Top 12 things I’m grateful for in 2012

Recently I wrote a blog post for my personal blog, My 2012 gift list, and listed the most significant gifts I received in 2012. I didn’t list tangible objects or even relationships on the list–I limited my gift list to the intangible yet priceless blessings I received in the form of lessons, inspirations, and virtues.

Today I thought it might benefit my soul to take a look back at 2012 and identify the top 12 things on my annual gratitude list.

  1. DSC_0075_edited-1Margaret Jacqueline. This year, my husband and I were surprised to learn that we had unintentionally created a human being. We were ecstatic to learn that we would be parents, and we are overcome with joy to share our lives with her each day. I’m truly grateful for her health throughout my pregnancy, for a safe delivery, and for her health and happiness every day since then. At six weeks old, she’s already living up to the meaning of her name and bringing sunshine into every moment of our lives.
  2. Health. Going through a somewhat rough pregnancy fraught with rough patches, complications, and negative symptoms made me much more aware of how blessed I am to be healthy most of the time. As I recover from delivering my baby, I continue to pause each time I realize just how good I have it. I can clean my house myself. I can bend over and pick things up and exercise. Not everyone I know can do these things, and I’m grateful I can.
  3. A’s. This year I completed 24 hours of graduate school and somehow, in spite of five months’ worth of morning sickness, ten months’ worth of migraines, and severe lack of sleep, I managed to make A’s in all my classes. I am so thankful God enabled my brain to function well in the absence of sleep, but more amazingly, in the absence of caffeine :).
  4. 033My husband. This year I married the one man who encapsulated the wish list I wrote months before I met him. I call him my “Wild at Heart” man; as an avid John Eldredge fan, I decided (one month before I met my husband) that I would ask God for a man like the one described in John Eldredge’s book. I knew it was a long shot–I’ve been divorced twice and knew I might be asking for something I’d never receive. But God blew my expectations out of the water, brought my husband into my life, and has blessed us with a trusting, peaceful, romantic relationship that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
  5. Real friends. I’ve always learned when going through trials and tribulations which friends were true friends. This year, I also learned which friends love me enough to celebrate the blessings in my life despite their own schedules, difficult circumstances, or limitations. All year long, I felt showered with blessings by my friends in various forms–phone calls, messages, cards, gifts, visits, acts of service and kindness–and I’m really thankful for each real friend in my life.
  6. Reality. I often live in fear of things out of my control–I worry and fret over things that most often never come to pass. This year, I learned that what I fear is not as scary as I thought, and that all the time I spent worrying could have been spent positively–writing, praying, or laughing. When I was pregnant, I worried that I’d wind up covered in stretch marks on my stomach. I didn’t get a single one. I was afraid of various complications during and after delivery, including prolapsed bladder. I’m happy to report that I pee perfectly well. I’m grateful that in many cases, reality is much kinder than I give it credit for.
  7. Our church. I spent over two years searching for a church that fit not only my credo but also my picky preferences. This year, God matched us up–and used a persistent friend of mine in the process–with a church that matches our needs and wants and then some. We already had our own personal relationships with God–we just didn’t have a group of people to share those relationships with. Now we do.
  8. Gratitude. It seems funny to list gratitude on my gratitude list, but I really am grateful for it. In 2012, I listed “be more grateful” as one of my bucket list items. In order to motivate myself, I started this blog. Since then, and about 125 blog posts later, I’m pleased to report that it worked. Writing blog posts has served as a catalyst for my personal growth. I find myself contemplating my blessings in order to create new blog posts; I spend more time focused on what I have to be grateful for and less time mulling over what I’m missing.
  9. Recovery. I’ve been a member of a twelve-step recovery program for family members and loved ones of alcoholics for over five years now. This year, I committed myself a little deeper to developing our itty bitty local chapter of the program and to attempting to share some of the experience, strength, and hope I’ve found with people around me who might benefit from it. I started praying for our local group and asked God to multiply our efforts; He has. The group has tripled in the past few months in membership, and new people show up periodically, too. I reconnected with my sponsor who lives in another town and continue to experience insights and growth as a result of our relationship. I’m sure this item will be on my gratitude list for years to come.
  10. My employment status. Having been willfully unemployed since July, I’m super grateful for the opportunity to not work. I’ve worked since I was 13 years old. I’ve tutored children, taught gymnastics, served french fries, cared for emotionally disturbed teenagers, taught classes, edited resumes, sold software, and advised college students. But this year, my husband decided to give me a break and let me focus on graduate school instead of on earning an income. Now that I’m caring for our newborn daughter, I’m continuing that hiatus from the world of paid employment and am thankful for the chance to do so.
  11. RPM’s. For those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to have reaped the spiritual benefits of a recovery program, RPM stands for reading, prayer, and meditation. Some of you who foster your own personal relationship with God might refer to RPMs as devotional time. No matter which way you slice it, spending time with God is one thing I’m most grateful for this year. Having gone through some very tough spiritual valleys earlier in the year, which I thankfully found my way out of with the help of a great counselor, I learned to depend even more on my time alone with God. Each morning, I spend a little (or a lot, depending on the day) time with God reading Scripture, praying, and meditating on what I’ve read and on the nuggets of wisdom He imparts. Life without RPMs for me means spiritual atrophy. I’d rather keep growing.
  12. Prioritization. This year, I learned to let go of some of my priorities in lieu of more important things–namely, my own health, my marriage, my daughter, and my education. I could have kept working in order to earn more money to pay for more things that I really didn’t need to begin with. I could have opted to continue shopping, running errands, and eating out after my doctor advised me to spend more time with my feet up to reduce swelling and heal my injured back. I could have invited our entire family, church body, and list of friends to visit us at the hospital and come by our house in order to keep myself from feeling lonely. But I think I chose more wisely instead. I decided to stay home and focus on what matters most right now. I decided to take care of myself rather than take care of others or entertain myself. And I decided to limit my daughter’s exposure to a very germy world in the midst of flu season. And I’m grateful I made these choices.

It’s been a pretty wonderful year. I’m thankful for the chance to share it with each of you.

Life review of gratitude

*Special thanks to guest writer Debra Dickey-Liang for sharing with us!*

A person that you are extremely grateful for . . . .

As I read that sentence, my initial reaction was:  “How in the world could you pick just one person?!?”, because immediately, a score of people, and the reasons that I am grateful for them, just overflowed into my consciousness. Thus, this lengthy narrative became an expression of enormous personal gratitude and acknowledgement of the personification of God’s perfect love through His chosen people, revealing a whole litany of worthy recipients of great honor and acclaim.

First and foremost, I am grateful for my parents.  My mom and dad were always the most grounded, genuine people that I have ever known; honest, upstanding, hard-working individuals who taught me well — full of integrity.  A close second are my siblings.  Each of my brothers and my sister have added their own unique layers of individualism and goodness to my life, and I cannot imagine how I would have grown into the person that I am without all of them.

Then there’s my Grandpa Short.  I was the first grandchild, and boy was I spoiled!!  He loved me without reservation, and I loved him back just the same!  He treated me like gold, and let me have the run of his house — no child could have asked for a better grandpa .  . .  Hey, I said I was spoiled!

I am grateful for teachers who saw more in me than I saw in myself.  I am grateful for aunts who extended generous invitations into their homes and day-to-day worlds, not only looking out for me, but granting me new situations and interesting places.

I am grateful for people who have treated me kindly.  Kindly, while I was learning, and who exercised patience and understanding to help me navigate new systems, processes, and protocols in order to perform at the highest level of efficiency in whatever I do; for people who have gone out of their way, above and beyond normal expectations, to show me kindness, lend extra assistance, or, unannounced, to drive back to Little Rock to quietly check on me as I slept in Mom’s waiting room, concerned because I was by myself.

Photo by Jessie Covington of Say Cheese Photography

I am grateful for special friends.  People who have come into my life for a time, a reason, or a season.  Each specially given just at the right time  . . . . when I needed them most!  Friends who gave me a purpose, but who gave back much more than they received; friends who saw my need and surreptitiously took me under their wings and cared about me and watched over me without expecting anything in return; friends whom I have always known that just continue to become more important in the niche that they fill;  friends who remain friends even if I don’t get to see them as often as I would like; friends who are just nice people to exchange a laugh and joke with; friends from a lifetime ago that still break into a smile and give me a huge hug when we meet; friends who have opened their homes, shared their resources, and invited me to engage in their cultures and customs with amenity; people whose lives I entered by way of marriage, embraced me without hesitation, then loved and cared for me as if I had always belonged there; friends who are my children; friends who I know because of my children — some who have it rough, yet never complain.  So many, many people to be grateful for!  Each and all, supplying their own unique and wonderful blend of character and spice of diversity that so richly enhance my life.  A veritable bevy of mortal souls sent with Divine Purpose, that infuse every chapter of my being with an essence of grace and love unequaled, by whom I have been extremely privileged to be touched along this road that is mine to walk.

I am grateful for people who are good to my children; I am grateful for generous and caring neighbors; I’m grateful for people who began as mentors, and quickly earned my admiration and respect because of their authentic spirit, attitude, and strength of character; I am grateful for the person who generously shares her ‘blog’ space, graciously allowing me a writing opportunity that only now do I realize I had been longing for;  I am grateful for ‘little’ people  who come my way, in the form of nieces and nephews, who are way cool, fun, and all without an ounce of insincerity,  each and every one making a contribution of value that adds great dimension to my existence, a variegated and multicolored tapestry of extraordinary facets that glimmer and sparkle in everything that I do.

And a bit surprisingly, this ‘life review’ turned into a tearful and emotional journey of commemoration and remembrance . . . .  \

As I thought back over a lifetime of people, I was deeply and profoundly humbled to recount the indescribable number of wondrous and diverse ministering spirits that God, through His Bountiful Grace and Omnipotence, has placed upon my path, to know, love, and be loved by, throughout the years  –  rare and priceless jewels of great and lasting beauty; innumerable and immeasurable, with blessings beyond compare.

And so any endeavor on my part to denote the gift of one Divinely inspired ‘pearl of great value’ as more cherished than another ‘precious gem’ perfectly given, would nowhere begin to Glorify the Giver of All Gifts, from Whom all Blessings flow, and in Which we Believe, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.(James1:17)   Amen and Praise God, I am extremely grateful for them ALL.

 

 *And I am grateful for my friend Debra who shared her life review of gratitude with all of us. Who makes it into your life review of gratitude?*

 

Not “for granted” anymore!

I used to only feel nauseous when I had a stomach virus, the flu, carsickness, or maybe an intense migraine.

When I got pregnant, I began feeling nauseous almost all day every day. I occasionally have brief moments of time when I can breathe and move without feeling uncomfortable, nauseous, and irritated, but those are few and far between.

What I’ve noticed is that the content of my gratitude list has significantly changed as a result of this. I occasionally thanked God for “good health,” but I never thought to thank Him for the ability to eat almost anything without feeling disgusted by it. I didn’t think about feeling grateful for the option to sleep on my stomach at night. I never thought about saying “thank You” for my lack of acid reflux and indigestion. I guess I had my head stuck in the sand, oblivious to the myriad of blessings I was taking for granted.

The things I took for granted for so long have now become major items of gratitude for me. If I spend an entire hour without feeling sick, I feel like jumping up (or maybe standing up slooowwwly) and doing the happy dance in my office. If I am able to spend two hours on projects for grad school without having to take a break to lie down or take a Tums, I’m ecstatic.

How many other things in my life am I taking for granted, when in fact, I should be truly grateful for?

Trading the attitude for gratitude

Thanks to Linda Unger for sharing her gratitude in today’s post as a guest contributor through her writing and photography gifts.

"Burnet Tree" by Linda Unger

I come from a family where sarcasm rules. I zing you, you zing me. Whoever zings the fastest and the loudest is the winner! There is little time for compliments and kindness. I have to keep on guard, don’t ya know! A chink in the armor could mean a total zinger attack from every member in the family. My sisters and I joke often that we are the “Loud Family”. If we can’t win with our humor and frontal attacks, we will certainly drown you out with volume! The world isn’t a safe place when “The Sisters” are together! Today I find it funny. Long ago it was quite a source of anger for me.

A life lived for too long like this creates bitterness and anger that steals every ounce of joy out of life. The agitating and picking on each other divided us for many years. There was no “being there for each other” because the family was always on guard. We went through some hard times. One sister ran away from home for a few years. The other sister was addicted to medications that separated us all further.  My life was lived with a man who was abusive, so my attitude toward life became even more sarcastic as the years went by. It seemed we were spiraling into a whirlpool in which we would all surely drown.

There came a time in my life when things had to change. I had pretty much lost my last friend. I had a few friends out-of-town who only saw me for small amounts of time. But being in a committed loving relationship with a friend was next to impossible with my anger and sarcastic attitude. I began to shut it all down, withdrawing from life, and my marriage was falling apart. For me, I felt there was no hope.

I remember asking God for help, somewhere in all that. I began to meet with a group of people who smiled all the time. They seemed to have the incredible ability to give and receive love and not be on guard! One suggested I start a “gratitude list”. What was that? She explained that I had to write, every day, 3 things to be grateful for. In my current state of mind I could not think of a single thing. That is where it helped SO much to have someone to walk with me through this process. She suggested a toothbrush! I didn’t realize that MOST of the people on Earth do NOT have toothbrushes and how small it was to me, but how big it would be if I didn’t have one. Once I got the idea of it, I found that the more things I listed, the more grateful I got. It seemed to remove the pain I was feeling for that day.

Today I am part of a 365 Gratitude Project online. I have to post a photo everyday of something I am grateful for. Some days I really have to work at finding something NEW since I can’t keep doing the same old toothbrush! My favorite thing to be grateful for is my God, light, my children, my job, my friends, my husband. And some days I find that I am grateful for rain. There have been times when I have chosen to “skip” out on the gratitude, and my day really shows it. For this girl, I have to stay in, or I slide back to the person I used to be.

My family has noticed the changes in me. In fact, today, my sisters and I are closer than ever…without losing the wonderful humor that we all share. That is something else to be grateful for!

To view more of Linda’s beautiful photography, check out her page at http://www.treklens.com/members/shelbeesmom/photos/

To purchase Linda’s new book, Spiritual Recovery Through God’s Eyes, visit http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Recovery-Through-Gods-ebook/dp/B006X5Z7OU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329234908&sr=8-1

Check out her Facebook page for excerpts from the book at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Recovery-Through-Gods-Eyes-the-book/368219286524857