I learned the lesson of gratitude at one of the worst times in my life.
It was in the year I turned 40 and my then-husband basically left me for a 30-year old. God provided for me because, although they knew nothing about my personal life, my work came to me and offered me $20K more per year if I'd move to a location about 90 minutes away from where we'd been living and work for them at that location. So I packed up my sons and our stuff, and moved us.
We didn't know anyone at this new location we'd moved to. I didn't know my way around. I was alone with my sons. I was grieving over the loss of a marriage, a mate, and a dream. I can remember holding it together to get everyone off to school in the morning, then crying all the way to work, then getting myself reigned in again to deal with my job, coming home and holding myself together for the boys throughout the evening, then wallowing in sadness through the night. This went on for weeks.
Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart that I had to start practicing gratitude if I ever wanted out of this deep pit of sorrow that was threatening to engulf me. He showed me that I was perseverating on all these hurtful things in my life, but that these sad things were not the only things in my life. That actually He was blessing me, but that I was so busy focusing on the hurtful things that I wasn't even noticing all the good. That every morning when I woke up I'd think about my broken heart and then the day would go downhill from there.
But I just couldn't seem to stop it. So I took a paper and wrote a few good things in my life on the paper; the fact that I had a job that paid the bills, that my sons are wonderful people, that we were all healthy. I taped that paper on the wall next to my bed so that the first thing in the morning when I woke up I would see that paper, read it, and thank God for those things.
Over time the list grew.
The list grew and so did the pattern of starting each day focusing on things in my life for which I could be thankful. I even began to do it throughout the entire day, whenever my spirit would be heavy, I'd start looking for what was good around me.
Eventually that heaviness was lifted and I experienced happiness, peace, and hope.
Prior to this time in my life, it would have been safe to say that I'd struggled throughout my adult life with depression and feeling really bad about myself. Whenever someone would read a list of characteristics that anyone who had 60% or more of these characteristics could be considered depressed, I'd always have ALL of the characteristics. Prior to that time in my life I'd struggled, not so much with guilt over specific actions, but just with feeling like I was a bad person.
Since then, I don't feel depressed, and I like myself.
That doesn't mean that I don't sometimes feel sad over sad events, or feel disconnected. It also certainly doesn't mean that I don't struggle with specific defects of character. But it does mean that peace, joy, and hope are pervasive in my life.
Gratitude changed my life.
Today I still seek to live in gratitude. I don't do it perfectly, but basically I'm constantly thanking God for all the good stuff He's giving me in each day. I have the freedom to just enjoy the little stuff; like beauty of the clouds in the sky, or appreciation for how my car always starts and gets me to where I need to go, or some nice little thing that someone did during my day that they did not have to do.
I like living this way.
What about you, what was a life event that helped you learn how to practice gratitude?