Another lesson we’ve learned has been vitally important to our spiritual and emotional health. It involves being purposefully thankful, as often as possible.
I won’t lie – living in another country and culture can be difficult sometimes. And we have it relatively easy… not First World, for sure, but definitely not Third World either. But no matter where you live outside your home culture, it’s still not really home. Normal things take longer to do. People look at you funny because of things you say or do, even when you’ve lived there a long time. You constantly clash against different values, different languages, different units of speed/money/temperature…
This is not a gripe session: it’s only a way of saying that we missionaries are just like everyone else. Living, no matter where you are, takes a toll after a while. And if you’re not careful, you can get sucked into seeing ONLY the difficulties. That’s something I think we can all relate to – whether you live in Slovakia or Slidell.
That’s where purposeful thankfulness comes into play. Many days, we could make a long list of things that went wrong. But purposeful thankfulness looks back over all that and says, “You know, at least THIS happened.” And when we realize that God was working in those moments, purposeful thankfulness can become very powerful indeed. During our process of calling and commission we called these moments “Stones of Help,” and thought more about the big moments we were thankful for. But now that we’re living here every day, recognizing the little moments is just as important!
For this lesson, we’ve borrowed an idea from our friends and colleagues the Normans, who work in Barcelona, Spain. They have a thankfulness book, and they make regular entries in it. That way, when things are difficult, they can go back and look at that long line of times when God has done something good… and be reminded that they are exactly where they need to be! We’ve borrowed this idea, and like the Normans we keep the book in our living room so that anyone from the family can make an entry in it. I find myself going back to it sometimes – just as a reminder.
Here are a few reasons we’ve found thankfulness such an important part of our spiritual and emotional lives:
- Purposeful thankfulness reminds us that a day doesn’t have to be defined by what went wrong. It’s so easy to see the day as a string of disappointments and setbacks. But when I can find at least one thankfulness moment from that day – even just a small one – it helps me put things into perspective.
- Purposeful thankfulness reminds us that we have something to look forward to tomorrow. No matter how positive we are, some days it will just seem impossible to find something to be thankful for… but looking back over our list reminds us that our thankfulness moment is coming – we just need to be on the lookout!
- Purposeful thankfulness reminds us that God has been working… and is STILL working. When we are purposely thankful, we can look back and see that God has brought us to where we are. And our faith tells us that if God has brought us here, God will not abandon us here. God is still at work! We simply have to pay attention.
Do you find thankfulness important in your life? How do you cultivate it?