Years ago, I had the joy of working for the Sacramento Science Center and Junior Museum taking classes of kids on nature walks. It began as a volunteer job and worked into doing something I loved for pay! I learned “environmental interpretation” so that I could share the natural history of the local plant and animal life with young students.
I learned to be quite the “sleuth” because often, when you are out on the trail with excited students, any animals that may normally be present, will run for cover! I learned to listen for bird calls and to identify which kind of bird each was. I learned about animal droppings (yes, even animal poo!), feathers, and tracks so that I could show the kids such “treasures” as coyote “scat”–proving to them that even in the middle of Sacramento we had coyotes.
Even years later, when my husband and I were on a hike, I saw telltale signs of an active beaver population along a waterway where we were hiking. What might be missed by others, was hugely obvious to me because I had been trained to see and recognize clues.
My work for the museum taught me to look for *signs* of the presence of wonderful animal friends so that even if it wasn’t overtly obvious, I could know they were there.
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. ~ Psalm 105:1
Giving thanks for the gifts God gives us is kind of like this. We have to learn how to recognize the gifts–evidence of his presence, love, and grace–even when it may not be obvious. But once we do and start practicing being intentional to GIVE thanks to him (sometimes even with an act of our wills!), the impact is HUGE and life takes on a richness and depth that is otherwise missing.
When we lift our eyes above the trial we are facing and begin to be proactive and intentional about looking for evidences of Grace in our lives, we are changed. Each moment becomes a holy moment as we see evidence of His touch, care, and concern everywhere.
Paul himself said that he had to learn the secret of being content (see Philippians 4:10-13).
So, it stands to reason that we may have to learn how to recognize the gifts, the blessings, the evidences of God’s touch in our lives–in this moment. In this now.
To show you what this looks like for me, I would love to have you visit my Gratitude Blog — yes, yet another blog! (Click here.) There, I am counting the blessings in my life. I am trying to get to 1000. There have been seasons where I haven’t posted there for quite a while. You may notice, though, that lately, I have been posting pretty regularly.
I post there regularly right now because I find I need to. I need to be intentional as I go through this trial to be sure that I keep looking for evidences of God on this path. I know Scripture says He is here. But sometimes, it is easy to let my emotions dictate truth instead of truth to dictate my emotions. So, I continue to look, look, look and listen for evidence of this fact and then declare thanks when I do. Just like taking the students on a nature walk near a pond where wildlife is hiding from plain view, I too can experience the surprise and delight of seeing an indicator that God IS present and that he DOES care! Signs of his love and grace are everywhere along this path.
You can experience the joy of developing a life of gratitude as well. Using the notebook that you gathered previously or your favorite device…or Evernote if you have downloaded it…or by creating a blog for that purpose, you, too, can begin to build a life of gratitude! It doesn’t even have to be that complicated! You can start simply…with a notebook by your bed and each evening you can jot down three things that you are grateful for. Or, like Ann VosKamp (who blogs at A Holy Experience and has written a book, 1000 Gifts) you can keep a notebook (or camera) with you all the time to record them as they come up. Or, you can do whatever you like. But I urge you strongly to include this practice in your life as you navigate through the obstacles presented by the trial that you are facing.
Select a strategy that you will use at least three times each week to look for and record the blessings, the gifts, that God is giving you in your life. Definitely, you can do so by simply praying to him a prayer of thanks. But it is also so encouraging to my faith to have a record of dozens and dozens (and now, 100s at my blessings blog) of the gifts that God has seen fit to lavishly shower on me. I bet keeping a record could encourage you, too.
What will you do to build a life of gratitude?
If you choose to do a blog, please post the link here so we might all be encouraged!