gratitude

Prayers for Choirs: No. 11

Prayers for Choirs: No. 11

It's not a church holiday, I know, but there's something inherently spiritual about the practicing of giving thanks. This week, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving, a day we gather around the table; share our favorite food, stories, and traditions; and count our blessings. We'll reflect on God's good gifts in our lives: the gifts of health or healing, provision or guidance, good friends and neighbors, grace and freedom. We'll reminisce about years past - perhaps those who are no longer with us - and celebrate another year of love and life and laughter with loved ones, far and near.

How do we show our gratitude? How do make it a daily practice?

Thankful

Thankful

Thanksgiving.

It's that time of the year when people seem to become a bit more intentional about counting their blessings and naming things they're thankful for. A time when people gather together from near and far to share a special meal around the table. A time when people google things like "how to cook a turkey" and "watch macy's parade online" (No? Am I the only one?).

Maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's a response to the chaos of life the past few months, but I find myself needing to take a step back, needing to create space for thankfulness. Eugene Peterson said it best:

"We stop, whether by choice or through circumstance, so that we can be alert and attentive and receptive to what God is doing in and for us, in and for others, on the way. We wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies." -Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

Welcoming a New Season

Ecclesiastes 3 has been on my heart and mind lately. "To everything there is a season; a time for every purpose under heaven..." Maybe it's the hint of fall in the air (after all, the Pumpkin Spice Latte did come out this week) or the promise of structure that the school year provides. Whatever the reason, I've been thinking back on the "seasons" I've had so far this year:

In February, I entered into a season of grieving after losing my Grammy very suddenly. Everything changed, and yet, I stocked up on colorful Clare cardigans at J.Crew Factory because I craved more change - I didn't know how to keep living with the way things were.

Then, in May, I wrote this post about the season of waiting. I still craved change - We almost bought a house, y'all. And got a new job. But, those things I thought we were waiting for (in reality, hoping for) did not happen. In the restless moments of this busy summer, waiting for tangible, visible change, I thought about contentment. This moment, our lives as they are right now - am I content?

Grounded in Gratitude

Oh, y'all.  The past few weeks have been hard.  The unrest and turmoil in the government.  A great loss in the Eastman community.  The stress of work and school and teaching and trying to find a proper balance.  The pressure to succeed and make a mark.  It's easy to succumb - to complain and get frustrated, to give in or give up.  It's also easy to become immobilized by these challenges and feel incapable of moving forward.  I write these words from lived, personal experience. But I believe there is more to life than the pressures of our daily lives.  From the midst of these challenges, we can be grounded in true, sincere gratitude.

Let&#8217;s do a little gratitude comparison, shall we?</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Your websites have been attacked by hackers all week and they are wearing you and everyone else out VS you have a really happy healthy baby (who will attack said hackers in her Bumbo if you ask her).</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Your inbox decided to fail and go to email heaven for good this time so you have to start over and try to remember all the emails you missed during maternity leave VS you have a wonderful caring husband who is rubbing your back as you type this in bed right now. He also fixed the drain tonight and made your happy healthy baby smile a lot.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>You&#8217;ve had a headache for a week and can&#8217;t take anything but Tylenol because you are breastfeeding VS you are breastfeeding. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Your house suddenly has an ant problem VS you have a house - a roof over your head. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Gratitude instantly turns overwhelming into &#8220;well, that just sounds ridiculous.&#8221; Gratitude gives perspective wings. Be grateful. Actively. It takes work to change your thoughts and it will humble you like nothing else. Pursue it with passion and gusto. It&#8217;s there right now, in every moment, waiting for you to soak up life as it is supposed to be lived. In ALL things give thanks.

Image Credit: Lara Casey

Do you believe these words?  Does the seemingly simple act of giving thanks really have the power to change things - big, daunting things?  I believe it does.  So, I'm starting over.  I'm starting with gratitude.

First, this is my favorite time of year.

There are so many wonderful things I love about the fall season - the crispness in the air, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet as we take an evening stroll, the need for scarves and boots, hot apple cider on a chilly evening, and the beautiful colors that greet you at every turn.  It's glorious.

With fall, comes my very favorite holiday - Thanksgiving.  I love the traditions, the hustle and bustle of gathering together, cooking, preparing a meal together, serving each other, and visiting with friends and family.  And I love that though we've progressed as a society since that first Thanksgiving, it's name hasn't changed.  Thanksgiving - a time to give thanks.

Here's what I'm doing to stay grounded in gratitude this season - making a gratitude list (you can download the [download id="1" format="6"] here).  Hang it above your desk, print it out and add it to your planner, or if you're like us, post it in your kitchen so that you see it every day.  Make a list of everything you are grateful for in life and add to it each day.  Look for the little things, the things we tend to overlook in the hustle and bustle and business.  Live a life of gratitude.

Give Thanks Always

gratitude.jpg

gratitude Gratitude.

Everyone has it during the month of November.  You've seen the daily "I'm thankful for" posts and the #grateful hashtag.  Everyone remembers to count their blessings, be thankful for what they have, and give to those in need.  But then, December happens and people tend to get swept up in the season of giving (and receiving), traveling, and those can't-resist holiday indulgences (cookie, anyone?).  Somehow, by the time the New Year rolls around, we're all ready for a break.  We crave a fresh start, a new-and-improved lifestyle, and time to breathe, and we resolve to make changes.  Sound familiar?  I want to break out of this cycle.  I want to find ways to keep that spirit of gratitude in our hearts and minds all year long.

I've been reading through a few She Reads Truth plans on YouVersion these past few weeks and, though I've read it before, these verses really resonated with me:

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

After reading them over a few times, I wrote the following note to myself: Give thanks always.

It's that simple.  In my vision for this year, I wrote that I want to live a life of gratitude, love, and grace.  It starts with gratitude.  So, hanging in our kitchen is a little gratitude list-nothing fancy-just a way for us to thank God for his goodness to us and be grateful every day.  I created a free printable version for you, too!  Just download the PDF file below, print on an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper or cardstock, hang in your home or office, and start making your very own gratitude list.  Enjoy, y'all!  And give thanks always.

FREE GRATITUDE PRINTABLE

On Teaching

Last week, I found out that one of my former students in Massachusetts passed away suddenly.  Ironically (or perhaps not), I thought about Ed Sunday night and told Steve, "I should write him a note this week and see how he's doing."  Later, I found out that he died the next day.  Life is short, friends; too short to leave things unsaid, to worry about what others will think, to value things that don't matter.  Act now.  Love now.  Give now.  Focus on what matters. Ed was 73 years old when he began taking piano lessons from me in the summer of 2010.  I'll never forget that first week - he came in with a stack of big note, EZ-read piano books, a mini audio recorder, and an enormous amount of self determination.  We started at the beginning: landmark notes (Frances Clark method), folk songs, rote songs, and technic exercises.  Within the first year, he was sightreading simple songs, harmonizing folk melodies, and playing teacher-student duets in the studio's spring recital.  He was dedicated.

In our second year of study, he began learning key signatures and counting in unusual meters.  He performed solo in the studio recital earlier this year.  Our last lesson before I moved was at the end of July.  In those final weeks, Ed began asking questions about chords, harmonic progressions, and inversions.  He was curious and he truly loved learning.

Every week when he came into his lesson I would ask, "How are you doing today?"  His response always caught me off guard: "Oh, I'm much better, thank you."  "What do you mean 'much better'?"  I'd say.  "Were you sick?"  "No, I'm fine.  It's just that people always pay attention when you say 'I'm doing much better,'" he'd say with a grin.  I smile when I think of him looking down now, saying, "I'm doing much better, thank you."

What a privilege we have in teaching.

Teaching to me is not just about music or experiences.  It's about people - people like Ed who want to build on a lifelong love of music, people like Bobby who love to create, and people like Matthew who love to explore and build with musical patterns.  What an opportunity we have as teachers to engage with others, interact, and share musical experiences.  I am so grateful.

Love, Speak, Give

The phrase, "Love, speak, give with intention" appears on my lock screen as a constant reminder to be more intentional about life.  It reminds me to do small deeds with great love, choose words carefully and intentionally, and give with joy.  This month, I've been intentional about gratitude and really acknowledging the good gifts we have been given.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving and families and football and turkey and cranberry sauce this weekend, I hope you sit a little longer, hug a little tighter, speak with intention, and give to others as much as you are able.  "Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices..."

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Thankfulness

Surprise! I have another wedding sneak peek for you today. This was our first moment as "Mr. and Mrs. Danyew" (a great iPhone capture - thanks, Cindy!) It's hard for me to believe that that picture was taken almost three weeks ago! Where has the time gone?

Yesterday, I admired the bold orange and red foliage on my way to teach in Fitchburg. Today, it's snowing (with an inch on the ground!) We're nearing one of my favorite holidays, you know. Of course, it comes wrapped up with both of our birthdays, Christmas, and New Year's all packaged into one busy holiday season. It's that time of the year when people talk about thankfulness and giving. "Take time to be thankful," they say. Take time to be thankful? What time?! There are thank you notes to write, emails to send, quizzes to grade, music to practice, phone calls to return, and services to be planned. Part of me says, "I'll take the time to count my blessings once I get through Christmas." This year, I'm learning that like grace, thankfulness is a way of life.

It shouldn't be something we just "do" because it's that time of the year. There's no prescribed method for "giving thanks" or "counting your blessings." For some, it might be a morning or evening prayer of gratitude. For others a passing, "Thank you," to someone for holding the door into the post office. For others still, it might be the act of listing their everyday blessings. For me, it's taking a moment to be still in the midst of very busy schedule, be peaceful in the midst of conflict, and be grateful.

I am grateful for my husband and our new life together.

I am grateful I was able to witness the first snowfall of the year this afternoon.

I am grateful for an energetic group of children who love to sing in choir.

I am grateful for all of our friends and family who came together to celebrate with us a few weeks ago.

I am grateful for the opportunity to witness joy on people's faces.

I am grateful for quiet evenings at home after long, busy days.

I am grateful for opportunities to teach and learn.

(And just because of the week I've had) I am grateful for the moments that get me fired up because I know God is shaping and molding me into His likeness.

I am grateful for the gift of new mercies each morning ("great is Thy faithfulness...").

I am grateful for moments of spontaneity and sheer bliss (as captured in the photo above).

I am grateful for love and acceptance and compassion.

I am grateful for grace, each and every day.

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Will you join me in committing to live a life of gratefulness?