The Transforming Power of Gratitude

There’s a lot to deal with following a trauma. Often times, you go into survival mode. As I’ve stated before, there were times that just continuing to be alive come night fall was a successful day for me. But, what about after the tempests move on and the black clouds disperse? Every step of healing is unique and varies from person to person. Most recently, I’ve been asking the Lord to shake off the remaining debris that keeps me from living in the reality of the new life he’s given me. New life was not instantaneous for me. It is something I’ve been given, but have to choose to claim and live in every day. In the midst of this prayer, one night at Adoration, I felt him showing me the tendency of my mind toward self pity. I couldn’t deny it. I could see it so clearly, a leftover byproduct of years of repeating my story of victimhood for the courts and focusing solely on survival. But, even though I understood where it came from, I also knew that it did not need to continue. That night I went to confession, confessing self pity. Though I may not have consciously chosen to foster the thoughts, as they arose out of two years of depressed thought patterns, I knew that receiving the sacramental graces of Reconciliation was the most powerful first step I could take to reclaim control over my mind. Our God never disappoints. That week, through the words of the priest and my daily devotional readings, God made clear that self pity and gratitude cannot coexist. Thus, I have begun practicing outwardly thanking the Lord for any number of things that come to mind, whenever I begin to feel self pity attempt to creep back in. I must tell you, I’ve been practicing this for a few weeks now and I thought I was a grateful person before, but really focusing on remaining in a state of gratitude has changed the way I interact with the world and with my God. There are certainly times that it is appropriate to feel sad, the Bible supports this, but it can also be too easy to wallow in that sadness instead of reminding ourselves of all that we have to be grateful for. When we do, I am finding that the fruits of gratitude are endless! How natural it should be that we would be grateful for the one who is the only reason we exist and the giver of all that we have; and yet, how challenging it is. This day and every day, may we aim to practice gratitude and then watch as it transforms us.

 

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Discerning God’s Voice: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Discerning God’s voice, finding the whisper in the storm, is not always easy. It can be especially difficult when choosing between two apparent goods. For me, this difficulty is multiplied again when the decision to leave involves walking away from a need that I could fulfill, a service that I could provide.

With only a week left in Chicago I find myself at one of those very crossroads. Packing has begun, not that there’s much to pack, and Ava’s new nanny, Miss Vivianne, arrives for a trial run this Friday. These past two months have been filled with such unexpected treasures. When I think of the weeks I spent here, I’m not reminded of pull out couches, tiny closets, or city driving, but rather, the many evenings spent talking with my brother, my sister-in-law’s sage advice, building deeper friendships with them, and the countless moments shared with Ava watching her grow and change, as she becomes her own person, full of personality and an independent spirit. Knowing their need for someone to continue caring for her during work hours, it is difficult to not want that person to be me.

How are we called to decide? Staying to care for my niece would not be a bad decision. I’d argue it would be a good one, but are we called to make good decisions, or to dig deeper, quiet ourselves, and inquire as to God’s decisions? When facing a similar situation many years ago, as my time in New Zealand neared its close, a very dear priest friend said to me, “Danielle, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.” This simple, yet profound statement has served as my pause button on a myriad of occasions: deciding whether to stay or to go, take this job or that one, where to give my time, what relationships to pour into, what ministries to take on. In such situations, repeating that simple phrase, helps me to slow down and place the decision back in God’s hands, asking Him to reveal His Will for me.

Practically speaking, how do you go about letting God make your decisions? I’ve been asked this question so many times. For me, it involves being in a quiet place, where I can still my mind and heart, and listen for God’s voice. Once in that state, I begin to envision whatever situation I’m trying to make a decision about. I picture myself, where I would live, what I would be doing, who I would be surrounded by, the good I see coming from it, any difficulties I foresee, etc. As the vision of whatever I’m placing before the Lord washes over me, I find that I am almost always filled with either a sense of peace and joy or a sense of unease. For me, when the peace comes, I know I have found God’s whisper.

And so it is, that as much as I would love to stay and care for my niece because it would be a good thing, it seems God is calling me elsewhere. The peace of my heart currently rests in Norfolk. And so, I prepare to journey south, knowing that God is not in the business of willing my good at the expense of another. Trusting in this knowledge, and my many experiences that support it, I know that my decision to leave is also the best decision for my brother, sister-in-law, and Ava. Though I can’t see His plan, God has a perfect plan for them, just as He does for me. I don’t know where this stage of the adventure will lead any of us, I can rarely see beyond the next bread crumb, or the next sign on the road, but I trust in the One who’s guiding me. He has never steered me wrong. True happiness lies in Him alone.