When I was a girl, I was a Girl Scout. Thankfully, we had an active troop leader who took us on all kinds of outdoor excursions, from camping and hiking to ice tobogganing, in all kinds of weather. Recently I thought of a song that we sometimes sang as Scouts, the “Johnny Appleseed Song.” It went: “The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.”
As we move into the new calendar year, I’m more aware than ever of the centrality of gratitude to prayerful living. While many people make New Year’s resolutions and hope to have stronger willpower than ever, for me deepening my life in Christ is less and less about trying to exert my own will more exactingly. Instead, the prayer is more and more about handing over my will to God in trust and letting God lead me, i.e., surrender. The foundation of surrender is gratitude.
Everything good that we have in our lives comes first from God. Our families, friends, work, talents, and our lives are all gift. Then, as the Principle and Foundation says, we are invited to make a response to those gifts. Gratitude naturally moves toward generosity.
Over Christmas, I spent some time in prayer holding the baby Jesus, gazing at him in gratitude. Along with my profound sense of the giftedness of Jesus, I was reminded of the beautiful moments when I held my own children as infants, and the blissful looks on their faces when they fell asleep on my lap after nursing. My sense of gratitude for their very existence encourages me to think about how to be a more generous parent to them now as they approach adulthood, for example, helping my oldest to learn how to budget in anticipation of living independently or hugging my son on his way out the door to an exam.
As Scouts, we joked that singing the “Johnny Appleseed Song” inevitably led to rain on our camping outings. In truth, we can’t control the shifting weather in our lives. It may rain or snow one day and be all sun and light the next, but all we are given is part of the giftedness of existence. And so I pray for ever greater surrender to the all-good Giver of the gift.
I have started a list of my gratitude to God each day. My husband is always at the top of the list. I look for insignificant things to be grateful for. This is my second year of seeking silence with God. It has really begun to change my view of the world, as I seek a deeper relationship with the Father.
I’m not sure when this post was first published, but I am grateful for having it in my inbox this morning. I’m praying with the theme of Marina’s premise…struggle less and surrender more. I like being in control and our Lord is leading me to learning how to exert less my own will and handing my will to God. I really don’t know how to do this after decades of entrepreneurship, but this Advent I am grateful that I am here and reading this post.
God bless you,
Great article! Thank you for your wisdom–I, too, hope to become more prayerful in the coming year.
I started a gratitude journal this year and I am already filling the pages with occurrences of God’s abundant blessings. This is a good exercise for me since my son is nearly finished with University. I feel the separation and it’s painful. Through this journal,I am finding wonderful abundance of happiness and trust in God’s loving plan to see me through this life transition.
As a dancer of hula, which is more about character formation than choreography, one of our annual assignments is to make a Thanksgiving list. We list at least one thing, for which we are grateful to God, for every year of our life. As our list and years grow longer, we grow more humble and happy.