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Once a year, near the end of November, it seems that people everywhere with pumpkin spice lattes in hand are suddenly incredibly thankful for the things that were perhaps taken for granted just days earlier. On a holiday dedicated to giving thanks and in times when life is going well, gratitude tends to feel like a natural response. But what might our days and lives look and feel like if we insisted on making gratitude a regular habit, a reflex, not just for a short season but all year long?
The concept of living a life marked by thanksgiving began for me shortly after I entered into adulthood and married life and found myself somewhat overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities and also slightly disappointed in the mundane of the day-to-day. It was around that time when I first read Ann Voskamp’s New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts. I was intrigued and inspired by Ann’s challenge to readers to not only make an effort to see the things in their lives worthy of giving thanks for but of chronicling those items into a handwritten list. With this life-changing discipline fresh in my mind, I remember cleaning the house one evening and suddenly having a surprising revelation of gratitude for the tasks at hand and even in my physical ability to complete them.
As I sorted laundry, I realized the piles of clothes were from rewarding work and a recent, fabulous vacation I had taken with my husband. Then, wiping crumbs off of our table, I recalled the dinner and conversations and laughter we had shared with friends there earlier that week. Let’s be honest, I am not always so naturally inclined to feel thankful when doing chores, but for at least that night, the mundane and the mess became more than menial tasks, they were instead reminders of the very moments that build an abundant, full life. Over time, with a little practice and intentionality, I’ve learned to recognize these gifts in traffic jams, on cloudy days, and in the most unlikely of places and situations. Some days the graces show up easily, and other days I have to look a little harder, but I’ve yet to come up empty-handed on my search for the good around me.
For me, learning to shift my perspective and make a choice to give thanks in all things has genuinely become the secret to my joy.
In a season of life where I am the best kind of exhausted as a first-time mama just finishing the fourth trimester, it feels easy to be grateful for the sweet baby snuggles and smiles. But I must confess I usually find that my most profound and sustainable joy is often birthed from the circumstances and days where the blessings and gifts are the least obvious. In those less apparent places, when I make the decision to change the way I see, there always seems to lie an abundance of goodness waiting to be called out that I could so easily and tragically miss.
Our journey into parenthood turned out to be anything but typical and nothing like I imagined. Our daughter Eleanor was born with a congenital heart defect (or as I prefer to call it, a heart difference), which was thankfully diagnosed during pregnancy and allowed us to be as prepared as possible for her arrival. She had a lifesaving six-hour surgery at six days old, and we spent the first two weeks of her life in the hospital. This is obviously not the story we would have ever chosen or written for ourselves. While I’m certainly not suggesting we ever discount or ignore pain and suffering, it does seem that in times of crisis, we have the most to gain from a grateful perspective. For us, during such an uncertain trial, remaining steadfast in our gratefulness gave way to new energy, healing, and hope.
Our resilient little girl is now four months old with big, bright blue eyes and a huge smile that lights up our world. And while I may be sleep-deprived and covered in spit-up most days, how thankful I am. For the reminder to slow down and view things with fresh eyes as I watch my daughter explore the details of the world around her with such awe and wonder. For all of the lovely souls who have cared for our family so well in this season with thoughtful gifts, heartfelt prayers, and warm meals delivered to our door. For the sweetest lullabies and children’s stories that minister to me, even as they soothe my child. For those who utter kind words to new parents like “you’re doing a good job” or “you’re doing it right,” when that often feels far from the truth. For dry shampoo and coffee in abundant quantities. For the moments we were not always sure we’d get to experience that tends to feel like an honor instead of an annoyance, like waking up in the middle of the night or changing yet another diaper. For the skilled hands of a gifted surgeon. And maybe most of all, for the beautiful scar on my daughter’s chest that calls me to remember and give thanks multiple times a day – for the things too quickly taken for granted, for the actual gift of living.
Because I’ve experienced the radical power and peace of counting it all joy in my life, I’ll be here always refocusing, noticing, and looking… for the obvious and the easily missed… for the gifts, graces and blessings found everywhere – in the everyday living and the now, not just on a holiday – both whispering them and writing them down… this wildly simple practice that ushers me into a life rooted in gratitude and deep joy.
Lindsey’s music choice to accompany this Guidelight is And the Birds Sing by Tyrone Wells
Lindsey Keys is an RN who joined the Baby and Company team in December of 2018, but left to pursue a really important job… being a mom. Lindsey worked in labor and delivery, ENT and functional medicine. Lindsey has always loved supporting women through their labor, delivery and postpartum care but found an even deeper passion for being part of the life-changing experience of birth when she took on the role of doula for her best friend’s birth. Lindsey is passionate about wellness, health advocacy and individualized care for others that addresses mind, body, and spirit. She is married to her husband Tyler and can often be found reading, running, traveling or watching Wheel of Fortune in her free time.