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When I was a freshman in high school, one of our tasks for our health class was to keep a gratitude journal. I thought it was dumb, but I would write the typical things like friends and family. My annoyance was only amplified when my teacher wrote that I was being too shallow. This resulted in me writing really, really stupid things like my crazy toe-socks with an explanation to justify why each ridiculous thing brought me joy. Each item was an insincere expression shared simply to add items to the list to appease my teacher.
Needless to say, I did not continue the habit of keeping a gratitude journal after that semester. This isn’t to say that I didn’t express gratitude in other ways; I just didn’t feel the need to record in in my journal nor was it a daily focus.
Fast-forward almost a decade (oh goodness, it really has been that long) to when I was on retreat. A sister from Our Parish Visitors of the Immaculate Conception was giving a talk, and she shared the BAKER method for a daily examen. Recognizing I needed to improve my prayer life, I decided to start doing it. Since I also have learned that writing my prayers helps me focus, I immediately started doing it in my journal.
As the days went on, I realized that my blessings list was growing longer each night. However, this time, it wasn’t just to add items to a list. I found myself genuinely grateful for the things God was placing in my life be it a great performance review at work or something small like an extra delicious lunch.
The growth I am experiencing doesn’t end there. I am noticing that I am able to express gratitude in moments I would normally not. For example, I woke up in the middle of the night with a dangerously low blood sugar. I was drenched in sweat, was confused, and was absolutely exhausted. Typically, I would be upset that yet again, my body was failing me. Perhaps this frustration would even be a little justified. However, I found that my first reaction (after treating my hypoglycemia) was to thank God that I had woken up.I am able to express gratitude in moments I would normally not. Click To Tweet
Because I make it a daily habit to prayerfully walk through all the aspects of my day that I should be grateful for, I am finding it easier and easier to identify blessings in the moment.
It is another reminder to me from God that I don’t need to make enormous changes to my prayer life all at once. The little bit of extra prayer I add each day truly makes a difference.
What small prayer habits have made a big impact in your daily life? What helps you be intentional about expressing gratitude?
Interestingly enough, I just finished reading a post from another Catholic blogger. In the post, Anni talks about gratitude and challenges us to join her in The Gratitude Project. I know I’ll (do my best to) participate.
If any of you are participating, please feel free to add links to your gratitude posts in the comment section of my gratitude posts.
Update: After publishing this post, I found a great post by Nicole Kauffman called “Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude.” Not only does she give great advice for expressing gratitude during challenging times; her post also includes a free resource. In it, you will find some pages that would be perfect for a Christian prayer journal: Bible verses about praising God when it is difficult, prayers for surrender, and gratitude prompts.