flakes on bottom of 9x13 baking dish. Gently press ground beef on top of onion flakes, pressing evenly to make one giant patty. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Using a paper towel, pat the excess grease from top of patty. Top with cheese and return to oven for 2 minutes. Let set for 5 minutes, cut into 24 patties, then serve on rolls.

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