Tracking Gratitude

“Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Building an “Attitude of Gratitude” has been a practice that I have done for over ten years now, starting in late 2001.  It has been a life-changing thing for me and something that I highly recommend to anyone at anytime, but especially to anyone going through a time of turbulence and change in their life.  While I certainly learned this concept at church, I never really embraced it fully until that particular time in my life when things were really tough for awhile.  A dear friend introduced this concept to me, and I went “all-in” with this wonderful new journey.  I have never regretted it, and strive to work this exercise every day, both listing and meditating on an item of gratitude in the morning, afternoon and evening each and every day.

I won’t get into this concept in this post, except to share a new way that I have found to track my daily gratitude items.  Over the years, I have done everything from writing in a spiral notebook, using various note apps for my computer and phone, and taking photos.  Each method has worked just fine, too.  But a couple of weeks ago, I decided to branch out and try something new – logging my gratitude items right into my daily calendar.

I use my Google Calendar faithfully every day.  It saves me time and time again from forgetting appointments and chores.  When I try to go it alone without relying on my trusty calendar, I set myself up for failure.  That’s just the way it is after fifty, I guess.  Whatever device I use, I make sure that my trusty calendar is prominently there because I know I’m probably sunk if I don’t have it handy.  On my Android phone, I love CalenGoo, as it is just the best phone app I’ve found for Google Calendar.  My calendar has been on my gratitude list many times over the years.  You get the picture here now.

I have several sub-calendars within my Google Calendar, including my calendar, hubby’s calendar, mom’s calendar (she is 91), family birthdays, friends’ birthdays, and vacations which is shared with hubby.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to “promote” my gratitude list to it’s own calendar in my Google Calendar.  I know that sounds pretty benign, but it was a really big deal to me.  I was getting a little lax on keeping up my written list, even though I was still practicing my gratitude exercises every day, and it was bothering me that I was letting myself take a pass on this.  So, I decided to give this a try.

As I already mentioned, I look at my Google Calendar often throughout the day, and this is now a de facto reminder to me to log my points of gratitude, even at the time it happened.  But the unexpected benefit is that I can now see my gratitude items in the context of my overall calendar, too.  In the midst of my everyday agenda now lies one of the most important things in my life – my blessings day by day and hour by hour.

I think I’ve really stumbled onto something here, even after ten years of working this exercise.  After only two weeks, the number of gratitude items already outnumbers everything else on my calendar each day, and it has really gotten my attention in the process.  Before now, my gratitude items seemed to be something more on the edges of my life.  Now, they are right there in the mainstream of it and usually dominate each day’s listings.

Life lesson?  Yes… a big one. 😀

Now, I’m off to take a look at that prayer list.  😉  Why, oh why did I not think of this before?

Here is a nice article by Michael Hyatt for a little more perspective on an “Attitude of Gratitude.”

Feeling very, very blessed today for the little revelations of life.

D
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“Just A Dog” – Author Unknown

I’ve read this wonderful poem before, but it really spoke to me again today as I get to know my precious puppy more and more and as I watch my aging elder dog slow down a little more almost every day, it seems.  They have been magic in my life and have loved me when I didn’t feel loved by anyone else.

Dogs are truly a gift from God above!

Just A Dog

From time to time, people tell me,
”Lighten up, it’s just a
dog,” or
“That’s a lot of money for just a dog.”
They don’t
understand the distance traveled,
the time spent,
or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.”
Many hours have passed, and my only
company was “just a dog,”
but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,”
and in those days of darkness,
the gentle touch of “just a dog”
gave me comfort
and reason to overcome the  day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,”
then you probably
won’t understand phrases like
“just a friend,” “just a sunrise,”
or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of
friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience
that makes me a better person.

Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early,
take
long walks and look longingly to the future.
So for me
and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog,”
but an embodiment
of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond
memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and
diverts my
thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

 I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,”
but the thing that gives me humanity and

keeps me from being “just a man or woman.”
So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,”
just smile — because they “just don’t understand.”

– Author Unknown

Catching Up

I am a bad, bad blogger, especially when I am sick.  From about the first week of December to nearly the end of February… I was sick.  Thankfully, I think I’m finally past it all and getting back to a more normal routine.  But in retrospect, I don’t think that I have coughed more in my entire life.  It makes me quite thankful for the times that I am not sick, which is most of the time.

December Cruise:

Fortunately, my illness was not too bad while we went on our cruise in mid-December.  It was such a great time, and I would go again in a heartbeat.  I’m actually hoping we can possibly do this again next year as well.  It was a nice break during the hectic Christmas season, but I will admit that I had to hit the ground running once we got home.  It was a bit unusual to not have any real gifts to open on Christmas morning, but trading that for an entire week of vacation at sea and on land in Florida was a good deal for us.  I will post more about our trip here soon, as I got a few really great pictures while we were gone.

Christmas:

Our Christmas was very laid-back this year, which was actually pretty nice.  I cooked way too much, too.  I won’t be making that mistake to that extent in future years.  I will try to remember that I said that, too.  😉  We had too many calories laying around this house for too long!

Springtime:

Spring is once again springing forth in our neck of the woods, and while I wish we could have had more rain/snow this winter, I’m actually hoping for a nice mild Spring season this year, keeping the hot temperatures of summer away for a while.  Our winter was pretty bi-polar this year, as we either had very mild temperatures or record-setting cold ones.  We had two cold spells that were just bitter cold, with chill factors around -15 to -20 overnight.  While we did not suffer any frozen pipes, others around town and the area were not so fortunate.

I miss our bird bath in the backyard, and we should be able to retrieve it from storage in a few days since our overnight freezing temperatures are starting to subside.  I miss my birds and taking pictures of them, and I suspect our “regulars” are missing their watering hole now as well.  In fact, I have hardly taken any pictures since our trip and Christmas, which is very unusual for me.  That’s how bad I have felt.  Needless to say, my “photo a day” project has not taken shape, so I will just look to revisit that another time when I feel so inspired again.

New Nook:

My husband surprised me on Valentine’s Day with an unexpected gift… a Nook of my very own!  I gave him one for his birthday last fall, and he liked it even more than I thought he would.  He started reading every day, just as I had started reading more with the free Nook and Kindle apps on my own laptop.  But, I think he picked up on the fact that I was wishing I had my own Nook, even though I really did not talk to him about it.  I have truly enjoyed learning to use it to its potential, including learning how to download and read e-books from our local library for free.  So, I blame my new Nook in part for my lack of photography adventures for the past few weeks.

It’s just been so nice to just relax at home (or at the library or at my local Barnes and Noble store) and just read a good book.  It is noteworthy that Nook owners can read select books for free on the B&N in-store Wifi for free for an hour each day… and it really does work.  We own the non-color Nooks… the original version, and honestly, I think I like it better than I would like the back-lit color version.  I can literally read for hours on my Nook with the e-ink, and my eyes never tire.  I’m not sure that would be the case with the back-lit Nook.  The battery life is much better on our version, too, due to the difference in the technologies, and I really like the fact that I do not have to charge my Nook for about a week, even reading it every day.  I’m pretty sure that we are both now “hooked” on reading books electronically now, and I can’t see either of us opting to buy a traditional book if we can find it electronically now.  If I do have to buy a paper book for some reason, I now plan to donate it to my local library or a retirement community when I am done.

Japan Earthquake / Tsunami:

Finally, my heart truly goes out to everyone in Japan that is suffering after the historic and tragic earthquake and tsunami last Friday.  I was actually up late reading that night and checked the news updates before I went to bed.  The earthquake had just occurred about twenty minutes earlier, so I turned on the TV news and watched it all unfold throughout the night.  We know a young woman that is teaching in Sendai, and I found myself praying for her and everyone affected off and on throughout the night.  She is fine, for now… prayers continuing for everyone in Japan and their families, wherever they are.

D

 

Beloved Star-Spangled Banner

“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light…”

196 years ago today…

On September 13, 1814, Attorney Frances Scott Key was aboard a British troopship at Fort McHenry to negotiate the release of an American civilian that had been taken prisoner.  When the bombardment of Fort McHenry began about four miles away, Key was detained on the troopship.  In the early dawn hours of September 14, 1814, Key saw the huge flag still flying over Fort McHenry, and he excitedly began to write the words to the song that is now our nation’s national anthem.  The poem’s original title was “In Defense of Fort McHenry,”  and the anthem we sing is only one of four verses to the entire song.  The last verse is so very special and inspiring, too.

It is also interesting to note that the song Key penned and put to music was not officially adopted as our national anthem until 1931.  My parents were ten years old at that time.  Kind of brings it all into perspective for me a little bit more.  We are still a young nation.

The anthem is not an easy song to sing or perform on a wind instrument.  My son is a trumpet player, and he has played the national anthem on several memorable occasions.  One of the most special occasions was at his own high school commencement ceremony, where he stood on stage in the huge arena and belted it out solo.  His classmates and everyone in the audience brought the house down as he finished.  I know they were proud of his performance, but I also know that it was once again a recognition of our fervent pride in our country, too.  He put his heart and soul into it, and it showed.  It was a magic moment.  His mother… well, she couldn’t hold the tears back… didn’t even try.

I am probably in a minority, but I still fight tears every time I sing the national anthem at a public gathering.  I watch the flag going up the pole, and I think about Frances Scott Key looking out over the water to see that fort and that huge flag getting bombarded… and all he could do was watch… and start penning the words to our future national anthem.

Please go see the Star Spangled Banner at it’s beautiful home at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D. C. sometime.  You can’t miss it because it sits just inside the main entrance of the building… totally appropriate.

Wash DC Apr 1-7089

Read up on the conservation (not restoration) project, too.  The painstaking detail work done is just incredible.  I was privileged to see the flag and some of the workers during the conservation project in the spring of 2001, and I finally saw the flag in it’s new home in the spring of 2009… memories that I will always treasure.

I think Frances Scott Key would be proud.

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Never Forget

Never Forget 2009

Never Forget 2009

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

— Rudy Guiliani quotes Laurence Binyon (English Poet)
in a NYC ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11

Every year since 9/11/2001, our community has sponsored a large flag display on the grounds of a local elementary school.   Each year, I go with my camera in hand, and it never fails to touch me in a deep way.  I took the photos above last year, and they are still some of my favorites with the sun shining through the flag.  It symbolizes “hope” to me, and hope is something I desperately needed in the fall of 2001.

9/11 touches me deeply, not just because of what happened on that fateful day in our nation, but what was happening to me and my family at that same time.  It was as if bad news was just piling on and would not quit.  Fear almost completely overtook me, and I could not see a way out.  It was, without a doubt, the hardest time I have endured in my lifetime, but it was also a huge life lesson for me in my walk with God.  Our lives changed during that time.  It was a very hard autumn season, though, and one I will never, ever forget.  The words of John 16:33 gave me so much comfort and reassurance during that time, too.

God bless the families and friends of those that perished on this fateful day in 2001.  You are in my thoughts and prayers today, as always on this day of remembrance.  As bad as our issues were at that time, I did not lose a loved one.  My heart truly goes out to you all.

As odd as it may sound, I think this commercial by Budweiser a few years ago kind of hits the nail on the head as far as my feelings about this day.  It was a commercial that was done solely to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims and their families.  No words… just the utmost respect… I cannot watch it without getting teary even still.


Update, September 14:  This is an incredible story that just came out, and I wanted to share it here, too.

Never forget.

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Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
— Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

I gave my life and my heart to God in high school, some 35 years ago now. Perhaps I will delve into that experience a bit more at a later date, but it still remains very personal and special to me, as do many other times that God has spoken to me over my 52 years of life.  This relationship defies words, or at least the words that I can give it. It hasn’t made my life perfect by any stretch, but it has helped me to savor the amazing times, bask in the peaceful times, summon courage in the difficult times, and simply endure the impossible times better and with more purpose than I ever could without my loving Heavenly Father at my side. I cannot imagine living life outside of this constant, abiding love that greets me every single day.

I am a wholly imperfect servant, but I remain a servant today, imperfections and all.  I am grateful every morning that I wake up to so many blessings in my life, and I strive to never take those blessings for granted… especially my Five F’s.

The verse that I listed above is one of the first verses that I committed to memory back in my high school days.  I actually had a poster on my wall with a beautiful nature scene and this verse overlaid on it. As a new Christian at that time, it was a concept that I struggled with.  Thirty-five years later, I still struggle with it at times, but I now have many instances of walking in faith to draw strength and hope from. I am grateful for each and every situation that God has both blessed me with and pulled me through, often using his angels disguised as family and friends along the way.

A moment of inspiration in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove this summer, standing beneath trees that are almost 2000 years old; it just took my breath away

Sometimes faith is the only option.

But always… in everything… faith is the best option.

Been there… done that.  Need to keep doing that.

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