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How Thankfulness Set Me Free

Do you ever feel locked up?

You know, like you are also serving time, but on the outside.  The heavy weight of living with your husband in prison pressing in on you from all sides?  I know exactly what that feels like.  It is a prison without physical walls, but with physical impact.

Living in an emotional or mental prison is tough.  This kind of prison has no obvious out date or sentence expiration.  It is an unending sentence that traps its victims.  It is so hard to explain to someone who has never gone through having their husband locked up. Part of you goes with him, and the part that is left out here is overwhelmed and overlooked. We are bombarded with all types of hardship, while being discarded socially at the same time.  This is the most difficult season you will face.

It is easy to fall into a rut of complaining.

Truthfully, there is a lot to complain about. But, once you start complaining, it is hard to stop.  Complaining hardens our hearts against all of the amazing things in our lives.  All of our focus is turned toward the difficult, or unfair, parts of our lives. Before long, those hardships begin to define us and we fall victim to hopelessness and helplessness. Learning to be thankful will literally save you from a lifetime of being a victim to your circumstances.

When Ron went to prison I was so angry.  I spent months focusing on all we had lost as a family.  As a mother I didn’t want to raise my children alone out here in society.  I wanted to be an intact family.  It wasn’t fair!  The more time I spent complaining about my situation, the more I found I had to complain about, and the more locked up I felt.

As I looked around me, I found myself beginning to envy other people.

I was envious of families who were together, individuals who were smiling and happy, and those who had things I could not afford.  Indeed I didn’t like feeling envy, I didn’t like the way I saw the world, and I especially did not like the way I saw myself. I knew this was making me bitter. I definitely did not want to be a bitter person.

It was then that I began to take stock of the good things in my life. The things I was grateful for like my children, my husband, a home, food, clothes, stopped me from complaining.  At first the list of what I saw as good in my life was pretty short.  But the more I searched for the goodness in my life, the longer my list kept getting.  The prison of regret, envy, and anger faded away and gratefulness took their places.  Now I knew I needed help.  I need the Lord to lead me out of a selfish life focused on what I lost and into a life focused on what I had.  I began to practice gratefulness every day as I thanked the Lord for all He had provided for me.  Then, I realized something wonderful had happened. Gratefulness had set me free!

Thanksgiving is a great time of year to reflect on the things for which you are thankful. It’s a time to re-center gratitude and focus on the good. All the while trying not to fill up on appetizers before the main course. Learning how to celebrate thanksgiving in prison was a challenge our family faced.

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thankfulness tyro blog

I found the freedom to laugh, dream and live again

Oh, how much easier it was to walk through the coming years with gratefulness instead of bitterness.  In spite of the pain and separation, I felt truly grateful that my family was still together.  We found a lot to be grateful for during our prison visits and letters.  We saw our journey together with fresh eyes and we began to appreciate each other much more.  It was a gift that changed the course of my family’s history.

It is so simple to practice gratefulness.  Here is how to use thankfulness as a way out of your mental or emotional prison:

  1. Wake up and say 3 things you are grateful for today
  2. When you complain, find 3 things you are thankful for and say those 3 things out loud.
  3. Serve others who have less than you. You will find out that others’ have it much worse than you, and yet they are still grateful for what they do have.
  4. Teach your children to do 1 and 2 above to set the culture for your home.

Being grateful is good for you in every way.  Do not let another day go by without changing how you see your world.  Practice gratefulness every day and watch how your life is transformed!

I am rooting for you!