This post could have very well been called “Give Thanks: The Power of Gratitude,” or even “It Could Be Worse: Why You Should Be Grateful It’s Not” but what all these things boil down to is how you choose to see any given situation. Not just how you shift your mindset or world view to glass half-full or half-empty, but why it’s important to make a deliberate decision to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
The Thrifty Chicks, in solidarity with our church, have been on a 40 day fast for Lent. As part of the fast we committed to getting some physical activity every day (a little weak here even though we’re runners), maintaining a low-fat, low-sodium vegetarian diet (we got this) and enduring water-only, sunrise to sunset fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays (the struggle is so real).
And if all that weren’t enough our pastor challenged us to give up one last thing for Lent. He encouraged us to give up something bad like guilt, anger, greed and jealousy because they are enemies of the heart. And the tools for defending against those enemies are confession, forgiveness, generosity and celebration and gratitude.
Guarding your heart from discontent
Last Sunday our pastor preached on the importance of celebrating others when you are jealous and being grateful for your own circumstances regardless of what they are. The piece about gratitude planted a seed that I didn’t know would need to take root so quickly in my week because gratitude also is a tool for defending against another enemy of the heart: discontent.
I’ve been sharing with Reese that I don’t see myself pursing my profession the way I currently do for the next 20 years, maybe not the next 10 or even the next 5. A lot of it has to do with the changes I’ve witnessed in my industry. Some of it has to do with the daily realities of doing my job.
There’s a good chance it’s burnout talking, but there’s another chance it’s this deep yearning I have to do something a little different. It’s a scary place to be because 1) I spent a lot of money going to school for this and 2) I really have no vision, inkling or clue of what that something different is.
Until I get more clarity I try to stay focused on my right now, and then, BAM! The mother of frustrating work week hits me and I do not respond with the kind of resiliency that I usually do. I posted this on my Facebook page:
As I predicted (or likely invited into existence), the day did get more frustrating and I just couldn’t shake how I felt about it all. I could feel the tension in my neck and my back to the point that I was in physical pain and remember thinking, “This is how people die at work or on their way home from work.” As I was driving home from work, I said out loud everything that I’d been thinking in my head. Anyone looking into my car would have likely wondered if I was having a heated discussion on my hands free ear piece, or that I was seriously bugging out. By the time I got in the house and got settled I was calm. I picked up a book that Reese and I are reading titled “Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity” by Adam Hamilton.
We’re reading the book as supplemental information for Operation Do Better, but it’s been so much more. I happen to be on the third chapter of the book which I had forgotten, after putting it down for a few weeks, is entitled “Cultivating Contentment.” Hamilton denotes four keys for cultivating contentment, but two of them jumped out of the chapter, grabbed me by the shoulder and gave me a firm shake.
Hamilton says, “Remember that it could be worse,” and “Develop a grateful heart.”
Can you say ‘aha moment’? I had actually started that process in the car on the way home without even realizing it. I reminded myself , after I’d finished ranting, that I was grateful to have a job, one on many days I can find a reason to like. I’m grateful to have supervisors and coworkers who are beyond understanding and supportive. When I think about it logically, I’ve kind of got it made in the shade compared to some people. Does that mean I might not still go pursue that yearning? No, but it does mean I can focus on the right now and easily find a reason to give thanks.
Above all I’m grateful for that revelation that after nearly 40 days of fasting and feeling like I wasn’t getting any answers about anything, that I did give up something else bad for Lent. I gave up discontent.