January always inspires me to do a little cleanup. I rid the fridge and pantry of junk food (or “fake food” as my friend Gretchen calls it), and I attack the hall closet, also known as the cemetery for misfit coats, gloves, and boots that have divorced their mates.
In an ambitious wave of energy this year, I even tackled that drawer in the kitchen. You know the one. It’s overflowing with ballpoint pens, useless receipts, empty Scotch tape dispensers, and that wad of rubber bands that have no purpose.
As I surveyed all manner of nonsense dumped in this drawer, it brought a new yearning. Secretly, I want 2016 to be The Year of the Tidy Drawer, but in my heart, I know organizing closets and drawers won’t bring significant change. There must be more.
Choosing My Word for the New Year
I’m smack in the middle of reading The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan, and within the first few chapters the author shares her desire to think differently and be different. She caught my attention with the statement, “I don’t want to just acknowledge what’s good today. I want my gratitude to transform me for the future.”
That’s when my word for the year presented itself. Every January I choose a framing word that will be my focus for the year ahead, and I suddenly knew what it would be: gratitude.
As Kaplan pointed out, gratitude is different than momentary thankfulness. It’s deep. It’s transforming. It changes the way you look at your family, your stuff, and yourself. Cleaning and tidying up is great, but I want lasting, significant change. I want to be intentional with my thoughts, and I want to have the presence to appreciate what I have today, where I am today, and to the people I get to share today with.
I realized this was what I wanted for 2016, even more than healthy eating habits and an organized pantry. I want to appreciate the moments, this moment, and see with new eyes the good things I already have. Each day is precious, but only if we allow ourselves to live in it.
Finding God’s Presence Through Gratitude
I sat down yesterday and started a list of all the good in my life. I have a family that loves me. I have a church that ushers me into the presence of God every weekend. I have friends who make me laugh and bring out the best in me. As I continued with my list, I could feel a holy presence. It is God who engineers all that is good and allows me to experience it.
My mind wandered to things that had been hard over the past year. I had allowed attitudes of selfishness and discontent to slip into my life. Just like the sundry items in the kitchen drawer, they had piled up and gotten in the way. But it occurred to me that God had worked good even through my junk. He wooed me, patiently whispered to me, allowing me to see how I could grow. Taking just a few minutes to let true gratitude seep in helped me reframe how I felt about growth, even in the painful moments.
Journaling My Way to Change
So how do you build an attitude of gratitude? I’m taking a simple suggestion from Kaplan and beginning with a gratitude journal. Every night before I close my eyes, I’m taking just a few minutes to jot down three things about my day that brought me joy, a sense of satisfaction, or even just a smile. I savored a really good cup of coffee. I received a hug when I walked through the office door. I heard a baby belly laugh. Then I whisper thanks to the God who brought these good things my way.
While gratitude is my theme for this year, here’s my heart’s prayer for 2016:
Oh God, transform my mind with a holy gratitude that forever changes me. Give me new eyes to see not only what you have given me but also what you are doing around me and in me. Let a true spirit of thankfulness overwhelm me, even during the hard moments. Teach me to see your good in every day. Amen.