RENEWING MY FAITH
Every year, attending the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress is my way to renew my faith. As I traveled there in March of 2018, I was feeling 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
It is so beautiful that the Holy Spirit always helps. When I attended a talk at the conference by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, one of the first things he said was that the best way to be holy is to be grateful. How simple and easy this seemed! I would have thought holiness required great sacrifice or acts of significant compassion.
I wasn’t actually sure that I believed him, but then he gave the example of St. Therese, one of my favorite saints. St. Therese (on the surface) lived what seemed to be a very ordinary life, but she always recognized the divinity in each moment. 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 the 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 simple photo (sometimes a photo of something as ordinary as a restaurant sign).
Here are some ways gratitude has occurred for me:
- Seeing an animal when I’m out running, spotting something new in bloom, or noticing the way the seasons have changed
- Experiencing amazing moments, like riding in a hot air balloon
- Enjoying a simple egg dish my husband always makes for me in advance, because he knows I wake up early
- Sharing a memory with family: remembering so many adventures with my daughter or recalling times with my nephew explaining tactics for a popular game
- Having an impactful moment at my healthcare data analysis job where we’re working on exciting projects for chronically ill patients
- Reading an inspirational quote
- Finding a pertinent Scripture verse
- Hearing and learning something new on a podcast during my commute
- Experiencing a moment of discernment: e.g., 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?
What happens when it’s just a bad day? Sometimes I’ve created a gratitude moment. I thought at first that was artificial – until I realized it could be meaningful for someone else. On a certain 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. Published with permission.
Sherry Weaver Smith
Sherry searches for writing ideas while walking in the grasslands of the American West with her family or while 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.
I Will Give Thanks
Gratitude is a gift given to us by God. At its core, gratitude is about not taking anything for granted. Living a life of gratitude is about learning to draw near to God, being thankful for what we have, who God is, and who He created us to be.
Gratefulness is choosing to focus on God rather than our circumstances. Fixing our eyes on Jesus reminds us of His gracious, compassionate love and unending faithfulness.