Gratitude in the Particular

by Elizabeth

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I like to think of myself as a content, happy person: my life is good, and I lack for nothing.

At least I used to think I was content and happy. That was before I realized — to my horror — that my prayer journal was filled with lament. Not thankfulness, not appreciation, but lament, through and through.

I have an everyday journal where I like to complain to God — er, pray. And I have an extra-special journal where I record the lyrics to my favorite worship songs. But until recently, I didn’t have a place to chronicle my gratitude.

I thought perhaps this was a problem for me. That maybe it’s one of my incongruous places: a place where my orthodoxy doesn’t match my orthopraxy. A bottle-necked area of my life. A cramped space in my soul that needs expanding.

Like so many of you, I’ve read about the importance of practicing gratefulness, of writing in a dedicated gratitude journal. Ann does it. Crystal does it. Good heavens, even Oprah does it. So I thought I’d try it.

And you know what I discovered? I’m terrible at it. I couldn’t think of specific things to be thankful for. I kept running into trouble thinking over my day and looking for the blessings. I couldn’t always find good things. All I could see was stress — and that very fact troubled me.

I could think of general things; I’m a very thankful person in the general. I’ve written all about my general love of creation, my general love of Cambodia, my general love of the church, my general love of worshiping, my general love for my husband. And those generic things were the only things I could think of when I started this venture. They are the things I kept recording on the pages of my pretty, pink journal.

Now don’t get me wrong, gratitude in the general is GREAT. But I’d like to inscribe more specifics into that brand-new journal of mine. I’d like to flex my gratitude muscles. I’d like to learn how to reflect on my day and see the “patches of Godlight” in it.

And I’m starting to. I’m noticing the little things and memorializing them. I’m seeing the small joys and giving thanks. But I’m a novice, a beginner. I haven’t yet learned gratefulness in the particular.

Then again maybe that’s what the gratitude journal is all about.

2 thoughts on “Gratitude in the Particular

  1. I think once you start you’ll start seeing it every where. One of Shauna Niequist book’s (maybe Cold Tangerines) talked about seeing God in our lives. It was like pennies. When you aren’t thinking of them, you don’t see them anywhere. Once you start looking they are everywhere. Of course, she says it so much better. 🙂

    • Well it’s very exciting to think of it in that way, seeing it more and more! Funny thing is I’m also seeing more and more of the big picture of Grace as I look for the particular, “little” graces of the day, and it’s pretty exciting too 🙂

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