Tag: grateful

Authentic Gratefulness

This past week my students learned a new vocabulary word: cliche. They’ve gotten a kick out of using it as often as possible which can be a good thing (they understand the definition AND how to use it correctly), but it can also become rather annoying rather quickly (when they use it to describe everything, LOL). 

As I thought about Thanksgiving, the word cliche popped in my head. Why? Because the word “Thanksgiving” and everything it’s supposed to stand for sometimes just become so cliche. It reminds me of this meme. 

We (yes, I’m including myself) all talk and post about how grateful we are for our lives. We find the perfect pictures to show off the people and things that we are so grateful for having in our lives. We send numerous texts and may even pick up the phone to actually call a friend or family member to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. .


Personally, I love reading these posts and smiling at how wonderful our lives are. But how many of us, let’s be honest, are really practicing this gratefulness every day? How many days do we really sit back and truly marvel at how wonderful our lives are? 

I know if you’re like me, the number of days spent either complaining about something (the job, your boss, your spouse, your kids) or in such a blur from trying to keep up with our busy schedules clearly outweigh my days of reflecting on how blessed my life really is. 

So my challenge this Thanksgiving (and every day) is for all of us to be authentic in our gratefulness. Instead of just saying that we’re thankful, take some moments to dig a bit deeper into what that means. For example, instead of just saying that you’re thankful for your family, think back on something specific that you’re grateful about with your family. Do you love family nights and how they help to relieve stress? What about how much fun you had on your last road trip? Is it the sweet hugs from your kids? The encouragement you get from your spouse?

True thankfulness is more than a cliche. It’s a heartfelt emotion that should propel (another one of my students’ vocabulary words) us into action and determine how we live each day. I’m certain that if we all focused more on our blessings than our stresses the world would be a much better place as we learned to be more appreciative of the life that we already have. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

We Are Called to Love

It’s November already.

Wow.

Where has the time gone?

I remember the beginning of this year and the promises that I made to myself to make this year my best year yet. I was determined to be #unbothered by life and people, to focus on setting goals and achieving them, and to change things in my life that were no longer working for my good. I am happy to say that while I may have lost my cool a few times (or many), I didn’t reach all of my goals that I set, and I haven’t made every change that I wanted to make, my life has improved drastically by what I have accomplished thus far.

Spend more time in the presence of God. Check!

Lose weight. Check!

Transfer to a new school. Check!

Reduce my debt. Check!

These were just some of my goals that I made and achieved, and my life has definitely been much more fulfilling. I must say that I am quite proud of myself. When I do my check-ins with my accountability partner, I get a certain sense of satisfaction when I realize all that I’ve done to improve my life and my state of mind.

However, lately something has been missing. There’s been this empty space that’s been longing to be fulfilled. While I’m not a selfish or self-centered person (although we all are in some way), I didn’t feel like I was doing all I needed to do in the area of service. My heart has always gone out for other people (I mean, I am a teacher), but I have not been consistent with going that extra mile to help others.

Lately, I’ve felt the need more to do more to help others especially when I consider how I can have a bigger impact on the lives of my children. How do I really get them to love and to appreciate and to be grateful for their lives and all of the blessings they have?

How do I get them to understand that they should give more than they take in this world?

What is the legacy that I want to leave behind that my children can take up and continue even when I am gone?

That’s when I decided enough was enough. The end of this year would be the beginning of my journey in purposeful serving. In other words, I would be purposely seeking opportunities to be a blessing to others. Some things that I have done thus far:

  1. Gotten more involved in my Raktivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist) community on Facebook, getting inspired by all of the wonderful, beautiful things other people are doing to serve others selflessly. These people have hearts so big that I don’t know how their chests can contain them.
  2. I’ve joined a campaign this month called Neighborly November. Instead of just doing 30 days of Gratefulness in which most people document 30 things for which they are grateful, we are challenged to put action with our gratitude. Every day I must find a way not to just speak of my gratitude but to actually live it out. (Created by Carrie Wisehart)
  3. I took my younger son (6 years old) to my school’s sorting of the items from our Harvest Drive. We had an enjoyable time while running food from the center of the gym floor to the designated areas around the room. More than 100 families were able to receive food just in time for the beginning of the holidays because of this Harvest Drive. I felt so fulfilled just watching all of the volunteers running back and forth cheerfully sorting food even after a long day of school and work.
  4. I started working on a community service project with my team at work so we can get our students involved in serving others while learning the concept of giving without expecting to receive something in return (more to come on this in future posts).

While it’s easy to live in our bubbles and focus on just our own problems and needs, God has called us to love and serve one another, to use our gifts and talents to be a blessing to others and that’s just what I want to do. I want to do it and teach my children and my students the same thing. I pray that my children and my students will learn to love helping others, not because they will be rewarded, but because it feels good to do so, that they become intrinsically motivated to do what’s right.

I write this post not because I want any accolades or praise but to hold myself accountable. If I tell everyone what I am going to do, I know that people will be checking to see if I’m doing what I said I will do even on those days when I don’t feel like it and just want to focus on self.

Maybe I can motivate others to do the same.

Maybe I can start a small movement.

Maybe I can open more hearts to the love that God has called us all to show.

Stay tuned for more…

Grateful Heart

One of my favorite commercials is the AT&T one where the little girl says, “We want more. We want more. You really like it. You want more.” While we all get a chuckle out of how she says it, the words and the truth behind it should make us all pause and reflect. The quote basically reminds me of our society today. Everybody wants more, myself included. Is it because we lack the basic necessities we need in order to survive? No. It’s because we all have been led to believe that the accumulation of more things equals more happiness in our lives. The more money you have, the better. The more expensive your car is, the better. The more technology you have around your house, the better. The more designer clothing in your closet, the better. And on and on it goes.

While we all know that we have so much for which to be grateful (such as a job, car, place to live, food to eat, family, friends), the media, and people in general, just won’t allow us to be content just as we are. There is a constant barrage of new products that we MUST have. Advertisers make you feel as if your life will basically suck if you don’t have what they’re offering, as if buying that new mattress will not only give you a good night’s sleep, but will make your entire life peaceful and you will no longer have a care in the world, or if you shop at their store and buy their clothes you will automatically look like a model and the perfect guy will fall into your lap. Friends eyeball your four-year-old car and question whether or not you’re going to buy a new one soon when in your mind you really wanted to drive that car until the wheels fell off. Neighbors have delivery trucks constantly pulling up with new furniture or new appliances or a new Amazon package on a weekly basis and you try to find a way to get invited inside so you can walk around enviously wishing your own house was just as fabulous. Facebook “friends” post endless pictures of nights out on the town, expensive dinner, vacations abroad, with spouses, children, and houses that are all picture perfect.

Although deep, deep down most of us understand that material things ultimately won’t fulfill us, we all still seem to have to chase that need for “more.” Although deep down most of us know that those people’s lives look great on the outside when in reality nobody’s life is perfect, we still want to be like them and have what they have even if we don’t want to admit it.

I know I am guilty of envy, and I am trying so hard to work on it. It’s crazy; I can say that I am grateful for something one minute and turn around and see someone with a “better” version of “it”, and immediately, I am envious because now, that thing that I was just so grateful for, seems to suddenly pale in comparison. Here is one of my favorite memes. It’s one of those things that is funny but sad at the same time.

How can we constantly say how thankful we are for what we have when our eyes are constantly wandering over to the next best thing? We can’t. The constant need for more steals our present joy and satisfaction with our lives. The constant need to compare our lives with others’ sets us up for unrealistic expectations and leaves a sour taste in our mouths which in turns sours our perspectives on our lives. We miss out on the daily miracles and the beauty that surrounds us because we’re too busy drooling over her new Coach bag or his new iPhone. But at the end of the day, is your life really that bad and are all those other people’s lives really that good?

If we were to take our eyes off our own selfish desires and look at those who are truly less fortunate than ourselves, we may begin to view our lives differently, more positively, more gratefully. Spending time helping others can help us to see just how blessed we truly are. Giving to certain causes that speak to our hearts will help us become more grateful for what we have. My family has a constant reminder of this concept all because of a picture of a young girl we have posted on our refrigerator. While at a Toby Mac concert last month, the opportunity was given for anyone at the concert to sponsor a child through the organization Food for the Hungry. After hearing the presenter’s speech, my heart was broken by the story of a young boy walking miles up and down cliffs to get water for his family only to be pushed to the back of the line by those bigger and stronger than he. The presenter also spoke about his own life and how easy it is for him and his family to get water from several different places around their home without a second thought and how his trip and meeting that young man changed his perspective on just how blessed he was. Believe it or not, it wasn’t I who grabbed the picture of the young lady; it was my 13-year-old son who volunteered to pay out of his allowance (which can range from $40- $80 a month) the $35 a month fee as I sat there calculating if I (the one with the job) could really take on another monthly deduction. Boy, was I ashamed. Now the face on our refrigerator is a visual reminder that no matter how much we complain (the AC isn’t cold enough, the store didn’t have the snack I wanted, my coffee isn’t sweet enough, my phone is outdated), in the grand scheme of things, we really have NOTHING about which to complain.

I am now on a journey to live each day with a heart of gratitude, and I invite you to take this journey with me of learning to start each day that way. My plan is that I will greet each day by giving God praise for waking me up (even if it is to the sound of a screeching alarm well before I am ready to rise out of bed). Then I plan to take time to really take into account all that I have to be thankful for right now, making a list of those things to carry around as a reminder throughout the day. Last but not least, I will find a way to positively touch or bless someone else’s life in some type of way each day. It’s already a part of my daily prayer that I be a blessing to someone else, but now I want to be more intentional about it. Even if I have to set reminders on my phone or write in my planner, “Who have you been a blessing to today?”, I want to stop just talking about it but to actually be about it.

Who will join me on this journey? What will you do to make sure that your gratitude meter stays at full? What will you do to slap yourself back to reality the next time those green eyes of envy start to show? What will you do when you find yourself complaining about something insignificant? Let me know what ideas you have because I might want to try them myself. Share them in the comment section below. I look forward to what you have to say.

Be grateful.

Be thankful.

Love your life.