Renewing My Faith
Every year the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress is my way to renew my faith. As I travelled there in March of 2018, I felt concerned that my family and I tended to focus on the bad things happening each day. While I had established a firm tradition of saying the rosary, I wasn’t very consistent with my other prayer practice of writing in a prayer journal (ironic for a writer).
The Best Way to be Holy is to be Grateful
But it’s beautiful that the Holy Spirit always helps. I attended a talk by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, and one of the first things he said is that the best way to be holy is to be grateful. How simple and easy this could be. I would have thought holiness required great sacrifice or acts of significant compassion.
I actually wasn’t sure that I believed him. But then he gave the example of St. Therese, one of my favorite saints, who lived what on the surface seemed to be a very ordinary life, but who always recognized the divinity in each moment. And I suppose that is what gratitude is, understanding the grace that is present in each moment that we are so fortunate to encounter.
There’s an App for That!
After this wonderful inspiration at RE Congress, I had to become practical. How could I make sure gratitude didn’t get shoved off my to-do list? I needed to find a way to put it on my phone. There are fantastic apps for that! I use one that allows me to write a short bullet list of “gratitudes” for each day and include a photo (or not). It can be just a few quick words, or a photo, sometimes a photo as simple as a restaurant sign.
Gratitude Is …
Here are some ways gratitude has happened for me:
- An animal I see when I’m out running, or something new in bloom, or the way the seasons have changed
- Amazing moments, like riding in a hot air balloon
- A simple egg dish my husband always makes for me in advance, because he knows I wake up early
- A shared memory with family or a pet: So many adventures with my daughter, or my nephew explaining tactics for a popular game
- An impactful moment at my healthcare data analysis job: We’re working on exciting projects for chronically ill patients
- An inspiring quote
- A Scripture verse
- Something I’ve learned on a podcast during my commute
- A moment of discernment: A friend of mine photographs heart shapes whenever she sees them, moments of grace that remind her she is following her call from God.
What Happens When It’s Just a Bad Day?
But what happens when there is just a bad day? Sometimes I’ve created a gratitude moment. I thought at first that was artificial—until I realized it became meaningful for someone else. On a Monday, nothing particularly special had happened at work. I hadn’t seen anything beautiful in nature. It was just a blah day. I had nothing to enter in my gratitude journal. Then I had the idea that I could set out a candle and flower at dinner. My daughter lit up despite the bland Monday-ness.
Suddenly we had a gratitude moment!
I hope you encounter many gratitude moments.
*First published at SherryWeaverSmith.com. Used with permission.
Sherry Weaver Smith
Sherry searches for writing ideas while walking in the grasslands of the American West with her family and reflecting on nonprofit work with children in the Philippines and more recently in Portland, OR. She has written two children’s novels published by Pauline Books and Media: The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick and Search for the Hidden Garden: A Discovery with Saint Therese. She is the author of Land Shapes: Selected Haiku Poems (Richer Resources Publications), inspired by geometry, landscapes, and the Chinese brush paintings of artist Sylvia Van Strijthem.