By Haley Arndt
Happy Turkey Day, y’all! Did anyone else dress up nicely just to walk to your fam’s living room and eat your way into a food coma? Man, isn’t Thanksgiving great? But actually, unpopular opinion over here: I am not a fan of most Thanksgiving foods. Yikes, I know…
But I’m not writing this today to hate on pumpkin pie and stuffing. I’m writing about one of the most necessary and essential virtues we are called to practice in our daily life: gratitude (because it’s #Thanksgiving and a blog about being grateful just seemed appropriate).
So, gratitude my dudes. Let’s talk about it.
I always find it funny how during this time of the year, if you scroll through any social media platform of your choosing, literally EVERYONE is Facebooking, tweeting, Snapchatting, Instagramming, or blogging (lol, calling myself out right there) about how thankful and blessed they are in their life. Yep, I see you all out there nodding your heads in agreement.
And honestly, that is wonderful! Keep on keepin’ on with reflecting on those blessings in your life. But after November, it seems that the thankful trend takes a turn downhill. And soon enough, we are all focused on the things we are missing in our lives or the things that are not going our way.
But here’s the deal, praising God for the good gifts in our life isn’t something we should just be doing at the end of November and then sporadically throughout the year. God asks us to give praise and thanks to Him all. the. time.
Practicing gratitude as a spiritual discipline is not simply throwing your hands up and shouting “Bless” when a parking spot suddenly opens near you or captioning your Instagram selfie with “Stressed but blessed.” Rather, it is about developing awareness of all the ways that God is working in your life. Recognizing and thanking God for our blessings is necessary in strengthening our relationship with Him because when we foster a practice of daily gratitude, it allows us to better conform our hearts to Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart. God doesn’t command us to praise Him and thank Him because He needs it. No, God doesn’t need our thanks. God commands us to praise and thank Him for our own benefit. Because when we understand that God is our everything and that we are nothing without Him, we realize our littleness and how dependent we are on our loving, almighty Father. By cultivating a gracious prayer life, we are dying to ourselves and encountering God as our source of life — not academics, not careers, not a boy/girlfriend, not accomplishments. Remember that nice John the Baptist quote that always appears on coffee mugs and laptop stickers — “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30)? Yeah, that is what gratitude helps us to do and ultimately #ThatIsHowWeGetToHeaven.
Now I’m not gonna lie to y’all: fostering a grateful lifestyle is something that I’ve struggled with. I was looking at the things I didn’t have in my life more often than I was thanking God for what I did have, and I found myself complaining about how stressful and hard my life was more often than not. And who am I kidding, I definitely do not have my life completely together, so sometimes I still fall for Satan’s tricks and lies, and I get sucked back into that dark trap of entitlement. However, throughout my journey of trying to figure life out, I have personally found some things to help me to combat this and to realign my soul to that grateful dependence on God we are all striving for. And, lucky for you guys, I am willing to drop some of my knowledge to y’all. You are welcome.
The numero uno practice that has helped me to bring gratitude to the forefront of my life is keeping a gratitude journal. You’ve probs heard this piece of advice like a billion and two times, yet here you are getting it again. But for real y’all, getting yourself a gratitude journal is a stellar way to help you become more aware of the blessings and good things the Spirit is doing in your life. In my journal, I keep a section open for writing down the blessings that I have noticed throughout that given day. And I’ve found that by intentionally writing down the good things in my life, I become more conscious of the Spirit at work. Plus, going back and reading about your praises is a real good way to kick Satan to the curb on those days that he is being a real jerk nugget.
The second thing that I have incorporated into my spiritual life to help me foster gratitude is starting the day off with a prayer of thanksgiving. You could literally Google a prayer of thanksgiving and pray that after you wake up, or you could freestyle a thank you prayer while you are in the shower. My good pal St. Paul tells us: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I’ve found that by starting my day off in praise, my mind and heart are more focused on recognizing the graces God bestows upon me that day which allows me to better do what St. Paul says — to thank God for everything in my life.
The third and final (and hands down the most important) practice in my life that helps me to strive to live in constant gratitude to God is through participating in the Mass. The holy sacrifice of the Mass is literally a big thanksgiving celebration to God, praising and thanking Him for the creation and salvation of our soul. Y’all, Eucharist means “to give thanks” in Greek. Is there anything else in this world that could even be considered a better way to thank God? Probs not. By wholeheartedly worshipping, sacrificing, and receiving the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we are giving God the ultimate praise and gratitude that we possibly could. Keep that in the back of your mind when you are sitting in that wooden pew next Sunday.
Guys, gratitude is the key to digging deeper in your relationship with Jesus. When we live out a life of constant and continuous thanksgiving to God (or try our best to because, let’s be real, nobody’s perfect), we are recognizing the goodness and the glory of our Father. We are surrendering to Him all that we are. We are living in total dependence on our Creator. We are better cultivated for the Spirit to produce abundant good fruits through us. And that, my friends, sounds like a stinkin’ good way to unite our souls with eternal and everlasting joy. Bless up.
I’m praying for an increase of gratitude and thanksgiving in your life and in mine.