Everyday I get up, check my schedule, and go about my business. My alarm on my iPhone goes off. I rise from my pillow top mattress where my wonderful wife is asleep next to me. I take a shower, make coffee, eat breakfast, read my bible, and head to work. By 9:00 AM I already have more to be grateful for than 99% of the world: a three bedroom home, a warm and extraordinarily comfortable bed, an amazing wife, hot running water, salon quality shampoo & conditioner, a really nice coffee machine that grinds the beans and brews coffee with the push of a button automatically, food, God’s voice in my life through the bible, a job, and so much more. So, why is it that I am not overwhelmed with feelings of appreciation? Routine, apathy, lack of perspective maybe? I really do not think it is any of these things. The reason I say this is not because I am some super Christian who is above those temptations. The reason I say that is because I think my lack of appreciation and thanksgiving is due the fact that I do not continually take steps towards appreciation. I have perspective. I know, and have seen those who have much less than me. I intellectually understand my blessed state. It’s not routine, because routine exists whether or not we are appreciative. We can be appreciative with our without routine. Furthermore, it is not apathy, because, well, I am not apathetic.
I have been reminded over and over again in little ways, and in substantial ways of my blessed state. I recall when I was a teenager driving a 1985 Chevy Celebrity. One day, my windshield wipers stopped working. So, I was driving without wipers, and it started to rain. It then hit me. How amazing are windshield wipers! They allow me to go to and from places even when it’s pouring down rain, I need to appreciate them more. Then recently, as I have been preparing to move across the country I have re-established my appreciation for my wife. She has yet to find a job where we are moving and thus, will be staying behind. Because of this, I can not even look at her without feeling overwhelmed with feelings of appreciation. My heart weeps for the distance that will soon be between us, and I do not want to waste any moment with her. Even now, the only reason I am writing is because she is at work taking care of patients in our local ICU. I have learned over and over again how I need to be more appreciative, so, as I have already asked: why can’t appreciation be a part of my daily life? Again, the answer is to actively pursue appreciation instead of waiting for moments of loss to remind us of what we have. So, after thinking a great deal about this, here are some steps I believe we can take daily in order to be continually thankful.
1. Take stock: Often in life we dwell on what we don’t have, or what we have lost. Every morning as we begin our day we should pause and take note of the blessings we have. This doesn’t mean taking hours of our morning to make an exhaustive list. This means having a moment of meditation to think over a few of our blessings, maybe while we sip our coffee, or take our shower. Just set your mind towards thanksgiving at some point during your morning routine.
2. Be present: I recently watched a video that a guy by the stage name of “Propaganda” put out called “Be Present.” In the video he recites one of his readings where he speaks about being present. One of my favorite quotes from the reading is “Multitasking is a myth, your not doing anything good just everything awful.” Take time to be present. When your in conversation, do not let a text drag you away from that conversation. When you are sipping your coffee, take a moment to enjoy the taste, texture, and aroma. When your driving down the road, shut off the music and the distractions and enjoy the smooth suspension. Propaganda says it like this “And she (she being time) begged me to stop stuffing her full and stretching her thin, and stop being so concerned with the old her, and future her, but love her, now. Her presence is God’s present, and you should be that…huh…present.” When we take time to be present, we take time to enjoy and appreciate. Thus, being thankful. Being present takes practice. Try making small commitments each week. Something like this: Week 1 – When I eat dinner with my wife, I will shut off my phone and put as much energy into the conversation as I did on our first date. Week 2 – when I eat on my lunch break I will put my phone on silent and enjoy my meal one bite at a time. Week 3 – When I take my daily drives I will turn off the radio and pay special attention to the scenery (the clouds, trees, architecture, or what have you). Continue this week by week until you feel like you are truly being present.
3. Get a hobby: This one seems a little awkward, but I think it has merit. Get a hobby, and pour into it. This year, I started my hobby of woodworking. I have made a coffee table, and an entertainment center. Then, because of my move, this hobby got put on hold. However, as I dove into this hobby I learned a great deal on what goes into making a beautiful piece of furniture. I began to notice detail that I never took note of before. The spirals in the legs of our kitchen table. The intricate patters carved throughout our dresser. The same can be applied to any hobby really. If you start learning an instrument, you will begin to hear music differently. If you take up sewing you will not be able to get dressed without taking note of the craftsmanship that you are draping over yourself. In our lives we get so busy, then we fill our down time with the TV, facebook, web surfing, video games, or what have you. Taking time to own a craft changes the way you view the world. I builds the muscles of appreciation within.
4. Maintain: It isn’t enough to do these things once. Just like becoming healthy. To become healthy you need to exercise and eat well. If you do this for one day, what good have you done? It all gets undone the next day. If you do this for a week, what good have you done? It gets undone on the second week. Maintenance is the name of the game. If we quit, we will find our appreciative nature waning away. If we keep at it, we will find that the art of appreciate will begin to infect every faucet of our lives and dramatically increase not only our joy in life, but our relationship with God.
Appreciation, what an amazing gift. So, we have now all been challenged. What we do with it is up to us.