Believe me when I tell you, the last thing I wanted to do was sing when I walked through the lobby of that hospital.
I was tired, hungry, and sad. I am not proud to tell you this, but I didn’t want to praise God in that moment. I didn’t want to count my blessings.
I just wanted a sandwich.
But then a song rose up around me, when I wasn’t even ready for it, when I didn’t even want it. A song found me in the last place I thought to look — the lobby at Mayo Clinic.
There we all were — a bunch of patients and moms and grandpas and nurses and therapists — all shuffling from place to place. A lot of us were lugging our heartache and our worry and IV poles — chins sort of pinned to our chests, eyes to the ground.
But then, up rose a song. When none of us could sing, someone brought us a song.
We all stopped in our tracks. All the doctors and the sad mamas and the cancer patients — and the daughters like me whose Dad was having part of his leg amputated. We all stopped, on account of a song. That day, I dropped to my knees on the lobby of the floor and let the tears flow.
The man by the piano said we should all sing along, so that’s what we did. We just stopped and sang. Some of us cried through the words, “This Little Light of Mine.” It was all music — the notes and the tears.
I thought about that moment today, as we begin to prepare for Thanksgiving.
I thought about it because this has been a really hard year for our family. Dad lost part of his leg, and is still struggling to heal. Our youngest daughter Anna was in and out of hospitals for months, while specialists worked to figure out why she was so sick. And of course, the backdrop to our personal struggle is a world gripped by division, an election that has ripped us all apart. So many people are groping around in the dark trying to find patches of light.
But this is what I learned on that day in the hospital lobby:
The days when I don’t feel like singing at all, are the days when I need to sing most of all.
I know I’m not alone. Because I’ve read the emails you’ve sent me. I’ve prayed over the requests you’ve delivered on Facebook. I know that many of you don’t feel like singing at all this Thanksgiving. Being grateful feels hard because of what you’re going through.
Friend, maybe this is when we need to sing the most. Maybe this is when we need to be loudest in our praise. We can’t wait for perfect conditions to be grateful. Gratitude is more than a nice gesture acknowledging the gifts in our lives. It is the stubborn refusal to be held hostage by fear and despair. It’s saying to the world — and to ourselves — that despite everything, this old world is still a beautiful place. No matter how hopeless it all seems, there’s always, always something to be thankful for.
This year, I’ve come to believe that gratitude is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like … and celebrating it for what it already is.
And I’m inviting you to join me.
30 Days of Gratitude
Let’s be intentional in our gratitude. Let’s offer a chorus of praise even on our hardest days — especially on our hardest days.
I’ve put together a Happiness Dare for us. For the next 30 days, we can count our blessings together.
Here’s how: Simply follow along with these 30 days of prompts, listed below. (You can return daily to this post, or print the 30-day chart out by clicking here. You could also “pin” the list to your Pinterest boards, or find the list on my Facebook page.)
Whatever day you’re joining us, simply start with day 1, and complete one a day, for the next 30 days.
Share your blessings with us in community on Facebook, on Instagram, or Twitter. Use the tag #TheHappinessDare.
Your gratitude might just change your world, but first, let it change you.
How Gratitude Makes You Happier
When we look for things that make us grateful, we start seeing them. And when we start noticing them, we are making actual investments in the thoughts of our future selves. We are building neural pathways, all the while becoming more resourced on the inside. When we are more resourced with happiness, we have a kind of happiness bank that we can draw from on our hardest days.
We can begin accumulating resources in our happiness banks by taking five minutes every day to consider our blessings. It’s a good practice to write them down, but you don’t have to. Merely thinking of your blessings has a profound effect on your outlook. We can devote five minutes a day, dwelling on the good things and thanking the one who gave them to us. I understand that you may not be one of those unstoppably positive people whom you know—the kind of person who wakes up singing songs, the kind of person who relentlessly posts cuddly puppy pictures on Facebook. I understand how you might be inclined to forgo counting your blessings on your hardest days. And I totally get how it feels selfish to make a list of what’s right in your little world when you know there’s a girl in a developing country who can see the ribs under her skin.
Thank God anyway. We must.
There are so many good gifts here in this world. Clean sheets and Frisbee golf and kites and reruns of Friends. A cool breeze through a cracked window. A Charlie Brown Christmas on a cold December night. An overdue date with your husband, and his arm over your shoulder at the movies. A new bottle of bubble bath, a fresh haircut, leggings-and-boots weather, the smell of a bookstore, a long rope of licorice.
Thank God for what you have been given and then use your gratefulness as a way to share the gospel with a world in need of a reason to praise.
Answer our Day 1 question in the comments:
“What unexpected blessing are you grateful for?”
Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!
Our featured writer this week is Nicki Schroeder. Her words arrive at the perfect time with a post titled ‘Gratitude When You’ve Got A Bad Attitude.’ If this week has you stressed, bookmark her post and come back to it before you sit down for a Thanksgiving meal! Find Nicki here.
To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer