Monday, January 4, 2016

Celebrating Five years of Thankfulness Journaling

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of keeping a Thankfulness Journal! I found all my Thankfulness Journals this evening and was astounded to see that there are 14 notebooks from these past five years! It begins on January 3, 2011. That day I recorded what led me to start this journey:
"Bought a book by Debbie MacComber about generosity called "One Simple Act." The first part talks about how important gratitude is and that it is a prerequisite for generosity. On page 21 she quoted from Stephen Post who said that, 'grateful care-givers are healthier and more capable than less grateful ones.' Interesting in light of how God keeps prompting me to give thanks for all the help he has given me when I start pleading with Him lately for help and saying, 'I can't take it. Help me know what to do. Bring this trial to an end, etc.' On page 23 she gives a list of ways to become more grateful (so we can be more generous.) She says, 'each day write 5 things you are grateful for... practice praise... stay alert to God nudges,' and act on them. And the biggy--'thank God in all circumstances.'"
She told the story of how Corrie Ten Boom learned to give thanks even while being held prisoner in a  Nazi concentration camp. The barracks that Corrie and her sister Betsy were held in was seriously infested with fleas. One day Betsy, said they should give thanks even for those. Corrie didn't see how or why they should give thanks for the fleas, but she reluctantly did it to please Betsy. Later they found out that the fleas had kept the prison guards at a distance so the sisters were able to freely have Bible studies with the other ladies who were with them. 

I was already learning to be more thankful for minor inconveniences and seeing that they often brought unexpected blessings. But when I thought of some of the really big stuff I was struggling with (Mom's dementia and my own frequent health problems) I didn't know if I could be thankful for those. I wrote it, "feels like a real stretch...-- a leap of faith," but "what is there to lose?"

Looking back I would say the answer is: Nothing. Nothing to lose and much to gain! I admit I haven't ever really been able to give thanks for my Mom's dementia or my continuing health problems. I'm not sure I should. But I am learning to find things to be thankful for even in the middle of the suffering.

My first Thankfulness Journal entry was all nice warm-fuzzy stuff.

However, my determination to continue keeping the thankfulness journal faced one of it's toughest tests on the second day! I remember having a particularly painful misunderstanding and blow-up with one of my then care-givers. I was also apparently super stressed about my never ending to-do list as a full time care-giver. Life clearly felt out of control. I wrote:
Can't do it too many things feel like I'm going to explode or implode maybe both.
I know, supposed to list 5 things I'm thankful for and include the fleas--yikes! HELP!!
here goes...
    I'm thankful for
1. the opportunity to learn how to better communicate with B [care-giver]
2. the opportunity to learn to delegate more effectively
3. the opportunity to learn to plan and organize my life better
4. the opportunity to learn to to be more patient and trust God
5. the opportunity to learn to become more efficient in the use of my time
Looking at my messy handwriting and poor punctuation my emotions were clearly not warm and fuzzy--more like hot and bothered!

I don't remember the details of my misunderstanding with B.  I do remember that after writing this I accidentally called a good friend, K, on the phone when I meant to call one of my Mom's sisters. It was a happy accident! Although I had not talked with K for a long time we had a nice talk and I shared the struggle I was having with B. She was able to give good impartial feedback and calm advice that really helped a lot! A little later, by God's grace, B and I did get our troubles sorted out.

I'm thankful:

1.  For Five years keeping a thankfulness journal--doing anything steadily for that long is a big deal for me.

2.  That even though I don't do it every day there is still grace and blessing in it. (I did do it faithfully every day for the first year. After that I gave myself grace to be a little more relaxed. I also determined ahead of time that i would not try to catch up and make up for days missed--I wanted to keep it up and knew if there was too many rules I would not be able to!)

3. That I am sure it has been good for my health and competence as a care-giver (see above quote from Stephen Post.) Considering how many health problems I have had these last five years, though, if I had not been keeping a thankfulness journal I would probably be dead, or in a nursing home myself!

4. That John and I survived another drive up to Addison today--It seemed doubtful a couple of times!

5. Dr. K did not give me a hard time for continuing to have problems with the crown. He adjusted it a bit more and said that sometimes things shift. (Please God help them only shift the right direction from now on!)

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