Finding my “Gratitude Attitude”

f368d379838b6ebef62228e0a3f7a334This past Thursday, Americans celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday. As an American, I do tend to chuckle at our whitewashed version of history, but I completely support and love the fact  that we have a day set aside to remember to be thankful for all of the blessings that we enjoy.

The week leading up to the holiday was particularly difficult for me. One parent took issue with the way I handled something in class. While I agree there were better choices that I could have made, the resulting email from the parent was vitreous and hurtful — and those elements were magnified because the parent’s former occupation should have given them greater knowledge and understanding of the entire situation. While it seems that I was able to pray and seek Heavenly guidance to successfully resolve the issue, the stinging venom has remained.

Then, a few days later, I received word of another parent complaint that had come in straight to my principal. While this isn’t unusual, this particular incident was made more hurtful because I have gone to church with the individuals in question for years and they have presented themselves as friends. Yet, they never made an attempt to speak to me directly, timed their complaint so that it looked like I was being blamed for an incident that occurred while I was at my other assigned school, and ignored my email expressing my disappointment.

This time, when I went to my knees to beg God for help in making sense of things and in getting my heart right, I felt the heavens close. If you have never had that experience, it can be tremendously faith-shaking. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I had done that was so bad that the heavens needed to withdraw. I went to my Heavenly Father in prayer to ask for help to get things settled in my heart correctly, and I received almost nothing.

So, this is where I was emotionally as Thanksgiving drew near. Even now, as I’m writing, I am struggling to find gratitude in my heart. My mental programming is to go back through my life and start listing all of the ways that my life has been incredibly hard and difficult.

I have decided to take and use that programming to find my “gratitude attitude.”

  • I was born to be an introvert, and so making friend connections has been hard and I have been lonely for large portions of my life.
    • I have learned to be fine on my own.
    • I am stronger because I rely on God to help me more than other people.
    • I can self-direct my life, and the opinions of others aren’t a huge influence.
  • My birth family has quite a bit of dysfunction to it.
    • I have learned to give the gift of love in spite of and because of other’s imperfections, and love people for the good inside.
    • I have learned to truly appreciate when other people overlook my imperfections and love me for all that is good about me.
    • Overcoming the bumps and bruises of my childhood has made me wiser, stronger, and much more empathetic than if I had been born into easier circumstances.
  • My emotional handicaps caused me to shoot much lower than I could have attained in college, and now it feels like it’s too late.
    • I was able to choose a path that led to a rewarding career and has allowed me to touch hundreds of lives.
    • I am able to get up every morning and share my passion with people I care about.
    • I’ve had a good, steady, reliable job and have not had many worries over not having enough money to provide for my family.
  • My first marriage was a disaster, and it has taken a heavy toll on me and my children.
    • I have learned to trust that God really is in control and that no problem is bigger than He is.
    • The events in my marriage prepared me for the work of overcoming my emotional handicaps.
    • I have known the blessing of giving birth, and was able to give my children the foundation that has shaped their characters.
    • My children will be stronger for their life experiences, just as I am. That’s the was God set life up to work.
  • While working with children is satisfying, the current state of teaching leaves me feeling like I have to protect myself from parents, administrators, and lawmakers.
    • I am learning how to work with people, instead of in spite of them.
    • I am learning to look for the good side of things, so that I can present the best I have to give to my students.
    • I am learning to use my creativity to continue to follow the structure handed down to me while still giving my children the right to create and enjoy.
  • The congregation I am assigned to in my church really looks like the beginning of the Sneetches story by Dr. Seuss — the part BEFORE the guy showed up with his machine!
    • I now have the opportunity to overcome my personal hypocrisy, because I tend to buy into the general attitude myself, and find myself resenting the “cool kids.”
    • I am learning to appreciate how marvelous God is that He can take all of us in our imperfections and make something bigger and better than we could ever do on our own.
    • I have become more sensitive to others who may feel like they have been pushed to the fringe, and look for ways to help them feel included.
    • I have learned to be the first person to reach out to create a connection, and I’ve learned a bit about creating small talk.
    • My faith has grown as I have leaned on principles like: the gospel is perfect, but the people are still working on it.
  • Even things that bring me joy, like running, have only been won in my life with more work and effort than most people ever have to put in.
    • As I stated before, the extra effort has been a large factor in making me who I am today.
    • I have learned that I need to listen to experts and to seek experts when I need more information.
    • I have learned to be patient with the processes of life.
    • I have developed and increased my ability to persevere.
    • I experience more joy, because I know the fear of losing the ability to do what I love.

I could continue the list, but I think I have made my point — at least to myself. God was telling the truth when He told us to give thanks in all things and to receive all things with a grateful heart. He really is watching over us, and He really has put exactly where we need to be to learn, grow, and become like Christ. He really does intend to help us, and sometimes that help includes letting us struggle on our own.

Even in those dark times, there really is room to be grateful. Perhaps even I, with a heart that is still much smaller and pettier than I would ever want it to be, can find enough room to have gratitude.