I know we are already knee deep into December, and while I’m wholeheartedly invested in this Christmas season right now, I don’t want to go any further without sharing about some of ways God moved in my heart in November.
This year – for no one other than myself – I set out on a mission to post on Instagram at least one thing I was grateful for every day of November. But instead of just listing off the major highlights, I wanted to do it in real time. I wanted to truly consider what I could be grateful for throughout each day – whether big picture, overlooked details, or anything that fell in-between. And I wanted to thank God for it all no matter the state of my day.
What inspired me most in this pursuit was Rach Kincaid, who years ago started using the hashtag #getaftergrateful to create a community of people living lifestyles of thankfulness and to recognize Who we are thankful towards – not just when life is good, but more importantly, even when life feels hard or painful or tiring.
What I really like about this hashtag is how it carries on even outside of Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a discipline and habit that can be practiced all year round. I’ve seen Rach place that hashtag on posts with the simplest of moments or details from any given day. I’ve even used it a time or two myself previously doing the same thing. But to help enter into this holiday season I wanted to be really intentional about fostering a spirit of thankfulness, no matter the circumstances of my life.
So I dove into this little project with open hands, and loose expectations. I kind of made up my rules as I went but here’s the main premise of what I set out to do:
- Focus on the day itself. What throughout each day stood out as something that I either felt grateful for, or could choose to be grateful for?
- Be transparent. Be honest about the day. If it was a good day full of good things, praise God. If it was a hard day full of challenging things, still praise God. I don’t want to come across as someone who has their life all in order (well let’s be honest, my enneagram 1 self would love for that to be the perception of my life, but it’s just not true and I don’t want to deceive anyone). And so I wanted to be real about the beautiful and about the mess.
- Don’t limit myself to just one thing each day.
- Repeats are ok. Because I’m often grateful for things for more than one day a month.
- Post a picture from the day. Use my camera for more than just pictures of my dogs, and capture the little things that represent the happenings of the day.
Now that might sound like a lot, but like I said, I had loose expectations. Some days I didn’t follow those guidelines, and I was totally okay with that flexibility.
So in hindsight, here’s what I got out of it all:
- The goal of posting each day of the month ended up causing more discipline with my gratitude. Now I’m not saying that sharing with the world every day what you’re thankful for is necessary for a lifestyle of gratefulness, but this small scale challenge held me accountable to really think through my day, and what I could thank God for despite my feelings. Some days that meant recognizing opportunities for community in a season of dryness. Other days that meant choosing gratefulness for the Harry Potter series for some mental relief. This semi-structured plan of 30 straight days gave me the chance to pause at the end of each of those days and consider the simple & complex things that I could thank God for.
- Gratitude is not just something that we FEEL. It is also an attitude we can CHOOSE. We all have those days that we don’t feel like anything went well. Days where we are worn out or frustrated or hurt. And we don’t feel like thanking God for those things. But whether it’s reasoning behind those feelings, or something small and unrelated that happened outside of that, we can still choose to thank God for so many things in our lives. I wasn’t thrilled the day that I had a lingering headache and a terrible knot causing me back pain, but I was able to still choose gratefulness for the relief that a fridge full of leftovers brought about because I didn’t have to cook. It’s a choice to name the good stuff instead of dwelling on the bad.
- The things that came up numerous times helped highlight threads of God’s blessings and answered prayers. Day to day we might not pay attention to the intricate ways God is at work, but when we piece it all together and take a look back, we can see how He may have been actively involved in the quietest parts of life. For example, coziness and Sabbath were frequently mentioned throughout the month, and I see now how God encouraged me towards spending my time that way to balance me out before a more lengthy holiday trip to our home town – which usually means busyness and a bit of unsettledness at times for me with the lack of routine.
- Sometimes blessings can speak for themselves. Other times it takes some uncovering to really see how a blessing is impacting me. Some days I would list off basic details or events that I was thankful for and call it good. Other days I really dove into why I was grateful for something. Both produced a posture of gratitude towards God for me.
So why share this all with you? Because I want to urge you towards a lifestyle of gratefulness – not so you can ignore the hard stuff, but so that you can see God through it. No so you can just be happy about your life, but so that you can recognize who you are thanking. You don’t have to share on social media (unless you think that might be a cool practice for you – then go for it!), but I encourage you to foster the discipline of choosing gratefulness, rather than waiting for it to come your way. You never know what you might get out of it.
So go on, get after grateful.