Somewhere in the first week of November, I realized that several of my Facebook friends were making posts each day of the month stating something for which they are grateful. I've enjoyed reading along. I may try to do something like that next year. As it is, they have helped me look beyond the usual to see things each day for which I am grateful.
I say "look beyond the usual" because I realized on Saturday that gratitude has become an integral part of my daily life. At my 12-step meeting Saturday, I was able to think back clearly to when I didn't have such a deep-rooted sense of gratitude. For many years of my life, this was my predicament: I knew I was blessed. I could see blessings all around me. How could I not feel grateful and blessed? But for whatever reasons, I didn't. I wanted to feel grateful, but it was a longing, not a reality. Some of the 12-step literature reminded me of the process I went through to recognize things that blocked me from feeling grateful. Chief among them: resentment and self-pity, along with a heaping helping of depression. Again, I didn't intend to have those feelings/nonfeelings, but I did.
Through a lot of self-examination, prayer, working with others (some therapy and medicine helped, too), I guess I gradually developed a faith that helped me let go of the resentments and to trust God and to see and feel His very real presence and power in my life. And somewhere along the way, instead of just thinking I ought to feel grateful and wanting to feel grateful, I found myself feeling grateful and blessed, even when I didn't like a particular circumstance or outcome. I became able to see past a situation to focus on God and His love and presence. How could I not feel blessed? How could my heart not sing?
A result of that, for today, is a peace that truly surpasses my understanding. One of the spiritual networks I'm on includes a daily email. For the past week, it focused on Isaiah 26:3: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." (Or, as it is in my mind from a song I once sang but don't still have the music for: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.") I don't remember whether any of those messages made the connection between gratitude and peace, but as I sat in my meeting and was thinking of how an attitude of gratitude went hand-in-hand with letting go of self-pity, resentment and even depression, the awareness I had was that the result is peace. And I feel grateful for the peace.
What a wonderful cycle: Look for things for which to express gratitude to God, let go of self-pity and resentment, and feel God's peace. Look for and see more blessings all around (if you don't think you see any, one easy solution is to reach out and do something kind for someone), express gratitude to God, feel more peace -- and some joy, too!
My heart and soul continue to be filled with a warmth and peace that is beyond my understanding or ability to explain. All I can do is say thank You, God. Please help me keep my focus on You, to Your glory, during this particular season of Thanksgiving and always.