I grew a tree of gratitude,
it will keep on bearing fruit.
I water it with thanksgiving,
keep on smiling, keep on singing.
I soak my soul in gratitude,
that my eyes may see the truth.
I fill my mind and mouth with thanks
that my heart may be strong and steadfast
even when circumstances appear to be pants!
Then I am be able to shout: ‘Opportunity!’
rather that whimper: ‘O woe is the world and woe is me.’
I keep this habit and I will find it is true
that God’s will for me is to be happy and free.
Gratitude paints my view of the world a different hue.
It sets me free from a cruel enemy
that saps away strength with negativity.
I turn my back on despair,
step outside, take a breath of fresh air
I look up to the sky and rather that wonder why
I raise my hands and my voice
I’ve been given a choice
to give thanks for a glass that was half full
I kept on going, now that glass overflows!
Most of my life I have lived with a deep seated insecurity born from rejection and then the fear of rejection. The insecurity stood on the cruel core-belief: “No-one will want me. Yes, others may tolerate me, but really they do not want me, they will not seek me out because they want me around.”
The conception of this core-belief may be found in early childhood experiences and the culture and mindset that was prevalent during formative years. What I have learnt is that the most potent wounds and distortions are subtle. The courageous or the desperate will be able to find them out, acknowledge them and the damage they’ve done, then search for the truth brings healing and freedom.
It was desperation borne from this sense of rejection that tenderised my heart and made it receptive to the love of my Creator as it was poured out in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God as a man who left heaven and walked the earth. My inner world changed in an instant as I tasted the joy and peace resulting from His love that found entrance into my heart.
I’ve learned that mindsets, inner cultures and habits don’t change in an instant. So my journey went on, my life’s landscape sometimes gently undulating and at other times dramatic and fierce. He, always faithful, lovingly making all things work together for the good. I love Him!
Life was pretty hard for a long time, and high levels of stress became the norm. There was always enough to enjoy and to be thankful for. So onwards I powered, willing myself to be positive and always hoping for the best, both of which are good things to do and I still do them. However, I did not know how to take care of myself. I did not realise that I was living in survival mode and that my personal resources were becoming completely depleted.
In May 2012 I fell apart completely. Stress upon stress, trauma upon trauma finally took it’s toll. I could not sleep, eating was difficult due to the constant knot in my stomach. Anxiety was at it’s peak. It was utterly frightening to be off sick from work with stress and anxiety! Guilt was bearing down on me like a ton. This was no way to live and I wanted to live! This place was rock bottom, stripped bare, nothing to lose, everything to gain and He spoke. He spoke! I heard. He gently, firmly, patiently, truthfully showed me the way.
One of the things He said was from Isaiah 30:20. “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be move into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it'”.
Then a friend (by the way, friends are the brightest diamonds in my life, the most treasured treasures) gave me a book to read: “One thousand gifts” by Ann Vosskamp. God kept on speaking, every word of that book cheering me on to life, to happiness! I was experiencing the power of a story shared and now I have a story that I want to share too. Before, there was a story, but I never much felt like sharing it. The story was too dark, too difficult and there was no time to tell it, because it was a story of survival, not of life.
I wrote this excerpt from ‘One thousand gifts’ in my journal and still marvel at how she captured an inner reality that I knew so well.
” And I moan that God has ripped away that what I wanted. No, what I needed. Though I can hardly whisper it, I live as though He stole what I consider rightly mine: happiest children, marriage of unending bliss, long, content, death-defying days. I look in the mirror, and if I’m fearlessly blunt – what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I’ve got – this simply isn’t enough. That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, look at my refelction and ask: Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain? Does he not want me to be happy?
When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily ate manna – a substance whose name literally means “what is it?”. Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning and take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery.”
Ann penned the question of my heart accurately: “How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy, self-focus for God-communion?”
I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and I was baffled. “Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” How? How to do this without pretense, I intensely dislike pretense.
How? How? It looked entirely impossible, but I wanted it so desperately, I was not going to give up and reading on, listening on, the key was given.
“A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.”
He spoke, He taught me, He encouraged me, showed me, empowered me to take the key and turn it in the lock.
The key was the giving of thanks. Not in pretense. No, it was required that I only give thanks for the things that I was thankful for. I had to search and find what to be thankful for, and not pretend to be thankful for things that I was not thankful for. Everyday I did this, I wrote it down. In the beginning it was hard, I could not come up with much and sometimes had to think really long and hard. I gave thanks for the same few things for a long time. Most of what I could give thanks for initially was connected to my then 2 year old son. I made a list and the list was a revelation. It revealed a progression: body, soul and spirit. It opened my eyes to the realm of the unseen and my heart to the reality of heaven. It helped me to see beyond the limits of my eyes and brought back hope and faith. It destroyed lies of lack. I rediscovered the things I enjoyed but did not practice. And all the while His voice: I was hearing Him, He was speaking to me! He gave me the tip about simply doing things I enjoy. So simple. I had to stop and think about it and realised how easy it can be. So for one, I turned on the radio, dug out my CD’s and simply turned the tunes on! Then came singing and dancing and praising and jumping! A trickle for thanksgiving turned into an avalanche! The gates of gratitude burst and my default mode was reset. The fun was in the details, giving thanks for every little thing. I can still remember my son’s first spontaneous prayer: It was a prayer of thanksgiving, for his toys! I was wildly and randomly giving thanks for my lungs, my voice, my toes, my legs, the road, the drums, the violins, keyboards, mucisians, bands, technology, birds, flowers, colours, trees, clouds, eyes and ears to see and hear, food and friends and more that enough so we can share.
How did this happen? Now I’m living in joy, the joy of His presence that I’ve entered with praise that simply flowed on from the giving of thanks. So now I can live in a different place, because of His mercy and perfect grace. I have the ability to enjoy what I have, whether much or little, I am content!
This new habit of thanksgiving keeps open the gate to gratitude. Should I ever grow slack and get locked up again, I’ll remember to pick up the key and start to give thanks once again!
Added to my list of things that I’m thankful for: peace (no anxiety), joy (no depression), a good night’s sleep (almost every night without fail), a healthy body and mind and the ability to enjoy my life!