Through the Lens of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and although I do love the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, there is something I love even more about it. I love that Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate and give thanks for all that we have been given. Instead of focusing our attention on the things we want, we can focus on the things we already have and the important people in our lives. There are many blessings all around us and yet, many of us take them for granted. That’s why Thanksgiving provides us the perfect opportunity to take a step back and look at the world through a new lens - the lens of gratitude. Our feelings of gratitude impact how we see ourselves, how we see each other, and how we see the world. Gratitude creates feelings of compassion, empathy, hope, and contentment. When we are content with our own lives, we begin to view others and the world in entirely new ways. We are thankful for the moments we share and for the connections that exist between all of us. We want to share this love and joy we feel with others, knowing that love is what truly brings us together.

Many of us know the importance of gratitude, yet it is often easy to overlook. This past spring, my husband and I began the process of looking for a “new” home. We wanted something in a quieter neighborhood that still met the needs of our family. After a long search, we finally found the home we wanted. It needed some work, but we were confident that all would turn out well in the end. We purchased the home and began replacing doors and windows, painting the interior, sheet rocking the garage and basement walls, and laying down new carpet. We also had some electrical and plumbing work done. But just as we thought the repairs were nearly finished, a few pipes started leaking and our oven wouldn’t heat up. Then the following afternoon, we discovered that the heat registers upstairs weren’t working. That’s when our contractor looked and me and said, “It’s like this house has gremlins.” I couldn’t have agreed more. Frustrated, I found myself saying, “You’re right. Everything seems to be going wrong. Can’t something go right, at least once?” Yet, as I listened to my own words in that moment, I realized that perhaps my perspective was part of the problem. For the past several months, I had been focusing on everything that was going wrong. I wasn’t looking at the positive aspects of a quiet neighborhood, a nice yard, or even a cozy home. I had been so focused on the negatives that I couldn’t even see the positives. So that day, I made a decision to be thankful for our home and the many blessings all around me: my husband, my children, our families, our friends, our dog, our health, and the community in which we live.

Once I began looking at my life through this lens of gratitude, I saw things differently. Maybe our house did still need some work, but we had made a lot of progress on the repairs we had already done. I also realized that what made this house a “home” was my family and my connection with them. It was the love we shared and the memories we would make that we would always remember. It showed me that through our connections with each other, our neighbors, our community, and our world, we are able to share the feelings of joy that contentment brings. Now, when I sit at my writing desk, I am thankful for where I am and the simple things all around me: the leaves falling off the trees, the kids playing in the backyard, and even the warm cup of coffee in my hand. I am so grateful for my home and for all of my blessings. My simple shift in perspective changed my life and allowed me to see the value of my connections all around me. I am content and have a new-found appreciation for not only my family and my home, but my neighborhood, my community, and the world as well.

This Thanksgiving, spend time with your family and friends and think about all the blessings in your life. For what or whom are you the most grateful? And what blessings might you have overlooked? When you view your world through the lens of gratitude, it can help you see things in entirely new ways. It enables you to focus on all that you have rather than all that you want. When you change your perspective, you can change your life. Then your compassion, empathy, hope, and love will expand, making all the difference in the world.

Be Like a Child

The summer is finally here, and it is the perfect time for us to break from our usual routines and enjoy our lives more fully. It’s important for us to plan some downtime where we can rest and recharge — even if it’s only for a short while. This summer, I’m planning to do exactly that. I’m taking a break from both my blog and my circling events in order to go within and renew my spirit. I know from past experience that when I take this much-needed downtime, it enables me to feel refreshed and re-energized when I return to my activities. That’s why downtime is so important. It helps us not only recharge, but it also helps us see things in a whole new light. So, I invite everyone to experiment with some downtime this summer. On sunny afternoons, take walks on the beach, read good books, or hike in the woods. Break free from your usual routines and have some fun. I know we all have responsibilities, but we can’t let them weigh us down. We have to learn to let go and laugh more — to be more like children, carefree and spontaneous.

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See Your World in a Whole New Light

As the school year comes to a close, I am reminded how the endings of our lives are also new beginnings. My son is finishing his 5th grade year and will be going off to middle school in the fall. He is thrilled to be moving to a new school and is fully embracing this exciting time in his life. But as his mom, a part of me is sad that he is growing up so fast. Because he is graduating from elementary school, it somehow feels like I’m saying good-bye to his childhood. Yet, this ending is also an incredible new beginning - one where he will discover many things about himself and continue to grow into the amazing man he will become. Watching his eager anticipation of this important transition in his life, I know he is ready, and that makes me very happy indeed.

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Our lives are filled with uncertainties. That’s part of what makes them both interesting and challenging. Right now, our family is living proof of that. Currently, we are searching for a new home. It has been quite a process, and there have been several unexpected developments along the way, but we are trusting that all will work out in the end exactly as it is supposed to. But trusting is not always easy, especially when it involves the important things in our lives. That’s why it’s helpful to remember that we cannot prevent uncertainties and changes from happening to us. So, the ways we choose to respond to these uncertainties becomes very important. If we can trust in the process and learn to “go with the flow,” our lives become much less stressful.  

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Expectations, Expectations, Expectations . . .

As I think about my relationships with myself and those around me, I realize these relationships are influenced by many things. But one of the biggest influencers of these relationships is my own expectations as well as the expectations of others. Expectations are our beliefs about what might happen in the future. We use expectations because they help make our lives more predictable. We learn from our past experiences and then create expectations to help us predict how things will turn out. We expect things such as the sun setting every evening or our parents visiting every Thanksgiving. Expectations are present in every aspect of our lives, but the challenge comes when we try to fit our lives into our current expectations when perhaps there’s another way – a better way. This is especially true in regard to things that are out of our control.  

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