For the past several days I have been employing an old standby habit, something that felt awkward at first but then got me through a crisis when my girls were toddlers, and these recent days it has felt luscious. I call it the Thank You Habit: While still lying in bed, in the dark, before speaking to anyone or even checking the time, before my feet hit the carpeted floor, I start silently saying thank you for as much as I can think of.
I let my mind float from person to person in my life and say thank you for them, then thank you for every modern convenience and insane material comfort we have, for the specific problems we overcame the day before and for the satisfying goals we met, thank you for the food I know is in the kitchen waiting to be prepared (and for the coffee that is probably brewing automatically at that moment), for the animals outside who trust me to meet their daily needs and for the supplies I have available to make my job so pleasant.
I say thank you for the hundreds of miracles we have witnessed over the years, as they come randomly to mind (these will gain momentum if you allow them to!), and thank you for the miracles still on their way. Thank you for my husband’s job which provides not just abundance in the practical sense but also abundance for the state of Oklahoma, for the people on his team, and for him as a person who was born to do this work and much more. Thank you that both of my girls are breathing and have hope, beauty and spiritual gifts to develop, despite their intense grief. I say thank you that both of my parents are alive and nearby, and that I enjoy true adult friendships with every single one of my siblings. These are blessings that only few of my friends have, and the older I get the more I see them as wild, amazing gifts.
Before even standing up, I say thank you to God for the day ahead, for the problems we will inevitably face, because I know He has help available, and I know that in facing them we always emerge stronger. I tell Him how excited I am to see what kind of sunrise he has designed that day (I imagine Him staying up all night like an artist feverishly painting, waiting to display His new work), and thank you for what I will learn or enjoy on my run, and for what random surprises might happen. Thank you for the colorful fresh eggs our hens will lay. Thank you for the phone calls and texts with loved ones I might receive or make, thank you for the many people my sister will help that day and for the students at school and just as much as my mind will collect. Thank you for every hour coming, for every scrap of grace I will be afforded in the new day. Thank you for the near misses and close calls, for crises averted (there are many, you know).
This is just paving the way ahead with generous rivers of heartfelt gratitude, a way of attaching my day and my mind to the best possible outcomes.
This habit may sound goofy or trite, but I promise you it will feel smoother and more natural the more you practice it. After a couple of days, it tends to give me a glowy buoyancy, an inner sense of expectation that good things actually are coming. After this predawn ritual, I often catch myself throughout the rest of that day taking mental notes, “Oohh, tomorrow morning you can say thank you for that! That was cool.” This thought of course just sparks a midday thank you fest, which feels wonderful.
What this habit does not do is perfectly insulate me from dark thoughts or bad attitudes, for slipping emotionally from faith into fear. I am still susceptible to all of these errors and more; but the ongoing habit of saying thank you can even permeate this very real part of life: “Thank you for this frustrating challenge, thank you for this important relationship that may not come easily to me right now, but I know you are growing me here. Thank you for this deep pain, because it shows met how deeply I feel love, and it reminds me to be more loving. Thank you for the dreary landscape that makes me crave color, because I know you have built in this season of rest for a purpose, and I know this appetite for new life will help me enjoy springtime so much more. Thank you for this anger that awakens my protectiveness, and thank you for absorbing it cooling me down before I lashed out.”
If you try this one day and find your mind blocked or your words jammed up, or maybe you are in such abject pain that you cannot fathom a sincere thank you, I believe in my heart that is okay, too. This is not meant to be a saccharine exercise. I encourage you to try privately thinking only the words thank you a few times in a row, with no expectations or embellishments, and breathe deeply and say it again, while you are still in bed. Just rest for a moment longer before lunging desperately and painfully into your day. Whatever you face next, you have taken control of your energy for a moment. You have set the tone.
You know this drill, friends. We all know it in different expressions.
I just wanted to share my version as this brand new year takes hold, because the daily, hourly, private practice has helped me tremendously. My husband and I are facing some mammoth stressors lately, as I know you certainly are, and we are still enduring the same family heartaches as ever, still praying and watching for signs and still hoping for the next homecoming. Saying thank you ahead of time keeps me both tempered and lively. It keeps me happily tuned into good news, instead of staying vigilant, waiting for the next shoe to drop; and it helps me feel like the Universe is wired to my advantage, if that makes sense. That feeling that God is on your side, as silly as it may seem, works wonders. It magnetizes you for more goodness, and (at least for me) it sums up how it feels to trust God, to look Him straight in the eyes and willingly be held by His absolute goodness.
I heard a gorgeous interview that I will share in better ways soon, but for today, within the conversation the speaker shared a meditation:
“You are loved, you are held, you are guided, and you are never alone.”
Thank you for that assurance!