Finding Gratitude in Challenging Times

Many years ago, back when I had cable TV and I liked Oprah Winfrey, she had a guest on her show who first introduced me to the idea of a gratitude journal. I can’t remember why I jumped onboard with that, probably the guest said it would change my life and it did. I quickly found a nice little hardbound journal that was given to me as a college graduation gift (I did say it was many years ago) which remained blank, so I began each day to write down 3-5 things I was grateful for. My gratitude journal has been such a meaningful part of my sanity, growth, and getting me through difficult times, that I feel that the practice may benefit you as well.

We are certainly going through difficult times as humankind right now, and if you are feeling any amount of anxiety, worry, fear, or stress, I honestly believe getting a nice journal to begin this process of appreciation will help you get through it. And we will get through it. We ARE getting through it.

I have attempted to keep a gratitude journal throughout my life. Of course, my energy towards it wanes and surges, but I use it as one of my coping methods in the very hard times. I have filled up a few journals with basically lists of goodness in my life.

What has this accomplished for me?
1. It has forced me to look for the silver lining in the midst of the storms of life.
2. It makes me feel better. Instantly my mood improves. We cannot think of two things at once. We are either thinking of something good or something bad, but not both at the same time. Try it. You can only focus on one or the other.
3. It is a blessing to look back over the years and see how far I’ve come, and to remember special times and people.
4. It gets my mind off things I have no control over and helps me revisit how blessed I am.

When you first begin, it’s super easy. We all start with the  big things we can think of. Our family, our health, our religion, etc. And that’s fine. The more days you do it, it forces you to dig deep. You begin to live in a posture of appreciating.  Instead of thinking of general ideas, you begin to get very specific and will find that all day long,  you are appreciating your experiences and the people you are surrounded by.

When I look back over my old journals, I find a menagerie of things. For example, I am grateful that I am in control of my own feelings and thoughts. Or, I am grateful to have the ability to put together a meal without a recipe. For Ashlynn improving in her driving. When I look back into my very first Gratitude Journal in 1998, it says things like I am grateful for $50 my mom gave me to clean the house. Or, the job I applied for today. It is humbling and refreshing to read them all. For being able to visit my 6th grade Sunday school kids. In 2009, I wrote I am grateful for getting the bathroom redone. Free time to read and relax. Having money to tithe.

There are pages and pages filled and I could get lost retracing the steps of my life. But automatically I feel better. I mean right now. Finding those examples for you has caused me to realize how very blessed I am.

I encourage you to try this for yourself. Get yourself a nice journal, something that makes you smile. Journals always make me smile, anyone else? Set aside a time each day that you will write down 3-5 things to appreciate in your life. Do it for 30 days. Watch your life change!

In Philipians 4:8, we are told to think on the good things, y’all.  I would bet it is taught in all religions/spiritual circles in some form or fashion. What better way than to do so in a gratitude journal everyday? So go count your blessings, name them one by one. Leave me a comment if you plan on doing it or already do this. I would love to hear from you.

Here’s my 5 today if you need a tee off:
I am grateful:

  • For sitting outside and feeling the sun on my face and hearing the birdsong.
  • For healthy meals I can prepare and the abundance of food
  • For the promise of new beginnings as I watch spring unfold before my eyes
  • For the ability to work remotely.
  • For the bond of human connection.

 

 

Living, Loving, Healing, Hoping Day 2 and Cake for Breakfast

Today we had cake for breakfast. It wasn’t the first time, and it’s not going to be the last. A couple weeks ago I had to buy some buttermilk because I was craving this lemon blueberry cake that is so delicious. We don’t use much buttermilk here, as I assume most don’t, and because I was partially raised by a Grannie who lived through the Great Depression, I honor the waste not, want not mindset. Therefore, I needed another reason to use the buttermilk. I announced that I was going to make a chocolate cake. “Two cakes in one week, mom?” My little conscientious child wanted to know. She was right, two cakes in one week was possibly excessive, so I put it off.  A couple of days ago, I noticed that the buttermilk had expired. But does buttermilk expire? How does sour milk sour? I threw caution to the wind and I made a Texas chocolate sheet cake with it. Lord a mercy! It was so good. It had this moist chocolate cake and this fudgy icing which so reminded me of my mama and how she would make us something she called Spoon fudge when I was a kid.

Spoon fudge is basically fudge made on the stove, brought to a boil, then poured into cereal bowls and put in the freezer to cool. You don’t freeze them completely, but instead just let them cool. Everyone has their own cereal bowl of fudge. You pile up on the couch and dig your spoon in and pull it out in a long, glorious tail of delicious chocolate, wrap it around your spoon, and shove it in your mouth. It’s okay if some thin trails hang off the spoon and drip down your chin. That just enhances the experience. Of course, you’re not supposed to eat the entire bowl in one setting, it’s so rich you can barely handle it, so back in the freezer it goes until maybe 10 minutes later when you realize how decadent that was and go for more. This is repeated throughout the day, until your bowl is scraped clean. If your siblings have any left in their bowl, you might swipe a spoonful of theirs when they aren’t looking. This is a great childhood memory of mine, and the icing on the sheet cake brought all of that back to me.

I digress. But I couldn’t leave you wondering about spoon fudge. Back to my cake. When a family of three has a whole Texas chocolate sheet cake to eat, do you know how much cake one needs to consume in order to honor the waste not, want not mindset? I’ll tell you. Exactly a third of it! Which is a lot of cake. It is made in a rimmed baking sheet, for crying out loud. My husband did help us out by taking some to work, but we still had an entire half a sheet left.

At the time that I made the lemon berry cake, I decided to have a slice one morning with my coffee. Delicious right? Lemon berry cake and coffee. My little EK was horrified that I was eating cake for breakfast. What is the deal with this? Cake is basically a sliced muffin.  I was eating a lemon berry muffin for breakfast, and my child was horrified. I don’t know who is teaching her these things.
“I can’t believe you’re eating cake for breakfast.”
I mean who is the parent here?
“Oh EK, you’re such a square, ” I said.
She stared at me, her mind working over-time, “What does that mean?”
Realizing I had possibly just insulted her, I quickly covered it up. “It doesn’t mean anything bad. It just means you like to follow the rules. You do the right thing. It’s good to be square.” She cataloged this. I watched as she filed it away to be used later.

Yesterday, when I saw there was a half sheet of chocolate cake left, I sliced off a piece to have with my coffee.
“Oh mom, you are so NOT a square,” my kid (who has self-imposed screen times, not dictated by her parents) informed me matter-of-factly.  Then, after analyzing the situation, decided that cake for breakfast maybe isn’t the worst thing in the world and she decided to slice her a piece as well. I’m not being the best influence.
“You’re having cake for breakfast too?” I questioned.
She set it on her plate, “But this is only the second time I’m going to do it,” she said, as if that exonerates her. Then after a pause she added, “this year.”

This morning, she was up and at ’em before me. I heard her in the kitchen. I assumed she was making her “healthy” breakfast of Nutella toast. Instead, she’d had cake for breakfast again.
When I learned this, I playfully chided her. “I thought you were only going to do that two times this year.”
She looked directly at me. “Well. I lied.”

Okay then. Our morality is gone. Out the window. How are we holding up during our “social distancing”? We are eating cake for breakfast. And lying. And as I type this, she is on a screen right now. Her self imposed screen times are gone. This pandemic may make us better people, or we may turn into complete heathens by the time this is over. There is no telling what we may emerge as when this is over, but be assured of one thing…….we will weigh more!

 

Status of C-word epidemic: Yesterday, 2 confirmed cases were in Amarillo, about an hour away from my town. Schools extended spring break by one week, and my church cancelled services and transitioned to online. I sank into deep sadness. This whole thing that’s going on has shaken me up. I didn’t think I was a person to get so easily shaken. I’ve had to deal with that. Today, I am so much better. Not sure why, it’s like a switch was flipped. Nevertheless, I am grateful for where I am in this moment. Who knows about tomorrow or later today, but now I will appreciate the feeling of well-being I have. I’m so grateful for friends who have checked on me. We are not alone in this. We can’t all be strong all the time, but in our moments of strength is when we can help uplift the others who are scared and sad. This is effecting everyone. Today, I’ve been pulled from the pit and am renewed spiritually and emotionally. If there’s anything you need, let me know. Much love to all.

 

Living, Loving, Hoping, Healing day 1

It’s spring break here, and quite honestly the first one where I’m not completely relaxing. It’s hard to relax right now. Planet Earth is sick. All we hear about is the C-word. Yes, I hope your mind thought of any number of different C-words; that would reassure me that we are still ourselves. It is also the first spring break where I want to return to work on Monday. Normally, I would be wishing for more time to be home, now I am wishing for things to be normal.

I decided to blog my experience during this pandemic because quite honestly I never dreamed I would live through something like this. I don’t have cable or any form of news. My information comes strictly from facebook, so you can imagine the amount of fear, panic, and misinformation I am receiving. For that reason, I have put myself on a strict limit from that form of social media. Instead of social distancing, I am social media distancing and life has improved. I will enjoy looking back and reading this when all of it is said and done. I wanted to leave something in writing for those in years to come too. Can you imagine my great, great grandchildren reading about this in history books and having a written record from me? Will it come to that? I so often wished I had the experiences of my grandmother during the Great Depression and I don’t, so this will hopefully serve as a reference for later down the line. You know—well maybe you don’t— but I always have book ideas floating around in my head, and one involves the Great Depression era. Her writing would have been valuable. She told me stories and I wish I had remembered better. And cared, but quite honestly I was a twit and didn’t think it mattered.

The sun is shining today and I am sitting on my back patio soaking it up. It feels so good. Rain has been abundant and there are some tulips in the yard that are awaiting their moment of splendor. Birds still sing and as I sit, some are making a nest in a watering can that is hanging from my back patio. I receive great solace from this. Nature has not been interrupted at all. They cycles of the earth continue. The sun rises and sets. Clouds dump their moisture, just to soak it back up again for the next round. Soft green buds are on the trees. The Creator is still in control. It’s a beautiful world.

As of today, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Texas Panhandle. This is the status of my small Texas town. Our schools are on spring break, and are monitoring closely to see if we return on Monday or extend our spring break time. The stores are very busy, with people stocking up. Yes, of course toilet paper is hard to find. Limits have been placed on items such as tp, paper towels, sanitizers, hand soaps etc.  I haven’t been to the store in a few days, but I heard there is a limit now on meat (2 per person I believe). Walmart has cut their hours of operation so that employees can stock at night without interruption. I will continue to believe there is enough in this world.

We are living day to day as normally as possible. J-Dub and EK went to Amarillo yesterday for wine of all things. My husband does love his wine, and is tired of the selection here. He also splurged and picked up filet and lamb chops. It makes me laugh. The Raman noodles are cleared out, but the opportunity for delicious fine food still remains. We shall feast this week! He said some restaurants had closed for take out only and the one they chose to eat in had a limit of 50 people and tables were 3 feet apart. I had lunch out at the coffee shop yesterday here in our town with a friend. It is refreshing to see our town continuing to support business and remaining calm for the most part.

I will take this inconvenience of life and see it as a time of rest and slowing down. Appreciating all that we have and have been given. A time to hope and trust that we can return to “normal”. A time to not take for granted the freedoms we have. A time of an awakening, I hope. I choose to remain steadfast and calm in this time of uncertainty. I realize that the situation is out of my hands, but how I react to it is completely in my power. Ultimately, I know that my trust is in God and in Him alone. Psalm 91 is a great reminder right now. I also am eager to write about life, just the beautiful simplicity of the life we’ve been given. Writing is a salve and helps me heal.

Until next time,

Angel