Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gifts and Happiness

I've had great intentions of writing a Christmas blog post with an overview of the year and I also want you write about Little Miss since we just celebrated her birthday, but I feel most compelled to write about a powerful insight that has been a rich blessing to my life. Hopefully I will catch up on the other things later. I am not sure where blogging fits into my life right now - but I know I love to write and I hope someday to do some good with it so I will try to make time for it.  We have early church now so maybe I'll be blogging more often.

The things I am going to share are kind of personal, but I want to share them in hopes that this blessing given to me may be of help to someone else. I hope it is read with the knowledge that this is my sincere intent.

We hear all of the time that everything we have is a gift from God - each day, each breath, our material things, but it has really hit me lately that it really is everything - our minds, capabilities, opportunities.  We don't earn any of it.  I don't know why this didn't register in my mind the first few hundred times I heard it, but I am beginning to understand what it means.

I gave one of my sons a kit for Christmas that had several pieces.  He took good care of it at first, but I found it scattered on the floor one day. My thought was, "When I see him treat his gifts this way, it makes me not want to give him more."  Then I felt the Spirit tell me, "I feel the same way about you."

Suddenly I realized that I don't clean the house just so it doesn't look terrible - I clean it to show gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the incredible gift of a home to live in.  I don't exercise just to loose weight - I do it to show Heavenly Father how grateful I am for this gift of a body.  I don't study just to be smart - I study to show Heavenly Father my gratitude for the gift of my mind...How well I take care of my stewardships is an indication of my gratitude for these gifts (and if I have more than I can take care of - then I need to give some of it away - someone needs it more than I do...we've started decluttering again).

As I have adopted this new truth to guide me - I feel gratitude so much more.  Almost everything I do feels joyful because I know for whom I am doing it.  When a child is yelling, I find myself feeling grateful that at least they have the gift of a voice. When I don't feel like going shopping and bringing in all of the groceries in the snow, I find myself feeling grateful that I am able to go buy food for my family.  It's not always easy, but the effort to feel and show gratitude is overwhelmingly worth it.  I feel a much more deep and rich connection to my Heavenly Father.

I turn off the radio in the car and pause to express my gratitude for a car and for a car with a heater. Then I notice my warm coat and feel grateful for that. Then I look at the view and feel grateful for the beauty of snow. Then I glance at my children in the rear-view mirror and I am overwhelmed with love for the gift of having them in my life. Joy and peace fill my soul.  I take in the moment.

I have been pausing more often to take in more moments as I go about my business. For example, I clean with just a little more care as an expression of gratitude for what I am cleaning and as I do so I remember even more blessings and I stop to take in the beauty and wonder of the moment.

This deeper connection to my Heavenly Father has also opened up my mind to hearing Him. I notice His tutoring hand as I go through my day.  I have thoughts that teach me and help me understand my role, my desires, and His incredible will and plan for me.  I felt so grateful the other day as I cleaned stinky water out of our broken dishwasher because it gave me the opportunity to ponder on some things that I would have been too busy to ponder otherwise. My kids did not want to be around the smell so they didn't interrupt my thoughts and I learned some things.  I don't know if I can feel grateful for any circumstance.  I hope I can - knowing that every circumstance can prepare me for the future blessing Heavenly Father wants to bless me with.  I know He can't bless me with them until I have learned some lessons or He would spoil me and He loves me too much for that.  I think this knowledge and His love can carry me through anything. I suppose time will tell if I can truly feel grateful through anything, but I do intend to live my life trying.

I didn't write New Years Resolutions this year.  I wrote a Gratitude List.  On one column, I wrote some things I am very grateful for (gospel, mind, body, sustenance, family, people) and on the next column I wrote something I would do to show my Savior my gratitude for them.

Just 6 things 2 of them are weekly and 4 are daily - easy enough right?  Well, if you've ever tried getting things done as a mother - especially when you have a baby - it is not as easy as you may suppose :-)  Normally, I end up frustrated with goals and then forget them, and I'll admit that I was tempted to feel that way after a couple of "unsuccessful" days and gave into that feeling for a bit (after all, if they are all righteous goals, shouldn't the way be opened for me to accomplish them?)  And then it hit me.  If this truly is a gratitude list and not a "goals" or "resolutions" list, and I am doing my best to work for Him, then I am on His errand and I can accept it and be joyful with it - even if a challenging morning with distracted children keeps me from exercising or if a phone call with one in need does not allow me to "move toward order" in my house or if I sleep in after a restless night with some little ones. By keeping these ways to show gratitude in mind - I am being anxiously engaged in a good cause (showing gratitude) and I can move forward with joy when things go differently then expected because I am on His errand either way, and I know He is pleased with whatever ways come up for me to show Him my gratitude (including showing love to contentious, disobedient children :-) )

The other lesson that has been ingrained in my mind lately is that since all I have is a gift from God - I need to share it freely.  He blesses me with it to see what I will do - hoard it and be selfish - or give it away freely to bless others as He has given it freely to me... but that is another topic for another post.

This attitude of gratitude (when I remember to keep it) has been such a blessing to me! I am grateful for a couple of books lately that have helped me see this more clearly - Hidden Treasures by Leslie Householder and Approaching Zion by Hugh Nibley.

"My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven." - Thomas S. Monson