As I stared out of my kitchen window, I saw the bottle brush plant that was planted 6 years ago. The change in this plant is remarkable. You see, there was a neighbour’s tree that used to overhang the fence, causing the bottle brush to be in shade. The bottle brush survived but didn’t thrive- it didn’t see enough sun. A little over a year ago, that tree was removed. Once the shade was removed, the bottle brush could see the sun and it has flourished. It has almost doubled in size with new growth and it has grown in new directions.
I was struck by how much I was like the bottle brush. My first year (and a bit more) of parenting was like the bottle brush’s early life; living in the shadows, surviving, despairing. Sleep deprivation from our battle with reflux and caring for a high needs baby took its toll. The glimpses of ‘sunlight’ kept me going. Inevitably there were little moments of joy that sparked thankfulness. A baby giggle in the midst of a hard day. Seeing the curiosity bloom in my daughter’s eyes. A beautiful cloud formation during a witching hour walk. The encouraging words of a friend. My soul craved more of these glimpses. I needed more to begin to flourish.
I had to become intentional about focusing in on those moments. I found a joy dare on Ann Voskamp’s blog. It was a catalyst for me, freeing up my mind to cultivate gratitude. Focusing on the good was like pruning away the branches causing shade. Circumstances may not have changed but my outlook was shifting. I had heard about the research on the impact of intentionally looking for the good and things that we are thankful for, but now I was beginning to experience it. Maybe you long for that freedom to be grateful too. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of the benefits. Maybe what you need are the tools to cultivate thankfulness.
Here are some ideas for you:
- Take the joy dare for yourself- free printables available on Ann Voskamp’s blog: http://annvoskamp.com/
- Make a practice of recording what you are thankful for each day:
- In a journal
- Using a notes app like Evernote
- Using one of the many gratitude journal apps available
- With a friend for accountability
- Check out the 365 Grateful project for inspiration: http://365grateful.com/
No one can take this journey towards freedom for you. Each of us must take up the tools and take the steps forward for ourselves. How will you move towards freedom to be grateful today?
Jodi Koepke is a mother, writer and part of the MOPS Australia team. Read more at http://www.jokoepke.com/ for encouragement and inspiration.