Enjoy the Little Things

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Every year my home congregation has a special service during the week of Thanksgiving. Every year the members are asked to write down what they are thankful for on note cards and every year, those cards are read during the mid-week church service. Every year most of the same things are read aloud. We are thankful for God, our families, our friends, a roof over our heads, food on the table, our kids, our spouses, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with being thankful for these, and we really should be thankful for the basic necessities we are all fortunate to have because there are many who do not have these luxuries. But I believe it can become monotonous year after year and only the basic things are put down because we feel they are supposed to be put down, not because we’ve put much thought into why we are actually thankful for them. Not only that, but our thankfulness has also become limited to this one month of November or maybe even just this one church service instead of practicing thankfulness daily.

Granted, time does not allow us to list every specific detail of our lives in which God has blessed us. I understand that. But I believe that many of us put the cliché items down because we feel obligated to mention it because, heaven forbid, our great aunt gets offended because you didn’t mention you were thankful for your family; therefore, she believes you’re not thankful for her either. That is totally untrue, unless of course you do have some sort of grudge against your great aunt, in which case that’s another type of situation which will not be discussed in this post. I apologize. I also believe that we all go about living our lives day to day on autopilot and then the month of November arrives and all of a sudden we’re being thankful because guess what, it’s the month of Thanksgiving.

I did not write out a card this year, mainly because I now live away from home and didn’t think to make one ahead of time. Listening to the cards being read this year, allowed me to reminisce over all the ways God has blessed me so richly. I personally, have tried to improve my level of gratitude over the past several months because it’s a trait I feel has really been lost among many of us today.

I began keeping a Gratitude Journal the beginning of this year and when you download this app to your phone it explains to start off by listing just five things you are thankful for each day. Of course, you can always do more or less than that, but it’s a good starting point. At first, I could not think of anything profound to put into the journal. I thought that I had to have these major events happen in order to put them in writing. What I have come to realize is that huge events do not have to happen in your life in order to be thankful. Just like the quote above describes, you can find something to be grateful for in everything, no matter how small. Maybe you got an A on a test, maybe a close friend sent you a text out of the blue to just say “hi”, or maybe someone complimented your outfit today. I am telling you though, whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you smile, write that down. It can be something as simple as being thankful for the sunny day during your morning walk, the low amount of traffic driving into work that morning, or even the fact that you were actually on time to your 8 AM college class. I know this may be hard to do, but have you thought about being thankful for your struggles? You should be. Your past struggles are what have molded and shaped you into the person you are today. They have only made you into a better, stronger person, why wouldn’t you be thankful for that?

Ever since I started this journal, I have taken more notice of the little things in my life and have started to look at my past struggles in a new light. When you take notice of these little things every day you began to not take it all for granted. All the little things add up to big things, and those big things ultimately affect your life. The same goes for the hurdles you’ve had to jump through to get to where you are. For example, I could look back at myself when I was overweight and think about all the negativity that came along with it. How gross I felt, how low my self-esteem and confidence level became. But if I look at it a different way, if I look at it as a battle I fought to make me into the person I am today, than I truly can be thankful for that time of my life. If I had never overcome my battle with weight loss, I never would have found my love for nutrition and healthy eating. I never would have changed my major, never transferred to a school over four hours away from home, and never would have made some of the best memories of my life in my new setting.

Not only today, but every day, be thankful for the little things, the struggles, the obstacles, and the difficult people in your life. Maybe not at this moment, maybe not even a year from now, but one day you will look back and see the ways in which each minute detail has added up to create such a huge impact on your life that only can be explained by God’s blessings. As always, I’ll leave you with a verse to meditate over:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Invictus

                                                 

Self-control. That moment when you notice the bright red “Hot Now” sign at Krispy Kreme, but pass it on by. That moment when you get an email in your inbox from your favorite store about a HUGE 50% OFF SALE, but delete it anyway. That moment when you start taking back your life and not letting anyone else into the driver’s seat again. Whether you use self-control to keep from indulging on your favorite treats, spending your hard-earned money on clothes you don’t need, or to regain power over your life once again, a lack of it can ruin you and hinder you from living your life the way it’s meant to be.

Starting out on Weight Watchers, I lacked the self-control needed to truly have success on the program. It took a lot of wrong turns to learn that I didn’t need the comfort foods I had so often turned to anymore. I learned that by eating healthier foods I felt much better internally and about myself in general. It took time and a lot of strength and perseverance to build up a resistance every time those comfort foods were presented to me. Slowly, it became much easier to turn down the bad, unhealthy foods and choose the much healthier alternatives. I overcame the obstacles that stood in the way of me reaching my weight loss goals.

Although I learned self-control when it came to the food I put into my body, it has taken me a lot longer to apply that same self-control in my everyday life. I have been burned many times in the past because I didn’t speak up for myself and instead, let someone else take the reins on my life. I’ve let close friends control how I spent my time and even heavily influence my opinions on certain things. I let a guy control my emotions and happiness and somehow blame myself for why it didn’t work out between us. I can no longer let people walk all over me and take advantage of me. It certainly isn’t healthy and although I have greatly improved in this area, it’s still something I struggle with and continually work on daily. I am normally a follower in most situations and circumstances and tend to let other people take the lead. That has always been my nature. I’ve become more comfortable with that. It’s difficult for me to take the initiative because I want to avoid confrontations and arguments, so I hang back and let someone else decide for me. A life lived this way is very dangerous, I know. But while it’s not okay to let other people control your life, there is one who should.

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).

A few months ago, I got a tattoo on my wrist that says, “Invictus”. This is Latin for undefeated or unconquerable. It actually comes from the poem entitled “Invictus”, not from the movie. I got it as a reminder that I am in control of my life, no one else. No one except God of course. God is the One and only who will ever have control and should have control over my destiny. He is the only One that I can give full rein to. When obstacles come in the form of stressful college classes, hard times between family and friends, or what’s expected of me in the future, I give it all over to God. It does not do me any good to sit around and dwell on the situation because sometimes there’s nothing I can do about it at the time. Not to mention, it’s a waste of time and energy to focus all your attention on something that is out of your hands. God knows what is best for me. He knows how the situation should and will be handled. He will also always be there for me so I know I’ll never have to face any situation on my own. It’s comforting to know that fact. To know that I am not alone and to know that I can get through anything when He is by my side. Who really wants to be alone when you’re faced with the tough circumstances life throws your way? It’s a burden lifted off my shoulders when I give all my worries and cares to Him. In time, this has become easier to do, but it is a fight within me that I work to improve so it becomes second nature to automatically turn to God and immediately take it to Him what is on my heart.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:23-25).

“Invictus”

By William Ernest Henley 1849–1903

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.