Some things in life just come naturally.
Other things, we have to learn, practice, and keep working on to get right. I think gratefulness falls into both of those categories.
Have you ever watched a small child explore their world and seen their face light up with joy when they find something new or unexpected? There is gratefulness in that joy. But as children get older, they look to their parents and other adults in their lives for cues on what to be grateful for. Their instinctive gratefulness is replaced with learned behaviors.
I remember when my daughter was 2 years old and we would travel to visit Ron in prison, read more. She would get so excited when she saw a semi-truck driving past us. “Look! Look! A truck, a truck! I am so happy to see a truck!” she would exclaim every time she saw one. She wasn’t aware that the reason she had the opportunity to see so many trucks on the road was because her daddy was in prison. If it weren’t for traveling to visit him in prison, she would not have seen them. She didn’t connect pain, disappointment, and loss to her experience of getting to see so many trucks. She was just grateful to see the trucks!
What a powerful lesson that was for the rest of my family.
Here we were, heading to a visit and feeling sad that we were still having to visit Ron in prison. We weren’t enjoying any part of the tedious drive. oh, and if you are traveling as a single mom, this is a must-read. And yet, there was the youngest member of our family squealing with joy because she got to see so many trucks. Why couldn’t we be excited too? What was stopping the rest of us from experiencing joy along our journey? Where had our gratefulness gone?
I realized that we had let discouragement rob us of enjoying the little things that make life exciting and fulfilling.
We had already learned that lesson once when Ron first went to prison. Yet, here we were, living our lives in the mundane again – forgetting the importance of gratefulness. Since that moment over a decade ago, I have been very mindful of making gratefulness a priority in my life. Whatever life brought, gratefulness helped make my journey through it easier.
How do I become grateful?
I remember asking myself that question months after Ron went to prison. I was struggling to make ends meet, to accept life as a single mom, and to figure out how to keep our relationships alive with Ron. The answer came through observing how others were living their lives. I watched other families and how they treated each other. I listened to how they talked to each other—and to strangers. After observing, I made mental notes of things they did or said that stood out to me as an example of gratefulness in action. I wrote them down when I got home. I decided that I would practice those things NO MATTER WHAT I FELT LIKE DOING.
"Our family had adopted a culture of gratefulness before we even realized it."
That was huge for me because in the past, I had done only what I felt like doing. Now, I was doing something different. For me, I wanted more than anything to model Christlike behaviors and attitudes. I realized that I had so much to be grateful for that I had to stop sulking about what I didn’t have. Once I began to practice gratefulness, it quickly spread to my children. Our family had adopted a culture of gratefulness before we even realized it. Our lives were easier, the pain a lighter load, and we were happier than ever before. Yes, even with Ron still in prison.
After the devastation of Ron coming home and then having to go back to prison after the district court overturned his release, we let grief start to steal our gratefulness. We still practiced it, just not as often. Then, that moment in the car happened. It jolted my memory about what were really the most important things in life, and I felt extremely grateful and blessed.
If you are feeling sad, rejected, and discouraged, gratefulness is sure to help you. There are some really simple things you can begin doing to ignite gratefulness in your life. If this is where you are, read how we overcame it. After you learn how to be grateful, there are also some things you need to do to stay focused on the good things around you—even in the bad times.
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Prison visiting rules
Visiting someone in prison can be super stressful if you are not prepared, but it can be a good time to connect and grow together if you ARE prepared. So, let’s make sure you are prepared to get through the gates and into your husband’s arms! Read more…
1. Always thank people for things they do.
This includes your children (even for doing their chores), your husband, the check-out lady (even for doing her job), and anyone else who helps you. This reminds you that others are exerting effort to provide a service for which you should be thankful, or that your children are obeying you. (And I know you are feeling grateful then!) As you express thankfulness with your words, you will begin to feel thankful.
2. Find something nice to do for someone else EVERY DAY.
This can be your children and family. Set a special table for dinner, write a note and stick it on their mirror, color a picture, etc., but you should also be sure you are helping other people in your community or neighborhood. It can be simple, little things like helping someone put their groceries in their trunk or taking the cart back in. Think about how thankful the people you are helping will be. And when they are not, remind yourself how important is it for you to be grateful.
3. Make a list of all the blessings in your life every Saturday morning.
There are so many things you can list here. The sounds of birds singing, children laughing, people you have in your life, etc. The list should grow and grow and grow. You can have your children help you think of things. Nothing is too small or too silly to add to your list.
4. Tell others when you are thankful for them.
A text, a call, a letter, an email – it doesn’t matter how you tell them. Just be sure to tell them.
5. On prison visits, be sure to spend at least 2/3rds of your time talking about the positive things in your life.
Practice following the advice, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” This helps to set a new tone for your family. Instead of complaining and focusing on all the negative, you can help your family see the beauty in their journey as well.
How to STAY Grateful:
- Keep your faith in God your number one priority.
- Don’t stop making lists of things you are grateful for in your life.
- Say it out loud! When you see something beautiful – like a flower, sunset, sunlight streaming in your window – say what you are thinking. Saying it out loud reinforces the thankfulness you feel, and it reminds your children to be thankful too.
It is never too late to practice being grateful. I promise you will experience a shift in your thinking and in your family’s success when you live your life being grateful.
I am rooting for you!