Thursday, November 27, 2014

truly grateful - 4 ways to cultivate gratefulness

Let us learn to 
"[c]ultivate the habit of 
being (truly) grateful."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

" thanks always
and for everything to 
God the Father in the 
name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
-Ephesians 5:20

You may or may not have heard some sort of spiel on the topic of gratefulness, how all we need to do is be thankful for what we have and grateful to others for all they've done, ad infinitum. But even as cliche as that all sounds, I can't stress nearly enough how important cultivating a habit of gratefulness truly is for an individual.

It takes a great heart, a strong will, and a humble spirit to truly embrace a daily habit of being grateful. I am no expert on gratefulness, nor do I embody that virtue especially well. But I do know, with all my heart, that once you start to make a conscious effort to embrace a spirit of gratefulness and when you begin to be thankful for every single thing you have, your life will never, quite ever, be the same.

I've compiled a simple list.


1. Pray For Others. 
I get overwhelmed sometimes by plans going awry, the stress of a difficult class, or really full days without respite (etc). But when I make a conscious effort to simply let go of my cares, and to instead lift in prayer the wonderful people God's put in my life, I come to find that I truly have much to be grateful for. And furthermore, by lifting my friends, my siblings, my co-workers in prayer, I find a deep sense of peace and rest in my Father's plans (even when they seem ever foreign to me). 

2. Send Thank You Notes.
Especially with Thanksgiving today, this is something we should all be doing. While it's important to be grateful for all God's given us, a car, job, or education etc, it is also important to be grateful for the different people God's placed in out lives. Take a moment today to pen out a little note to your favorite professor in college, or perhaps your old basketball coach from high school, to say thank you for all they did to cultivate your love of basketball or history (etc). Let them know they made a difference in your life for good, and that you appreciate all the time and love they spent helping you to grow into the individual you are today. If you don't have their address, see if you can find them on social media and send them a little thank you.

3. Serve Others.
There is nothing quite like giving up your time to help out at a friend's wedding, or painting a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork for a friend, to really cultivate a spirit of gratefulness. I've come to find that giving time and gifts is a huge way I show that I care for someone. I've been blessed with the time I have, the talents I possess, and the willingness to have a cheerful spirit, that I in turn can only give all that back to others. By taking time out of a day to serve others, you'll find that you'll come to appreciate others more intentionally and that you'll begin to cultivate a heart of being truly grateful. Try it!

4. Thank the Giver.
When it really comes down to it, Thanksgiving isn't just about being content and thankful for all we've been given. It's about thanking the Giver. As Jayme put it, "Thanksgiving differs from gratitude in this respect: it requires an object. There must be a Giver to whom we give thanks, and whom we acknowledge as the source of our gifts. Unless we can bring ourselves to offer true thanksgiving to the Giver, our happiness rests on shaky ground" (source). Thanksgiving is an act of communion with the eternal God, for all those items on our "blessings list" right now will someday be taken away. But our Giver is everlasting.

So I've just realized that these three simple steps all have one thing in common, putting others first. It seems that in my own experience, I've found no better way to cultivate grateful living than through loving others. And the best way, to thank our Giver. 

Perhaps it is the same for you. If not, I'd love to hear the different ways that you cultivate a grateful spirit in your daily life!

Wishing you a very Grand Thanksgiving!

All text © 2014 Footprints in the Sand | All Images © 2014 Charity Klicka Photography

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