Thanks to Thanksgiving being in November, November has become known as the month for thankfulness. As I posted last year, One Day Isn’t Enough to be thankful. I think now is the perfect time to remind each of you, and myself as well, that having an attitude of gratitude every day is vitally important for our emotional well-being and general overall health.
Being grateful is defined as “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.” As we grow in our spiritual lives, and realize how powerful and transformative gratitude is, we will embrace all it has to offer with arms open wide. Every experience we have, every situation we face, no matter how seemingly good or bad, is an opportunity to look for things to be grateful for. In every situation, a blessing can be found.
Oftentimes, these blessings can only be found as we look back. Retrospectively looking back allows us to find hidden gems that we couldn’t see at the time—if we only take some time to search for them carefully. I know that in my own life, I have repeatedly found this to be true. Every time this happens I think of the “beauty from ashes” Bible verse. (See Isaiah 61: 1-3)
When we have an attitude of gratitude about everything in our lives, it will change our perspective. We shift. We grow. And, ultimately, we will transform. And, that my friends, is exactly what God wants us to do. It benefits not only us, but everyone around us as well.
When we start looking at our lives through the eyes of gratitude, it can greatly change our views. All those little annoyances that drive us crazy every day, all those petty, insignificant jabs that life throws at us on a day-to-day basis, they can be gone in the blink of an eye. How? Gratitude! It is the way in which we can overcome all these things and more.
If you do some research online, you will find numerous scientific studies have documented a multitude of benefits come from practicing gratitude. Being grateful increases joy, pleasure, and optimism, as well as reduces anxiety and depression. When we are grateful, our physical health improves; our blood pressure lowers, our immune system strengthens, and our symptoms of illness are reduced.
Grateful people sleep better. (And, who doesn’t want that??) They get more sleep, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and wake up feeling more rested. If you want to sleep more soundly, this is the perfect opportunity to spend good quality time in prayer, thanking God for all your blessings.
Having a grateful attitude bolsters relationships. It lets us feel closer and better connected to our family, friends, and even strangers. It has been proven that when partners feel and express their gratitude for each other, they become more satisfied with their relationships.
When we are grateful, something magical happens. We become more loving, compassionate, gracious, helpful, and generous. In essence, we become more like Jesus. His love and light shines through us for others to see. And, then a domino effect starts to take place. When others see, and sense our gratitude and the joy and contentment it brings, they want to be like that too. It is such a beautiful way to live our lives and share the glory of the Lord with others. Don’t you want to try it?
I leave you today with a quote from Richard Carlson:
“Demonstrate gratitude for the simple things in life…a sunset, rain, insects, birds, children laughing, or a kind gesture…Appreciative people are happy; they see the beauty in life while others miss it.”
Thank you, Lord
for the rain
Thank you, Lord
for the pain
That allows me to grow
in love and light
Thank you, Lord
for the trails I face
Thank you, Lord
for your redeeming grace
That reminds me
I am not alone in this fight
Thank you, Lord
for your guidance and your Word
Thank you, Lord
that your voice can be heard
That all show me
how to live each day and do what is right
Thank you, Lord
for the joy you bring
Thank you, Lord
for giving us your everything
That we may reflect and be
a shining star in your sight
Do you remember being a little kid, trying your best to carry something big or heavy? Did you have a lot of trouble with that thing? Did you struggle with it? Did you take a few steps and realize that, even though you wanted to carry it and thought you could carry it, that you could not carry it? Then, if you were blessed like me, you would call your mom or dad to help and they would just carry it for you.
Well, even as an adult I can still feel like that little kid from time to time. As an adult, I often find myself trying to carry things that are much too big for me carry. You do too sometimes, don’t you?
I know you do!
In my analogy above, the object you are carrying around as a kid is a physical object. But, as adults we carry around things that are much heavier and much more draining. You know what I am talking about, right? These are the things that can start eating away at you every day, like: stress, guilt, bitterness, disappointment, and the like. They are all burdens. (And, if you are similar me, you may even be carrying around other people’s stress, guilt, bitterness, and/or other burdens too.)
I think this is just something we tend to do as we get older. We start carrying around all this…well, crap (for lack of a better word.) And, honestly, we don’t need to be carrying any of it.
Well, there is something we all need to be reminded of—and that is that whatever it is that we are carrying around right now—we can just hand it over to God.
That stress you feel from trying to do EVERYTHING and do it right—hand it over to God.
That preconceived notion that to be happy you MUST find your calling work-wise, and all the weight that comes along with that—hand it over to God.
That resentment you feel from being passed over for that promotion—hand it over to God.
That guilt you feel because you can’t be at your child’s soccer game AND take your parent to the doctor at the same time—hand it over to God.
That bitterness you feel towards yourself for that mistake you made—hand it over to God.
That disappointment you feel when life simply doesn’t go according to plan—hand it over to God.
One of the greatest things about being a child of God, is that Christ our Father, will gladly carry any and all of our burdens for us. We can hand Him all our stress, animosity, guilt, shame, disappointments, and the like.
I think that as Christians we all know this. But, for whatever reason, we tend to forget it. Or, maybe we just don’t know how to hand these types of things over to God.
I have found that the best way to hand them over to God is to just talk to Him about them. Spend some good, quality time with Him and tell Him what is on your heart and mind. Express to Him how you are truly feeling, in whatever way you can. Maybe it is through words, singing, or tears. Next, ask Him to please carry these burdens for you. Then, and this is key, hand them over to Him and STOP worrying and ruminating on them.
I want to leave you with ten Bible verses that reinforce the fact God promises to carry our burdens for us. Commit them to memory and start taking advantage of them today!
This past Saturday, a very dear friend of my husband lost his battle with cancer. I had been praying over him for a while—praying for healing from this horrible disease and for comfort for both him and his family. When Paul told me of his passing on Sunday morning, I felt a sadness drape over me. And, I have been carrying this sadness with me each day since.
I asked Paul if there would be a service for his friend. He told me no. He said that his friend was not religious and had requested that there be no funeral or memorial service. I never knew this about him. It had never even occurred to me to ask if he was a Christian or not, or what his religious beliefs were. And, this is when his loss really fell heavy on my heart.
Here was this man--a husband, a father, a friend. A man who was dearly loved. A man who loved to word-work and would send us some of his beautiful creations every year for Christmas. A man who cared about others. A man who loved and was loved.
And, he was lost. And, I missed the opportunity to help him be found. I missed the opportunity to witness to him. I missed the opportunity to share with him about Jesus and His love for us. I missed the opportunity to pray for him to be saved. I was praying for him, but I missed out on praying the most important prayer for him I could pray.
And, while I mourn his death, I also very much mourn the fact that I missed all these opportunities to truly help him. To help him find Jesus and eternal life. To help him find true comfort and peace here on this earth. I missed all of that.
And, I never want to do that again with anyone else.
Because, I mean, isn’t that truly why we are here? As Christians, isn’t that our life calling and God’s will for us? YES, yes, it is.
God’s will for our life is to be in a relationship with Him. To do this we MUST spend time in His Word. (See Proverbs 3:5-6) Then, we are called to love others and show them how much God loves them. (See John 15:12) Then, they too can be in a relationship with Christ and become our brothers and sisters.
But, I am not going to lie, it is not always easy to share about God and His love for us. In our current world climate, the devil is using every trick he has to deter us and sidetrack us. The devil loves to turn us against each other and poison our minds. But, it doesn’t need to be this way!
I am naturally shy and introverted. I have a hard time verbally communicating with others. But, I do much better when I can write or type out my feelings. And, I need you to know that I care about you and your soul. This is one of the main reasons I write this blog. I just communicate better this way.
Maybe you are like me and have a hard time talking to others. I think it is important to remind you that we can all show the love of Jesus to others in our actions. Follow the example Jesus gave us, himself. (See my post Follow the Leader for more on this.) Then, when an occasion presents itself let the Holy Spirit guide you and if you feel His prodding, speak boldly.
The time is now to share with others the love of Jesus. The time is now to spread the good news. Let us do it proudly together in both our words and actions.
In the course of everyday life, it is so easy to succumb to the accepted views of our environment and traditional ways of thinking. And, by this, I mean thinking things like: I need to go to college, I need to get a degree, I need to find a good job, I need to get married, have kids, and balance all of that with a career. Then, I can be happy. Blah, blah, blah. For most of us, this is what we have been taught. Well, at least, it is what I grew up thinking.
And, maybe you are thinking, so what? What is wrong with any of that? Well, let me tell you; it teaches us to look inside to ourselves instead of looking up to God. And, while none of these thoughts are inherently bad or wrong, they teach us to be self-centered and to think that to find our true value and happiness we must manufacture it for ourselves, by ourselves. (Well, maybe with a little help along the way from other people around us.)
This, to me, is conventional wisdom. And, it is dead wrong.
As believers and followers of Christ, we need to reprogram our brains and start thinking differently. We need to shift our way of thinking. (And, to most people that we are surrounded by, this will be unconventional.) But, I believe if we change how we think, we can change our world.
We need to start thinking in terms of WHOSE we are, not who we are. We are children of God. We belong to Him. And, that makes all the difference in the world.
When we turn our gaze up and focus on God, rather than looking inward and down on ourselves, we start to realize that we can harness the power of our Almighty God. We can do whatever we set our minds to; not because of who we are, but because of God and who He is. Ephesians 3:20 tells us, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”
Take some time and really chew on this verse, digest it and get out all the sweet goodness and truth it has. His power that is at work WITHIN us. We have the power of God WITHIN US! This is the same power that made blind people see and raised the dead. We, as God’s children, have access to that amazing power. It truly blows my mind.
When we start thinking in terms of, not what we can do, but what can God do through us, we open the door to unlimited possibilities. We are here as tools for God. We are His hands and feet, His vessels. He can and will use us for great and mighty things.
One of our most important jobs is to bring God glory. And, once we tap into God’s power, we can accomplish far more than we ever dreamed. Then, when people ask us how we did these incredible things, we can proudly tell them that it didn’t have anything to do with us, it was all God. That is how we give Him the honor and the glory.
So, I am going to keep my eyes lifted up towards God as much as possible. I truly want to change my perspective. Will you join me in shifting your way of thinking? I truly believe it will do us all a world of good. And, that is certainly something the world can use more of right now!
Trying to live a good Christian life is not always easy. As a matter of fact, the truth is, the devil does everything he can to make it hard for us and hard on us. That is why it is vital that we suit up in God’s armor each and every day. We need to pray, read our Bibles, and spend quality time with God each and every day—not just on Sundays. (For more on this read my post The Devil Inside.)
It is also super important that we seek and find joy every day as well. Once you start spending more and more time with God, the easier it becomes to find that joy. However, while there is beauty all around us, opening our eyes to it and finding the joy in life, well…that can be hard. We all get busy and just living life gets in the way. So, I wanted to share something with you today that I know will help you. Well, it least it has helped me, so I want to pass it along.
So, what is the little golden nugget of advice I have for you today, you ask? What is it that will help you find more joy in life? Listen to music. More specifically, listen to contemporary Christian music. (CCM for short.) And, while I am at it, might I suggest listening to The Joy FM?*
I started my spiritual journey in earnest about seven years ago. I have been taking baby steps every day since—little, tiny, baby steps. And, all those little baby steps have added up over the years! One of the most crucial things I have realized is that listening to good Christian music can make a world of difference.
I specifically remember, a few years ago, lying in bed and it dawning on me that I needed Jesus all the time. Not just on Sundays, not just when I was depressed, not just when I was sick or needy, and not just when it suited me. I needed Him all the time: every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
My next thought was, how on earth can I keep my focus on Him all the time? I actually started freaking out a little about it. I was already at a point in my journey where I was making sure to pray every morning before I got out of bed and every night before I went to sleep. I was spending time each day reading both my Bible and a devotional. Being married with a full-time job, doing contract work on the side, and living and dealing with what I refer to as a “mystery” illness that requires I get a lot more rest than normal women, what else could I feasibly do? Well, this is where the music comes in!
As some of you already know, I am a huge music fan. And, I listen to and love music of all different types. However, there is just something extra special about contemporary Christian music that fills me up, lifts my soul, and brings me joy. Instead of looking for joy with your eyes, listen to it with your ears and heart! It is amazing medicine for your soul.
I listen to music mainly in the car; flipping through radio stations, stopping any time I come across a song I like. During this specific time in my journey, I was already listening to CCM, just not all the time. But, once I started really listening to the lyrics of the songs, I basically started to transform my way of thinking. Songs were getting stuck in my head, that I would sing to myself all day. It really made a significant difference in how much I started thinking about Jesus each day. It really helped me focus on Him more and more. Now CCM is basically all I listen to. You really owe it to yourself to give it a try.
*Before I leave, I must share one more bit of advice with you. Listen to The Joy FM. They are a Christian radio station that has been serving the metro Atlanta area since 1981. They also have radio towers and can be heard in Florida and Alabama. And, thanks to the internet and an app, you can listen to them anywhere in the world. They are a nonprofit, listener supported station that is doing the imperative work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They promise to help you find joy, share joy, and be joy, and boy do they ever deliver! They are genuinely good people who truly care.
All of their DJ’s are great, but I especially love The Morning Cruise; Carmen Brown, Dave Cruse, and Bill Martin. Listening to them in the morning is like sitting down and hanging out with good friends. Come to think of it, they are more like family. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Spend a few days listening to them and I think you will agree. I encourage you to let The Joy FM and the contemporary Christian music they play fill up your heart, mind, and soul with God and joy. It is a very simple, but powerful way to help you keep your focus on God and bring you joy, each and every day.
There is beauty in the living and in figuring it all out.
There is beauty in the living and in finding the true meaning for yourself.
There is beauty in the living and in the day-to-day struggles.
There is beauty in the living and in the unexpected, sudden joys.
There is beauty in the living and in the occasional horrors, and deep ugly pits.
There is beauty in the living and in learning to recognize the unending graces and ceaseless blessings.
There is beauty in the living and in learning to find little nuggets of beauty in your life, by simply opening your eyes to them.
There is beauty in the living and in experiencing God’s true love for you.
There is beauty in the living and in the realization that God is always with you and for you.
There is beauty in the living and in the journey itself.
There is beauty in the living and in figuring it all out.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.