When I think of gratitude, my mind pictures joy. When I focus on joy, I think of my mother. I never saw my mother in a state of sadness. She began the day in song waking us up with “Oh what a beautiful morning,” and cheerfully led us through the day regardless of circumstance. This was a choice she made early in her life growing up with meager means as a middle child, daughter of a pastor, who practiced carpentry to benefit the family budget. My mother learned to overcome obstacles with grace and fortitude. Even while raising three teens, she kept her temperament in check and radiated supernatural joy.
Her legacy prompts me to reflect upon my life: what if gratitude cushioned strenuous uphill climbs of life? What if gratefulness soared higher than disappointment? Recentering myself in gratitude puts praise on my tongue and steers my mind to the Giver of all that is good and beautiful. Swapping gratitude for less desirable attitudes is a healthy prognosis for one’s soul. Consider “soul care” as an extension of “self-care.” We practice self-care for a good reason: the body is the temple of the LORD (I Cor 6:19). Yet finding a word that encompasses “all I am” invites me into “soul care.” I believe this is more than semantics: at the final resurrection my physical self will change and be made new, but my soul remains intact. 2 Corinthians 5:4 “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). In the Psalms the authors repeatedly bear their soul to the LORD. Exposing thoughts, grief, and attitudes to the LORD, is “soul care,” an exercise allowing the Spirit to bring His healing work to my whole self, making me new.
When I practice soul care, I close gaps in my life that are quenched for the closeness of God. These gaps may manifest in a lack of gratitude and inhibit me from living in the biblical lyrics of worship songs I sing or the Word I profess. I can’t just hold my breath while meditating on a verse and hope it will stick. After solitude with God, He says, “Don’t be shy, practice what you’ve inhaled. Get out there into the world and exhale my blessings.”
Through my musings of thankfulness this week I’ve experienced a few gratitude take-aways: when I lean into gratefulness I see tiny blossoms on a rose bush and anticipate the unique arrangement of color within each bud; I note the artistic wonder of fluorescent orange, pink, and purple hues that frame a sunset; I linger in the shade of giant trees at the park and thank God for the color green; I take in the faces at the table where I sit and praise God for the blessing of a beautiful family and the sweetest friends. Gratefulness overcomes the shadow of obstacles and tickles negativity out of a day.
Yesterday this was my request to the LORD: “Create in me God, a greater awareness of Your glory.” Could it be a grateful heart marks the entrance?