Give thanks sign

How to Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

 

Yesterday was one of “those” days. You know what I mean. Sometimes before you go to bed at night you say, “Tomorrow I’m going to do thus and such. It’It is going to be a beautiful day and I’m looking forward to doing the things that I’m planning to do.”

A wise sister once told me, “We cannot always control our circumstances but we can control our attitude about our circumstances.” That is so true. So how do we do that? I believe that I have learned how to give thanks with a grateful heart and I am happy to share that experience with you.

The Best Laid Plans

You know what they say:Best laid plans image

For those of you who tend to be more scripture focused, it goes like this:James 4:13-16

Yet in “Real Life”…

I snuggled into my comfy bed, letting my CBD oil work its magic which allowed me to drift off into a deep, blissful sleep.CBD oil

(In case you don’t know, CBD oil is a wonderful gift of nature. It is not liquid marijuana and it doesn’t make you high. If you find that little tidbit confusing or intriguing, the link above will take you to Effie who will patiently explain how it all works.)

Four hours later I woke up with the worst headache I have ever experienced in my life. At least it is the worst headache since the last worst headache I ever experienced in my life which happened several years ago since I’m not prone to headaches.

After about an hour of gentle shoulder stretches and the two-hundredth re-positioning of my pillow, I decided that maybe allowing myself just one Tylenol might take the edge off of the pain and allow me to sleep. After all, weekends are made for rest and relaxation, right?

By the time the Tylenol kicked in and the headache had abated, my brain was wide awake planning the day ahead. A quick glance at the clock informed me that it was 4:45 a.m. Close enough! Coffee time! Well. It would be coffee time if there was any decent coffee in the house. There is really no point in getting out of bed when there is no decent coffee in the house unless of course there is really good chocolate! Alas, even 70% dark chocolate with cocoa beans isn’t enough to drag me out of bed. It is too sweet for 4:50 a.m.

Give Thanks…

coffee bean heart
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Thank (God, the gods, and the universe–or whatever powers that be in your life) for online friends to check in with. One had left me an encouraging message, one had shared a bit of humor, and another had been up working for hours and had a project to show me. After catching up with my friends, I was ready to get up and start my well-intended day.

As I rolled out of bed, I suspected the day may not go quite as I had planned. My hip had a little hitch which meant anything that has to do with standing, bending, sitting, or walking was going to present a challenge. (I have osteoarthritis and sciatica. You can read about that here.) Furthermore, twisting was not an option. Oh, well. That meant no computer work, no yard work, and no hiking. There were other things I could do with my time. Dishes, for one. Where there are hungry boys and men there will always be dishes.

I indulged in two cups of mediocre-at-best coffee, found a reasonably comfortable position with the aid of some pillows and caught up on some of my computer-based tasks. Hours later, I grabbed a quick bowl of oatmeal topped with an assortment of heart-healthy add-ins, threw on a dress, and headed out the door for a nearby funeral.

A short time later, I found myself seated at the longest–funeral–ever! At least that is what it seemed like as I sat there feeling a bit tired and appropriately sad on a bench that was too high, with a hip that couldn’t cooperate. In truth, we were celebrating a wonderful lady and I wanted to be there among people who knew her well and loved her deeply. I just couldn’t sit still and as I wiggled this way and that, trying to find a position that felt right, I noticed that my bench squeaked with every subtle movement. If anyone else was aware, they didn’t let on.

Singing in churchWith a Grateful Heart

What really saved me was the fact that I happened to be in a United Methodist Church and United Methodists are big believers in lots of singing and especially keen on singing every single verse while standing on your feet. Sing a little, sit a little. Sing a little, sit a little.

By the time the funeral was over and I walked out into the outside world, it truly was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, spring blooms decorated the landscape and birdsong filled in the air. I hobbled to the car thinking that it was a perfect day for a walk in the woods or some yard work but I knew that those activities were not going to be an option.

After lunch, I ran to town to pick up a prescription for my ailing husband (who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery) and while there, I had a brilliant idea! I could use one of the granny carts to walk around the store and hopefully loosen my hip without putting undue stress on my leg. I would have the cart for support if my leg would suddenly give out on me. It was a good idea, and it would have worked if I had not gotten one of those carts with a wonky wheel. It wibbled and wobbled all over the place and made me feel slightly woozy. That idea was quickly abandoned!

There are several routes from the pharmacy back to my house and I chose the longest, most scenic one that led me past pastures of cows contentedly munching on grass as cows were created to do. Behind them, farmhouses, orchards, and mountains drew my attention and I thought how cool it would be if my talented photographer/friend could be with me, capturing it all to savor on cold winter days when I sit by the fire daydreaming of spring.

Let the weak say, “I am strong”.

By the time I reached home, I felt determined to get outside and find some way of Gnarled walking stickabsorbing the wonders of the beautiful day. Somehow, I felt empowered to face my circumstances and push past my inability to walk with stability (I won’t say “disability”) across the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, my body was in disagreement with my mind. Step, step, step, oops–no leg! Step, step, step, step, step, step, step, oops–no leg! I have never actually fallen to the ground when my leg stops working but I have had many close calls.

Still, the outdoors was beckoning me. It’s spring! How can I not go out? Then I remembered the advice my online exercise coach gave me about grabbing a stick and going. Therefore, that is what I did. Meet my friend “Gnarly-stick”. I took Gnarly-stick for a walk and Gnarly-stick brought me home. Today I learned the art of stick-walking.

Gnarly-stick is not just an ordinary stick, but an extraordinary extra-long twisty-turny stick. With a stick like that, a person can do all sorts of compensations. Walking up the hill, I held Gnarly-stick in front of me, tilted to the left, and “rowed” my way up the hill. When my leg went “oops”, I held Gnarly-stick in front of me with both hands and let my “third leg” hold much of my weight until I was ready to move on. On level ground, Gnarly-stick walked beside me: step, clunk, step-step, clunk.

Let the poor say, “I am rich”.

One of my greatest life lessons comes from the Bible which says,

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” ~Matthew 12:34 NKJV

Whatever thoughts and feelings we carry in our hearts will eventually come out our mouths, often whether we like it or not.

I’m not one to promote “positive confession” or “affirmations” because, for me, that feels backward. We can go around saying positive words all day long but if our hearts are heavy and disagree with our words, positive change is not going to happen.

gold coins
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Here is what I suggest. No matter what is happening to you or around you, there is likely something good lingering in the background. Focus on that thing or those things because once you pay attention, you will most likely find many good things to appreciate.

When I look back upon myself struggling to walk around the block, I am almost embarrassed by what other people saw as I hobbled by. Without that stick, I’m not sure I would have made it. Whatever possessed me to think that it was a good idea to take a walk around the block, which is more than a mile long and mostly uphill when I could barely make it across my small kitchen without grabbing for objects to keep my balance?

Give thanks with a grateful heart

I’m not talking about a “conjured up” positive attitude. I’m talking about a joy beyond measure that wells up inside me because I am truly grateful for the good things in my life.

Those online friends I mentioned? My heart swells when I consider them! They have given me many truly amazing gifts: acceptance, joy, and laughter are among my favorites! When I am down, they lift me up. I cannot count the times I may be sitting alone by myself working on the computer when someone drops in and I suddenly laugh out loud at something the dear one has shared. Support and patience from family and friends is also something I am deeply thankful for.

On that walk, I was in tremendous pain! Somehow, at the time, that paled in light of the other sights, sounds, and feelings that were available to me:

  • The scent of spring flowers blooming
  • The sight of a father and son working together in their yard
  • A man and his wife enjoying a quiet conversation on their porch
  • They teeny little wildflowers in the grass at my feet
  • The tiny beginnings of redbuds beginning to form on the tips of nearby branches
  • Bulbs, likely planted by squirrels, coming up in the corner of my yard
  • Birds flitting from tree to tree, or ground to tree with twigs for nests

In the midst of our trials and hardships, there are things to be grateful for. Focus upon these things and you will begin to feel lighter. Soon you will take notice of other things around you that are worthy of appreciation. As you continue to appreciate the good things, they multiply! The unpleasant things begin to melt away. As if empowered by a force outside of ourselves, it becomes natural to give thanks with a grateful heart!

What are you grateful for? What strengthens you when times are hard? Please share your joys with others by commenting below. Above all, if you think that this story may encourage someone you know, please pass it on!

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  1. You have such a beautiful and insightful outlook on life!! I love it!!

    I have enjoyed reading this, from the quotes and the coffees to your daily experiences and observations!! Life is what we make of it and you inspire me to improve on mine! Thank you!!

    Now, I have to go back and read more into your links, especially “For the Love of Mocha”!! 😀

  2. Wow, Theresa, thank you for sharing this article with me.
    I think there are lots of things that we can be grateful for in life. Even if there are too many negative things in our life, we can find a lot of positive things. I like when you say:
    We can go around saying positive words all day long, but if our hearts are heavy and disagree with our words, positive change is not going to happen.
    That is true.

  3. After reading this, I wish I could point you to some of the content on the first-ever blog I tried (the one where I used my name, too! haha). A good bit of my content — and, indeed, much of my photography — was focused on trying to share the appreciation of Life’s Little Joys. You would have seen yourself reflected in my writing as I have seen myself here in your lovely post.

    None of us has a perfect life. There are problems, pain, sadness, worry, grief, and more. BUT… There is also so darn much beauty around us, and so many things to be grateful for, and, in noticing the beauty and expressing the gratitude, we can step beyond our immediate problems and remember there is more to life than what weighs us down. Thank you for offering us such a beautiful reminder of this through sharing your day and your experiences, both the not so good and your intentional effort to make it better.

    The truth is we all have the potential to “make it better.” Sometimes we just forget we have that power. It is oh-so good to receive reminders.

    Have you read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle? It was a life changer for me (not the easiest read, but worth the effort, imho) and is exemplified in your post. Despite the obstacles, you found a way to get out and be present in the beauty around you.

    One of these days, I will take a picture for you of my “not so gnarly” walking stick. It’s the branch of a small tree we had to remove to widen the driveway so the truck could deliver the 12×40′ shed we converted to the cabin we now call home. The stick came off the tree at just the right length for my barely-over-five-foot height and, in over a year of twice-daily use walking the dog, has developed a naturally-polished “handle” area that belies what a steadfast companion it has become. Sometimes my stick offers protection (shooing away snakes). Other times it bobs easily along side me (step-clunk!) on level paths. But, most often, it offers the necessary support to get me up or down a steeper mountain path successfully where I might otherwise suffer serious injury (or, at the least, and embarrassing and muddy-ing fall). These simple “tree gifts” can make so many things possible for us, and I’m so glad you have a trusty Gnarly Stick. And, really, who cares what the neighbors may think!

    Your positive outlook and “attitude of gratitude” are most inspiring, Theresa. And being a day-brightening online friend goes both ways, as you have surely brightened mine and lifted me up on many occasions. I am truly grateful for your friendship.

    Thank you, also, for linking to my site in your lovely post. There is nothing quite like coffee with friends, and I hope one day we will get to share a cup (or two) together in person.

    1. Hi, Cheri. You have a gift for encouraging others. Thank you for that. I marvel at how much we have in common even though I think you are better at being me than I am. It makes me laugh!

      I have not read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle but I will look it up.

      It really makes me happy to know about your “barely-over-five-foot height” because that means you are the perfect size for a bear hug! No kidding, this morning on the way to school I was talking about the day we will finally get to meet in person and I said, “What if she’s tall?” Now that we have gotten that out of the way, my only other concern is “What if she uses heavily scented laundry or personal care products?”

      I’m sure I’ll love you regardless!

  4. What a beautiful post Theresa, you really know how to see the best in things even though it seems you are living with chronic pain.

    My favourite exercise to fill your heart with thanks is to write a gratitude list. Every night before bed, make a list of 50 good things happened to you that day, even if you think you had a bad day you can always find small things when you really think, even if it’s as simple as somebody smiling at you or a hot shower.
    It works wonders, and you always go to sleep and wake up with a smile:)

    1. That sounds like a wonderful exercise, Stefanie. Fifty good things seems an awful lot of writing but a perfect way to end the day. I tend to be grateful “in the moment” and that feeling carries me through the day. Right now I am sitting in an empty coffee shop with a full cup of brew, next to a lovely fireplace overlooking a well-stocked produce department. Life is GOOD!

  5. This touched me right in the spot it was supposed to. My heart. So many people, myself included, take every day for granted when it is something that should be cherished. So I thank you, with a grateful heart, for poeting this.

  6. There is a saying in my country: “Relatives are choices of the blood. Friends are choices of the heart “.

    You and all the other friends of mine are what I am grateful for. Being given a place in the heart and the thoughts of someone is a gift, a precious gift.

    I am grateful for my cats, my flowers, my joys, and my sorrows, the hugs and the kicks, the happiness and the pain, the light and the darkness I have been given by life. Yes, it’s life I am grateful for!

    And.. I am thankful for this inspirational article. Thank you so much, Theresa!

    1. Effie, you are one of the strongest women I know. Perhaps part of that is because you are grateful for the sorrows, the kicks, the pain, and the darkness. You embrace all of life! 🙂

  7. “Today well lived is but a day well spent, tomorrow is but a day of hope” from the Sanscrit.

    It goes on to say of being appreciative of what we have and preparing well for tomorrow with positive thoughts and an attitude of gratitude.

    I thought this would be appropriate here.

  8. Hi Theresa,

    My Fiancé said this to me the other day, “When you have gratitude in your life, it’s impossible to feel anything else.” Your post made me think of this. Many people would not attempt to get out for a walk with osteoarthritis and sciatica acting up, but with the help of your trusty ‘gnarly-stick’ you chose to be grateful for a beautiful day.

    You asked what are we grateful for? Well we are grateful for our two kids most of all, our dog, and the home we all have together. At the end of the day when Shelley and I get in bed together, no matter how hard the day may have been, if we are all safe and happy in our home, we feel grateful.

    Thank you for your post 🙂

    Rodney and Shelley

    1. Thank you for sharing. I really like what you said about gratitude making it impossible to feel anything else. That is so very true. Going to bed grateful sets the tone for a night of peaceful sleep and a well-lived tomorrow. Theresa

  9. Wow Theresa, You have the gift of putting something seemingly mundane into something very interesting like that Gnarly-stick. Who would have thought that humble, Gnarly-stick, almost useless as many would consider, become a thankful object?
    After reading your post, I now realize we should never take for granted what’s around us. Everything has its purpose and value if we care enough to find out.
    Thanks for such a wonderful post.

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