Most of us worry about our size during the holidays. The average American gains 8 pounds at this time of year. I’m thinking about a different size increase today, it is the size of your gratitude.
Selma Blair was diagnosed at age 49 with multiple sclerosis. She has an eight year old. In an article about her journey since the diagnosis she says, I want my gratitude to be bigger than my illness. The article was in People magazine but that line struck me as one of the grandest spiritual truths any of us can learn.
It requires spiritual work to have a gratitude like that. It is a “no matter what” way of looking at life. Rough things do happen. Life is filled with heart wrenching tragedies, tough diagnoses, struggles at home, at work, in our communities and churches. Can we manage a gratitude bigger than all our troubles?
My Thanksgiving gift to you is my Top Ten list of ways to grow your gratitude into an impressively enormous XXXXXXXXXXL size:
1. Go small. When you find yourself running low on gratitude, go small. Hone in on the tiniest thing you can find to be grateful for. I call it the Saltine principal. One of my friends recently went through rough chemotherapy. She said she learned to be thankful for the one Saltine cracker that helped her keep food down. Look for one small cracker in your day, there’s always a cracker to be thankful for.
2. Go daily. You can practice this between now and Thanksgiving. l love short term exercises. Each day simply write down three things you are grateful for. Do not repeat any. See if your gratitude grows.
3. Speak it out loud. My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. She doesn’t have much of a filter anymore. She recently told me she couldn’t recognize me because I was looking too fashionable that day. So much for the other one zillion times she’s seen me being recognizable yet unfashionables. She also has no filter with gratitude either. She thanks me and others out loud, repeatedly for the lunch, for her good day, for helping her. Are you grateful for a coworker? A good meal? A beautiful day? A warm shower? Lose your filter and just say it out loud.
4. Try reverse gratitude. This is the “it could be so much worse” principle. I often try to imagine what it feels like to be homeless, imprisoned, unable to get food or water. It pops my gratitude right into place for all I do have.
5. Be kind to your toughest situations and people. I spend too much time raging over tough people and situations. I do better when I manage to say ______________ is a child of God and worthy of love and grace. Or try fill in the awful situation is in God’s capable hands. Do this with politics and the candidate or member of the other party you can’t stand. See if your gratitude and grace increase in size.
6 Get out of your bubble. Don’t go look at those new cars, that nicer neighborhood, that other person’s trendy clothes, family or life on Facebook. Turn the other direction and see how the people in need in your community are living. Volunteer at a shelter or a soup kitchen or serve someone really hungry or down and out. See what happens to your own gratitude. I expect it will morph into something far bigger than when you go looking at bigger houses or nicer cars.
7. Slow down. It is impossible to be appropriatly grateful if you have no time to breathe, ponder or reflect. If you are telling yourself you can’t possibly subtract anything or pause a moment, I would ask you why. What in the world are you doing that is driving you so hard that you can’t pause?
8. Act yourself into a new way of feeling. This is a counseling principle. It is effective in marriage counseling, treatment for depression and many other conditions we find ourselves in. If you aren’t feeling in love, happy or grateful simply act as if you are. Sometimes feelings follow actions, not the other way around. Write a thank you note or text to someone. Whisper a prayer of thanksgiving. Act like a grateful person and watch your gratitude increase.
9. Be Betty. I’ve known Betty since I was 12. In the course of that time she lost everyone in her family to tragic untimely deaths. Everyone. On her 89th birthday we had lunch. I asked her to share her wisdom of 89 years with me. She looked me in the eye and said, I’ve had a good life. I have so much to be grateful for. I stared at her speechless because I know her backstory. Yet, she is truly grateful. Be Betty.
10. Look up. This is another spiritual mantra for me. When you and I are caught up in problems we forget about God’s presence and power. We are absorbed in us. We become tiny and self absorbed We lose perspective. Want to have xxxxxxxxxxl sized gratitude? Look up.
I’m wishing for you in this season a definite increase in size. Hopefully not your t-shirt size or pants size, just the size of your gratitude.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor who wears an XXXXXXXXXL in gratitude.
Check out Dr. Ryan’s event page http://www.drcindyryanblog.com/events to see her speaking events for 2020 including three women’s retreats which are all open to the community. Sign up at http://www.drcindyryanblog/circle for Cindy’s Inner Circle and receive a Top Ten list like this each month. December’s list is a Top Ten List for Truly Honoring Christ this Holiday Season. Sign up by November 30 to receive it.