Three things I’m thankful for today:
-The song “Kings and Queens” by Mat Kearney–especially the line “Richer than Solomon with you by my side” as he expertly blends Scripture into his songs
-Weekend food leftovers to power me through the start of another week
-Books: owning them, reading them, and anticipating their arrival

There is something about gratitude that shifts the perspective.  A few years ago, I was in the practice of writing down things for which I was thankful.  They were often small, inconsequential things.  Yet, even now, when I look back at those pages in my notebook, I smile at the glimpse into my heart and life during that time.

A random sampling from my gratitude journal:
3. Principal observation on a movie day
5. Peace after expressing frustration
29. Gusts of wind that make crunchy leaves trip down the road
37. The post-run feeling of health (following the post-run feeling of death)
59. Stretching out in bed at night
69. Eyes crinkled in laughter
80. Heavy hearts sharing the burden through conversation
133. Answered novenas in unhoped for ways
172. Solo supper with Grandma
176. My students telling me which gifts of the Holy Spirit they think I live out
241. Laughter with students instead of going insane

Some of the events I remember.  For others, I’m not quite certain to what I was referring, but there is a beauty in seeing what moved my heart to express gratitude.  Thankfulness is one of those things that doesn’t quite make sense if there is no God.  Who else can I thank for the peace I feel after settling an argument?  Or for the wind that causes leaves to swirl around on the ground?  These would be mere observations or fleeting thoughts unless they could be expressed to someone responsible for them.

Although I’m not certain they fully appreciate it, I now have my students write down three things they are thankful for each Thursday.  I challenge them to include different things each week, hopefully forcing them to look for things to be thankful for outside of the normal list of parents, sleep, and food.  My hope is that the continual practice of gratitude will gradually change their hearts to naturally encounter it in their day-to-day life.  Written lists are nice, but spontaneous movements of the heart are even better.

At times it takes a while to see the beauty in the day or to consider if there is a new thing for which I can express gratitude.  From the way a ray of light arrests my attention to an unexpectedly sweet moment with a student, the glimpses of the extraordinary in the midst of the mundane awaken me to the beauty that surrounds me.  If I am not looking for it, though, it often passes me unaware.  The days I am conscious about seeing beauty or diligent in desiring to be grateful are the ones where it is easier to express that gratitude.

So in the midst of a bit of January slump, where summer is far off and piles of snow have yet to come, I offer you the reminder to be grateful.  I invite you to see the beauty of your frosty breath that hangs in the air or to revel in the fact that it is pretty hard for students to be failing any classes at this point in the semester.  To fully embrace the loveliness of hope found in knowing that spring will come, regardless of what the winter may yet hold.

Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

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