33 THINGS YOU SHOULD BE CELEBRATING.
I’m a fan of lists, a listologist, you could say, and so, I have a time-honored tradition of making numerical lists every year on my birthday that coordinate with the age that I am turning. This year, as I have recently turned over the numbers into the land of 33, I have compiled a list of unexpected gratitudes, or, in other words, 33 things about life that we should be celebrating but often overlook. Intentional gratitude has been one of the most life-changing habits I have developed over my past ten years as an entrepreneur and coach and creating this list helped me find new areas of my life to appreciate with more vigor and profound thankfulness.
- The Wilderness
The wildernesses are those times when we feel like we are midway and lost in the journey of life are the very makings of our character and our story – but the wilderness is where God takes our good and prepares us to turn in into something great. Though we might feel alone at times, God never leaves our side and we learn what it really means to walk in patience and in faith, one step at a time. Without the wildernesses of my life and the plateaus where I have felt like an aimless wanderer, I would never have grown into the person I am today. Wildernesses carve out our character and our understanding of what is really important in life in ways that no other experience can.
- Computers in Our Pockets.
Think about it. We carry magnificent computers in our pockets everywhere we go, and through those tiny little devices that we casually refer to as our phones, we have access to almost anything in the world. We can connect with anyone and we can learn about anything at practically any time and any moment we wish. This is astoundingly incredible and, just because our smartphones have become such an integral part of our daily lives doesn’t mean that we should ever bore of being amazed at the capability of technology and the gift it is to live in our modern times.
- Access to Education and the Daily Gift of Learning
This makes my gratitude list particularly since I am a woman and since that currently, in 2016, there are over 66 million girls worldwide that aren’t allowed to go to school. Not only did I have the privilege of going to school, but my parents sacrificed profoundly to provide the best access to the best schools possible for me. More than that, my parents and my teachers instilled in me an unquenchable love for learning, meaning that every day is an opportunity to learn and awaken my mind.
- The Trucks that Bring Our Food to the Supermarket
In the complex web that makes up the global food supply, there is one very important thing – and group of people – who really do make it possible for me to put food from all over the world, the freshest food possible, on my family’s table at night: trucks. My husband often thanks the Lord in our evening dinner blessing for the men and women who drive these massive trailers and are responsible for the transport of food from the farm to the shelves of our grocery store, where they will ultimately arrive on our table. I am thankful for the tractor trailers on the roads, even though I cringe as I cautiously drive by them, and am even more thankful for the truckers who leave their families for days on end to sit in a truck cab by themselves as they make the transportation of food all around the country a reality.
- Honey Bees
These tiny little creatures make this list because, well, first off, I love honey, and because without bees, our horticulture and vegetation would look starkly different than what it does today. Bees can claim a great deal of responsibility in the pollination of the food sources that we eat, and that, without the masterful work of the bees, we might not otherwise have. Also, the bonus that when we eat locally sourced honey we are given the gift of natural antibodies to local allergies, you can really see that the bee is an amazing creature.
- Tap Water from the Sink and a Toilet that Flushes.
Clean, potable, water is possibly the most basic, human need, and yet to date, there are over 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. More than that, 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases. It is an absolute blessing that we can turn on the tap for water without worrying about contamination, do as many loads of laundry necessary without worrying about running out, and be able to flush our toilets as often as we need without fear of waste. Water is a wonderful gift and I intend never to undervalue it.
- Good Stories and Great Storytellers.
Ingrained in our human nature is a need for story. We are drawn to stories and it is through stories that we remember our lives. Great stories inspire us to action, teach us empowering truths and have the power to awaken something beyond ourselves within us. Furthermore, great story tellers take words and create worlds. They inspire us to rise up to greatness and to learn through allegory and, since we learn through story, they increase our memory retention of that which we have learned.
- That Everyday is Someone’s Birthday
Birthdays are the opportunity to stop and celebrate a milestone in life, to pause and consider the significance of one persons’ space in the world and to honor someone’s importance to you in your life. What a gift it is that every day is someone’s birthday. And, then, for that one special day that your birthday rolls around, what an honor to be loved so expressively by those around you and to be affirmed in your growth.
Boredom – though sometimes we foolishly avoid it at all costs by keeping ourselves relentlessly and numbly distracted, it the ultimate reset, rest and challenge for our minds. Out of boredom comes creativity (and often memories) you can’t otherwise fabricate or buy. It challenges our creativity and opens a broader breadth of our understanding of being engaged in life
- People Who Hurt Your Heart.
People, friends, family or strangers, who hurt your feelings or your heart are actually something to give thanks over, for they give our souls an opportunity to actively respond to pain with compassion and forgiveness. Additionally, they help you appreciate the people in your life who honor your heart with newfound appreciation for you…for those people who go out of their way for you, who save seats for you, and who just do the little things of life with you. Without those who hurt our hearts we would not know how great the love we receive from others who guard our hearts with care actually is.
- The Uniqueness of Handwriting
People’s handwriting – an expression of their personality – is so unique and so intimate that I believe it gives us an inside peak into their beauty. I consciously save little handwritten things from the people closest to me because their notes – their gifts of written expression – serve as a part of them, a part of their personality that not everyone gets to know, that I not only get to know, but get to hold onto myself, and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
- The Tears in the Eyes of Your Little One.
It hurts my heart when my 15-month-old Ellie cries, but it gives me the opportunity to express compassion towards her and for her to experience comfort. Tears communicate that which we struggle to express verbally, and that’s a beautiful thing. How great is it that we were created with a deep, emotional layer to our hearts, and that, though we can’t always express ourselves and our feelings, we have tools that need no words that help us express our deepest aches so that those we love around us can reach out and comfort us.
- Sore Muscles.
Soreness means you have done something to challenge your body, so much so that your tiny muscle fibers are working hard to knit back together the small micro-tears that you made in your workout or fitness session. You can think about soreness like an active sign that you are carving and chiseling your physique and it means that your muscles are in active repair, working overtime to heal themselves. The bonus reason why soreness should be on your gratitude list is that anytime you ask your body to do something above its normal maintenance mode, it burns more calories, thus elevating your metabolism and heightening the amount of calories you are naturally burning. And that’s what I call a win!
- When the Wind Messes Up Your Hair
A hairstyle gone array as the result of unruly windy is a blessing because it means that you had time to indulge in some styled pampering that particular day, which probably translates to you feeling fantastic about how you look. Additionally, it reminds you that real beauty is beauty in action, it’s beauty that can outlast the wrecked effect of your curls post-windstorm and it reminds you that, on a windy day, everyone around you is in the same boat and sometimes it’s good to just have a good laugh about messed-up hair.
- Not Being Able to Afford Something
The inability to buy everything you want at any given time is a blessing in disguise, for it leads to family budgeting discussions, the need for financial prioritization and a commitment in your character to be someone who stewards their finances, that which has been entrusted to them, with respect and maturity. Furthermore, perhaps more importantly, when you have to save up for something or delay gratification of purchase, that something is always that much more valuable and wonderful to experience than if you didn’t have to save up for or budget for it.
- Your Rock Bottom
My rock bottom moment was spent walking around downtown Chicago on a bitter, rainy day in January, my brother at my side. I cried the entire day and wavered back and forth over a pro-and-con list of whether or not to stay in an abusive and toxic relationship. I had no confidence, was in debt to my eyeballs and saw no light and no hope. Remembering my rock bottom moment (okay, and moments, there are a handful of them) help me realize just how far I have come and grown and how great the grace of God is as He has restored my soul, my joy, my dreams and my life. If I never knew how low low could feel, I would never be able to know or appreciate how amazing joy and freedom really feels. Your rock bottom moments remind you that there is hope and healing in life.
- How Difficult it is to Make Friends as an Adult
For whatever reason – busyness, opposite schedules, different interests, kids who have varying nap times – it can be challenging to make deep connections and good friends as an adult. I think of this as something to celebrate because it reminds us that we are social creatures and that to create real community, which we need to do., Just like when we were in Elementary School, must push out beyond our comfort zone and make the effort to make friends. We must reprioritize the value of kindness, friendliest, authenticity, effort, shared experiences and the vulnerability of being rejected. The need to make friends puts us outside of our comfort zone, which means that it stretches us and causes us to rise to new levels of our own personal growth.
- The Dictionary.
I think words are just about the coolest things on Earth, and therefore, the book that contains them all, the dictionary, makes my list of things to be thankful for. There is wealth in the words you choose – the ones you choose to think and the ones you choose to think. Vocabulary is open-ended, always changing, and ever evolving which challenges our ability to describe our states, our world and ourselves.
- Interruptions from the Flow.
As a work-from-home mom, I cherish every quiet moment I can steal during the day and am especially protective around Ellie’s morning and afternoon nap times, knowing that those are the hours in which I can open up my most creative flow of productivity in my business and my writing. But then there are the days when the nap flops and the cries from the nursery turn from sobs to screeches and my flow not only gets interrupted, but ultimately stopped. And, despite this frustration, it actually makes me appreciate the moments of flow even more, and when you appreciate the flow, and know its value, you end up maximizing all the more the next time you get to get into it.
- The Mundane.
Chores, endless trips to the grocery store, a baby with a constantly runny nose, poop on my hands all day from changing diapers and picking up the yard after my dog. It’s humbling. It keeps life real simple. It reminds me that I need people and I need connection and I need to create a world around me in my home that is clean and clear and creative. Additionally, the mundane of our lives remind us that our lives are in a continual process of renewal and re-doing and repeating and refreshing.
- People Who Frustrate Us.
We need these people in our lives more than we think or realize because they train within us a depth of character that we would not otherwise have. They extend our patience and challenge us to choose the path of kindness over apathy or disengagement. In short, they inspire us to rise up as better versions of ourselves in response to their misrepresentation of character. People who frustrate us inspire us to be just a little bit kinder, just a little bit more understanding, just a little bit more loving to those around us so that we might not become someone who frustrates others in the same ways.
- Being Overwhelmed.
Though it may seem contradictory, the feeling of being overwhelmed can be a gift because it can mean that we are so inspired, so filled with options, and so engaged in the world that we just aren’t sure where to start. The key is knowing that the exit to overwhelm is to just start something and to simply the overall vision by focusing on just one thing. The next time you are overwhelmed, commend yourself and give thanks for the ability you have to want to do so many things and to have so many ideas and desires because that is simply a sign that you are engaged in life.
- The Fragility of Life.
I am an emotional wreck when I watch fictionalized TV shows portraying the loss of a baby or a child. Even though I know the actors are still alive, the power of the story so pulls at my heartstrings that I babble and drip with tears over the fragility of life. Furthermore, it’s not hard to find real-life examples of this by just looking around you, reading the news or hearing stories of family or friends who are experiencing a season of heart ache in their lives. This however is something we must flip for our own good. We must give thanks for these reminds of the carnality and fragility of life for they are giant lessons we are gifted through tragedy that remind us very vividly of just how precious life is.
- People Who Aren’t Kind to Us
It builds our character and our commitment to congruency in our love towards others when we encourage people who aren’t kind to us in return or who don’t love us back despite our best efforts. Though painful to be on the recipients end of such disengaged rejection, it teaches us that love isn’t always reciprocal and it doesn’t need to be – they grow our hearts and provide us with pain that can be turned into wisdom and the practice of loving out of pure character.
- Our Weaknesses
I have a terrible long-term memory and I struggle with patience, and I celebrate these things about myself because though they are my weaknesses, they are weaknesses that are becoming more and more weak as I intentionally work on them and on my own personal development. I have found that my weaknesses keep me humble and they keep me connected to the people I love the most because they remind me of just how much I need others and how I value what I can learn from them since often, as in the case of my relationship with my husband, my weaknesses are their strengths.
- Broken Relationships
I grew up in a home of broken relationships and around a marriage that carried with it much misunderstanding, much absence and much pain. But, the beauty that can be found in a broken relationship is that it gives God an opportunity to show off because I firmly believe He can heal and mend all broken relationships and I have seen Him do so first hand. And so, we can give thanks because broken relationships give God the chance to move and mend in ways that we might see otherwise impossible.
- Unexpected Teachers in Life
The adage is true that when the student is ready to learn, the teacher appears. We are surrounded by teachers of all ages and positions and as we learn valuable lessons from unlikely or unexpected sources, we have the opportunity to give great thanks for the wisdom commissioned.
- Feeling Scared to Do Something
When you feel scared to do something it’s usually a sign that you’re doing something worth doing, or, in other words, you are stepping outside of your comfort zone and are pursuing your dreams. It is when we learn to embrace that fear, to make friends with it, and to be thankful for it, that we can master pressing onward and strongly into expanding the impact and breadth of our lives.
Where there are ducks, there is water, and it doesn’t matter what size the body of water is, open bodies of water – be them oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds or puddles – serenate our souls. There is something peaceful about open water that takes the stress off our shoulders and puts peace back into our hearts.
- Paper Cuts.
A paper cut is possibly the most seemingly small open “wound” you can incur, yet it can be one of the most inconvenient and painful little distractions when you have one yourself. Paper cuts hurt; but I kind of like them because they open my sensitivities to the pain that other people experience, those with deep wounds or serious diseases. It might seem silly that a paper cut makes me more compassionate towards others, but it does and I give thanks that my something small awakens within me something large that wants to make a difference in the health and comfort and healing of others.
- Not Wanting to Do Something
We all experience not wanting to do something that we need to do – be it a workout, a follow-up with a company or a dreaded task at work – but ultimately, we usually end up doing that which we need to do. The victory over laziness or delayed action is proof to ourselves that we are in fact people who do what we say we will do, who do what needs to be done, and who refuse to waste life in procrastination or avoidance.
- Specialists Like the Plumber.
My dad was a plumber and pipefitter, so, as a kid, I knew there was nothing that I could to mess up the house that my dad couldn’t unclog, re-route or fix, because, well, that was specialty. Specialists are great at their expertise and they allow us to not have to know anything about their field and to know that we will still be looked after and cared for. In other words, specialists create a community and it’s a community we all need and we all feed into and contribute towards. The reason I am thankful for specialists is that they also remind me that I only need to be me. Being me is being a specialist and the same goes for you. Often we get overwhelmed and exhausted trying to do it and all be it all and we just don’t need to be nor is it realistic. All we need to do is be the specialist in life we were created to be.
I celebrate and am thankful for my insecurities because, though I am working on finding freedom from them, they remind me of where I need to continue my personal work. They are loud, resounding gongs that alert me of deeper heart issues that need to be addressed, and so, rather than be frustrated at yourself, or disappointed in yourself when your insecurities go from a whisper to a shout, listen to them and take action to exchange them out for a strength.
Life is filled with unexpected gratitudes at every corner; let us slow down, choose our perspectives wisely and start living fully in the beautifulness that everyday life has to offer.