Everyday Gratitude

Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. Psalm 46:10 NLT.

Fall is my favorite season. It’s full of sweaters, boots, rain, candles, and blankets. In fall the cozy factor goes up exponentially. I love lighting candles in my fireplace, turning the lights down, and cuddling with my blankets on the sofa. Add in some hot chocolate and a good book, I’m in heaven.

In the morning after I drop my daughter off to school, I can be found in a corner of the sofa with my bible app and my devotionals. I have my journals ready to write and pray to the God of the universe.

Sundays, I love to hide away in the guest room with a book. That room is full of pillows and throw blankets and unicorns. I’ve made it a haven for my Sunday afternoon Jesus connection – when we don’t have guests of course. Rosie the cat loves to come in and cuddle. Sometimes, I’ll stay and sneak some alone time, away from the family, and watch a Hallmark movie or two in there snuggled under the blankets.

In the evenings I like to go to bed early and burrow under the duvet. I sink low and put my knees up. In the winter I add fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt. I turn the fireplace on and talk to God. I think about ten things I am grateful for from that day, write them down, and journal a prayer of thanks to God. Always the list is topped with Jesus’ sacrifice and the hope he has given me to remain in this life.

These are moments of stillness. Sometimes, I believe I can feel God’s presence with me there. Always I know that I have reached some connection that I would not have made if I didn’t make the time to be still. It’s the stillness that gives room for the connection.

I can’t tune in if I’m focused on other things. The doorbell, the television, the phone, the internet, the house, the responsibilities… all lead me away from those still moments. All of the everyday things can prevent me from making room for stillness.

Stillness is more than just stopping too. It’s being. It’s pausing the noise inside. It’s the continuous thoughts and chatter inside my soul. It’s the hurry and rush in my heart. It’s the desire to distract and do so that I don’t have to be.

These pauses require us to do less so that we can just be. As humans, we’re not just made for doing. Existing mindlessly to do the next things. As humans we’re made for connections, living, and being. The best of these is connecting, living, and being in the present moment.

It’s all of these things that I am grateful for. These small things help me stay centered and connected to God. This is why I am doing even less this season. Christmas has traditionally been a crazy time of going places, shopping, eating out with friends, and doing Christmas-y things just because it’s the holidays. It begins the first week of November and continues through the first week of the New Year.

We usually decorate a little for Halloween. Then we switch out for fall . We do fall activities in October and November along with some fall or Halloween crafts. We add in house maintenance for fall as well. I prepare a thanksgiving dinner. Then shopping for a weekend and a push to switch out decorations from fall to Christmas. Then it’s decorating two or three trees, Christmas cards, craft projects, and any remaining house maintenance. I throw in some Christmas activities and holiday parties as well. Christmas day is usually an all day affair too beginning with breakfast, visiting extended family, and driving around. We finish the year with New Years eve and usually a happy new year gathering. Then my son’s birthday right before the kids go back to school from winter break.

I’m usually left exhausted and broke. I spend the rest of January cleaning an putting away more decorations, returning or exchanging gifts, and trying to think of how to do better this year so I don’t make mistakes from the prior year. I always resolve to save more and spend less. Then by the beginning of February, I’ve given up.

It’s a terrible cycle and that’s why I’m doing it different this year. I want less of all that so that I can have more of those everyday moments, everyday connections, and everyday coziness on the living room sofa with hot chocolate.

Over the last couple years, I’ve learned the art of capturing my attention, other people call this meditating. It requires moving my attention away from the future and the past. Pausing in the moment, getting comfortable in my surroundings, and bringing my focus into right now. Until two years ago, I didn’t know that it was possible to let one’s mind go blank which allows us to be totally present in this body in this moment. I intend this season to do this as much as possible to have more everyday moments that I can be present in.

Here’s how I capture my attention, just in case your wondering.

  1. Open the table. I do a brain dump of all the lists, reminders, and thoughts that are in my head. I call it the table – these items are tabled for later. If I’m trying to hold all those things inside my head, I can’t be present in this moment. Getting it all on paper means I don’t worry I’ll forget it either. Grab any piece of paper, or a notes app, and brain dump onto the table.
  2. Prepare. Find a spot for yourself that you won’t be disturbed. It’s whatever you like – chair, sofa, rug, beanbag, whatever. Just get a space. Some people like to add candles or scents in the air to focus on. Some people like to add music or open a mindfulness app. I find those distracting so I don’t do them. It doesn’t really matter where you’re at as long as you can get comfortable. The idea is to minimize distractions. Decide on a phrase or word that you will draw your attention to.
  3. Get physically comfortable. Take care of the body before sitting down. This means sleep, eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get some coffee, etc. Do stretches, exercises. You must be able to get physically comfortable so that you don’t get distracted by these things. Again, minimizing distractions.
  4. Sitting. Once all the preparation is done and you’re sitting down set a timer on your phone or stop-watch or whatever. The timer minimizes your desire to open your eyes to see how long it’s been. In the beginning thirty seconds can seem like forever.
  5. Closed eyes. Close your eyes. Look into that space that’s in your forehead between your eyes. If your mind starts to wander or thoughts try to intrude pull out your phrase or word. I use the names of God or the names of Jesus. I repeat them over and over. For some people you can tune into the music notes instead of the words. Finally, I begin to move forward into that space between my eyes and there are no more thoughts. Continue to do this until the timer goes off.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a huge to-do list this season that you’d like to get rid of? How would you be still if you could? Leave a comment below.

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