It is easy for me to get worked up about the evil going on in the world, or about how I fail often at being the mother and wife God wants me to be. By becoming distracted by all of the darkness, or by allowing a self-loathing dialogue to run rampant in my mind, I am allowing the Enemy to win in my heart. He wants me to despair. He wants me to think that he has won and that there is no point in fighting back, in serving others, or focusing on my family. That is his creed: despair. But, the truth is that Jesus Christ won the battle for us all by dying for our sins and showing us the hope of Eternal life. That does not mean that this life is easy, but it does mean that love and hope always will conquer over evil. It just may be that we will not fully understand until we are with Him.
When my husband I were dating he would tell me to write down 10 things that i am grateful for that day. Our engagement was full of stress, family medical issues, and change. When I would allow my job, family, or the world to get to me, he would tell me to focus on what I am thankful for in each moment. I have had gratitude journals off and on for about five years, but I have not done a great job of keeping up with it. Then, when I was sick as a dog while pregnant with my daughter, I discovered the blog, A Holy Experience, http://www.aholyexperience.com, through my friend Dana’s Facebook posts.
Her blog is beautiful. Her words are like poetry and speak deep truth that bring me peace and reminds me that I am not alone. Sometimes I read her writing and think we were separated at birth. Like me, she has struggled through periods of loss and anxiety. She knows what it is to live on auto-pilot. One day she woke up from a nightmare and realized that she truly wanted to live and she discovered that gratitude was the way to accomplish living a Christ-centered life. Even though we differ theologically, her message is one that all of us need to take in. It is the same message that my husband has been trying to get across to me.
What happens to me when I start being grateful for all I have and truly pay attention to what is going on in my life? I start to notice the way the sunlight falls across the room early in the morning. I can see the way the breeze rustles my daughter’s golden hair. I see her long eyelashes and her beautiful, radiant eyes. I see my husband’s smile. I am touched by the joy he brings Michaela when he gets home from work. I savor the smell of soup cooking in the Crockpot. I laugh at the squirrels trying to steal our sunflower seeds. I start to see Christ in the people around me. I have more strength when bad news comes, as it will in this life. I pray more because I know that joy and pain are joined together. I am more generous. A full heart wants to share its blessings.
A lot of us are frustrated, or downright disgusted, with our government right now. Many of us worry about the state of the world: poverty, hunger, disease, terrorism, worldwide Christian persecution, abortion, attacks on marriage, attacks on the Church, the hurt our children experience, the suffering of the ones we love. The truth of the matter is that suffering is a part of life here. It is how God refines us in the Divine Furnace, as our recently retired priest told me in Confession, as I cried about my most recent miscarriage. We are guaranteed to suffer in this lifetime, but we also experience tremendous glimpses of joy. I never realized how blown away I could be by the golden sunlight illuminating my daughter’s face. I only had to pay attention and offer my thanks to God.
When I close my heart off to Him. When I focus on the darkness, then I cannot find my way. If I focus on what God is doing in my life and throughout the world, then all I see is Him. He is who I must focus on if I am going to keep up the good fight. He is who is going to guide my husband and me in protecting our daughter and bringing her up in the Faith. He will be the one who will show us the way through health problems and grief. Sometimes he has to carry us for a while before we realize He has been there all along. As human beings, we get lost in ourselves. Instead we must step outside of our own inner dialogue, our own pain, even our own families, and listen for the sweet whisper of Our Lord.
Have you tried writing down things that make you thankful each day? I have a journal that I use to write down my gratitude. Even just taking five minutes to write down a couple of things can change the course of my entire day. Give it a try. Offer up your thanksgiving and see how the abundant blessings flow.