Saint Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” Ingratitude is a cancer that destroys the best of relationships, all previous successes, and precedes despair. In preparation for the season of Lent, I am focusing on developing a better daily habit– that of more graciousness for life both good and bad.
Find Joy— Make a Great (Grateful) List
Let’s do an experiment. Get a timer for look at your watch or clock and time yourself for a minute.
During this 60 seconds list out all of the various things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can type this out or jot it down on a piece of paper. At the end of the minute look at the various things that you’re grateful for below are a list of my items.
Note: For the sake of transparency I listed the things in the order that they popped into my head. The ordering is not a reflection of the priority of gratitude!
Whether your list is larger or smaller than mine does not matter. What I am certain of is that you could certainly think of at least ONE person or thing you are thankful for.
This exercise took only 1 MINUTE!
Imagine performing this simple test of thankfulness every hour of the day. Aristotle once wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Start your life anew with developing a sense of gratitude.
Develop a sense of thankfulness no matter what happens in life. Happiness and peace will soon follow!
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Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day!
On the first Sunday of Advent, our parish priest gave a homily about how during this season the world tends to speed up and get “busier,” but the Church is actually calling us to slow down and spend more time in prayer. My wife and I both left Mass that Sunday with a high resolve to “slow down” this season and not let the usual culprits get the best of us.
First Part of Advent
We got off to a great start. I joined an Advent Meditation group that I was invited to. I committed to some new service opportunities. My wife, Kate, took up extra prayer devotions and made a commitment to go to Confession regularly throughout the season. She went on a retreat. We both decided not to get too crazy with parties, and shopping, and all the usual suspects. We got our kids involved in some new Advent traditions. Things were looking fantastic.
The first week went really well. We worked everything into our already existing routine. We held each other accountable. It seemed like this was going to be the best Advent ever for our family spiritually. However, once Kate left for her retreat, we got a series of unexpected circumstances that through us way off track.
Our Series of Curveballs (or Snowballs)
Once Kate left for retreat, our two year old son got sick with a fever. He couldn’t go to daycare. The illness was prolonged by an ear infection. This was quickly passed to his older and younger brothers and the illness took a week and a half for our family to recover from.
My ability to work during this time was severely limited. Fortunately, my wife and I are both self-employed so it was somewhat manageable. However, ironically during this time I began to generate some new leads and was getting into the thick of a re-vamped marketing plan that I was trying to pick up some steam on before Christmas break.
Nobody was getting a good night’s sleep in our house for about two weeks. Finally, once we thought it was over, then came the stomach virus that afflicted everyone in our family including myself. Suddenly, I found myself stressing out over the season because I was backed up on work and we weren’t ready for Christmas. My prayer routine had gone out the window as I was just trying to stay above water.
God Has a Plan
Despite my best plans, my ideal Advent had been de-railed. I had to accept that my prayer life was not going to be perfect, and that I needed to focus on my top priorities for work and possibly save the other tasks until after the New Year.
I’m called in my vocation to love my wife and children. Sometimes that means I cannot commit to a regular routine prayer life and fruitful time of deep contemplation. Sometimes it means holding my five year old while he watches Star Wars until he feels better, or making sure the house is in order because our six month old is sick and just wants to be held by his mom.
The Advent Meditation Group that I joined is looking at Advent through the eyes of St. Joseph. My two biggest takeaways from this group so far in how I am preparing during Advent are:
St. Joseph lived his life in humble service to his Creator
St. Joseph had a prayer life that was organic.
The Best Prayer is a Humble Prayer
Although I am having trouble getting out my prayer materials at the same time everyday to find fruitful prayer in my routine, I have been seeking God in humble service (to my family) and trying to live a more organic prayer life.
My prayer life has not included things like regular Adoration and Scripture study like it usually does, but I have been taking time regularly throughout my day to thank God for my wife, my kids, the ability to work from home, and the people that have helped me in different facets of my life. It has left me with a more grateful, and simpler attitude.
My marriage has blossomed this Advent as Kate and I both practice gratitude, and I am learning to see God in everyday moments in a special way.
Wherever you are spiritually this Advent, whether your Advent hasn’t gone as planned, you didn’t plan anything special, or it is going better that you thought, I encourage you to stop and consider what God is calling you to in this next week.
Our individual call is just as unique as our set of circumstances. There is always a way to “roll with the punches” and discover our infinite God in new and exciting ways. God meets us where we are. Right in our glorious messes!
The Nativity story is the perfect example of finding God’s will and rolling with the punches. If you are finding that there is “no room at the Inn,” I challenge you to look around you and find your manger where you can slow down and sleep in heavenly peace.
Jonathan Hicks is a husband and father of 3 boys, ages 5, 3 and 6 months. He works as a grant writing consultant and has a passion for Catholic causes, particularly those that serve the poor. Originally from Scranton, PA, he currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI.
Once November arrives our culture shifts directly into “Black Friday” Christmas shopping mode. The hustle and bustle of completing holiday to-do lists certainly puts pressures on people to rush. As a result, sometimes we forget that thanksgiving is not merely a day of the year, but rather a mindset. Recognizing the blessings in your life is not a novel, Americanized concept. Actually it is quite old.
According to ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” I needed to hear that wisdom as I too suffer immensely from gratitude nearsightedness.
Acclaimed Catholic journalist and essayist G.K. Chesterton pithily proclaimed, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Since focusing my attitude toward gratitude, I have noticed a seismic shift in my approach to treating my wife, kids, customers, and co-workers with more respect and patience. Along big component to thanksgiving is sharing with others gifts that helped you out, for me ten outstanding individuals helped shape—and continue to shape—my Catholic faith. I am thankful for the following ten Catholics and their witness to Truth.
Venerable (Soon-to-be Blessed) Fulton Sheen
Reading the works of the American archbishop helped me learn my faith in a clearer and more articulate fashion. His book The World’s First Love: Mary the Mother of God influenced more than any other work on deepening my relationship with the Blessed Virgin.
St. Josemaria Escriva
Since receiving his book The Way as an unexpected Christmas present, this Spanish priest became a huge role model for me. Fr. Escriva’s practical advice and wisdom on work being a pathway to holiness helped me become not only a better employee, but also a better husband as well.
St. Catherine of Siena
Over the past year, I had the privilege and joy of acclimating myself with the teachings of this Doctor of the Church. In light of the recent clergy crisis, I oftentimes sink into despair as I think that a simple lay person such as myself has nothing to contribute or weight to affect the good of the Church.
Reading the many letters of Catherine of Siena proved to me that even the laity have the ability—and the charge—to holiness and call on Church leadership to be good shepherds to lead the flock faithfully!
St. Maria Faustina
Being my wife’s confirmation saint, I did not learn about Sister Faustina until we started dating in college. Along with the impact the Polish nun had on my wife, her Diary of a Soul proved helpful for my spiritual life.
As a lifelong Catholic, I always knew of God’s mercy, but her ability to articulate boundlessness of Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy icon now have become staples in my spiritual life.
Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I am ashamed to admit I never heard of this amazing doctor of the Early Church. Since taking a graduate course on Christology and reading [enter book title], St. Athanasius’ intrepid stand against the most sinister heresy—Arianism—in the history of the Catholic Church always inspires and fascinates me! I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read the sainted bishop’s On the Incarnation.
St. Pope John Paul II
The Polish pope overcome much adversity in his life: losing his immediate family members by the age of 21, living through Nazi and Communist regime, and suffering from polio at the end of his life.
John Paul II’s ability to suffer gracefully and his strong devotion and daily reception of the sacrament of Penance make him the perfect role model for faithful Catholics.
St. Francis de Sales
Although Frances was a bishop, his spirituality largely impacted the laity. His spiritual work Introduction to the Devout Life, remains as relevant now almost 500 years later.
St. Therese of Lisieux
Whether I experience doldrums or dryness in the spiritual life, reacquainting myself with the Little Way of St. Therese provides me spiritual nourishment to withstand those dry spells.
The simplicity of her spiritual helps to provide me perspective that I do not have to perform grandiose works to grow in holiness. Actually, that path it found through consistent prayer and trust in God’s will. I am thankful for her loving witness to trust in the Father’s Divine Plan.
While the father of fantasy and beloved creator of Middle Earth may appear as an outlier in this list, the late Oxford professor strongly influenced and deepened my Catholic faith in recent years. His ability to teach truth without sounding preachy is second to none.
Reading his works sparks my imagination. When I found out that his Catholic faith permeated his entire life, even his writing, I too dove deeper into the pursuing the joy of the truth founded in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I discovered the awesomeness that is Robert Barron back in 2014 as I was teaching Old and New Testament Scripture classes to high school sophomore. His YouTube videos provided clear and interesting short clips about various topics on Catholic theology.
I am indebted to his ministry Word on Fire as well. Along with his videos, Bishop Barron’s book Catholicism proudly is displayed on my bookshelf. It is a frequent reference for many of my posts.
Lord I am grateful for the wonderful individuals who followed your will and helped me learn more about the Catholic teaching and strengthen my spiritual life!
“What matters isn’t storytelling. What matters is telling a true story well.” — Ann Handley
💡The most engaging content I have written does not include the best grammar, language, or most philosophical ideas.
💡A common thread I noticed about posts that get more comments, likes, and views are about actual events in my life.
💡Truth. What is truth? For me it is something that matches reality.
💡The truth about me is that I am a devout Catholic, husband, and father. I enjoy writing (this should not be a shock to anyone 😊), running, reading, and geeking out over comic books and anything Tolkien.
💡The truth is my work schedule is not ideal. My wife and I get only a few times during the week to talk, actually talk about our day, hopes, and dreams.
💡 I have wanted to give up or at least take a long time off from my work as a writer. In hindsight, I know that it was sleep deprivation talking.
💡The truth is I am grateful. On my worst days I am at least grateful for my faith, family, and friends. On my best days I see literally everything I encounter as a blessing. We are blessed to have the ability to use blogging and social media as a platforms to share our truths with others.
Gratitude is everything. Everything in this life originates proceeds through gratitude. I am incredibly grateful to have lived through a tornado and only have water in the basement it’s not even that much water.
According to Blessed Solanus Casey, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature.” Thankfulness breeds kindness, productivity, and leads to reciprocity between individuals. Ingratitude walls us off from others. The primary culprit of ingratitude is selfishness—pride. Pride suffocates us. It kills us. Gratitude is the oxygen by which we breathe in blessedness and breathe out all other virtues.
Suffocation through Selfishness
I’ve been so selfish. Jealous. Of others’ successes over mine. I worry. I’m anxious. I doubt. I despair. Why? Because of I have not double downed on gratitude. I failed to always puts the big scope, the greater picture, in front of me. Life is like a mural. If you look at it too closely or only in portions you see ugliness.
Gratitude allows us to see our lives as chapter of a grander story. A good story. A beautiful story. A true story. I did not intend to write this post I don’t even know how these words are forming in my mind this is just me talking it out my feelings my gratitude now my sincere regret for being selfish and ungrateful. I’m just an instrument these are not my own words. These are His words.
Growth with Gratitude
I’ve been crying tears of joy this whole time I’ve been composing this post. That’s just so crazy for me to think about. The last day and a half I’ve experienced tangibility with the divine I can’t describe in words. But I do know that I am thankful. I am thriving since breathing since being more intentionally grateful.
It is both frightening and joyful. Have you ever had such an experience that is indescribable?
Please share your indescribable experiences and how you maintain a grateful attitude in the comments.
According to author Joyce Meyer, “Even if you think the grass is greener on the other side, you’re going to have to mow that side too.” I got to thinking about grass, growth, and the greener side of things during a rare backyard mowing session. Due to precipitation from the late summer thunderstorms and the extended time between mowings, it took longer than usual to mow.
The sound of the lawn mower combined with the cool from a steady breeze allowed me mind to wander. I got to thinking, “I wish I trimmed the grass more often. It is like I am in a jungle out here!’ Mowing more frequently will make cutting the lawn easier. I also learned the following lessons about life as I gave my backyard its much needed haircut!
Cut Concerns Down with Consistency
“Part of courage is simple consistency,” Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for the late President Ronald Reagan stated. Maintaining frequency and a steady habit when it comes to your work and family life go a long ways in trimming down trouble. Probably the single because reasons for my success in dealing with irate customers was that I consistency approached the situations with tried and true methods to address and resolve their concerns. When you discover a process that work for your particular situation don’t change it. You may have to adjust your approach from time to time. You will likely have to tailor your service to fit client or customer needs, but the overall approach is consistency.
As a writer, I have learned that my best success occurs when I am consistently creating content. I make it my goal to post at least 2-3 times a week to ensure I am reaching you my audience. If I go on a sudden writing hiatus, you will be disenchanted about my work. You may get bummed you did not see the latest article. Eventually, if the erraticness goes to long, an audience could leave. I would be bummed as well! I enjoy hearing your feedback. I enjoy seeing my favorite bloggers write regularly.
Being consistent builds trust. Consistent communication between a husband and wife forges trust. Consistent content generation helps businesses establish with their customers. Be consistent. Mow the lawn frequently and your grass will shine green for you!
Grow Consistently and Healthily with Gratitude
Want to experience a joy that is unshakable and frequently visited? Let’s do an experiment! Think of all the things you are thankful for! Set a timer for 2 minutes. Jot down all the blessings in your life. I ensure you when you reflect on this list you will find an otherworldly joy that cannot be taken from you if you practice gratitude consistently and authentically.
Graze down the weeds of despair with the scythe of thanksgiving.
Friendship is a Fertilizer for Long-Term and Natural Growth
The third life lesson I learned while mowing is that relationships matter. St. Thomas Aquinas once declared, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” True friends listen to you and also are truthful enough to provide you a push to be a better person. My wife is my best friend and toughest critic. She supports me and challenges me to be a better person.
Along with gratitude, friendships acts as a catalyst and fertilizer for character growth. Lifelong friends help the best as they help you weather the harshest of climates. Love yourself by embracing the love of your friends. Let them shower you with kindness, advice, and learning opportunities.
While we wish for greener lawns (or pastures), it is important to realize that true and lasting growth does not come right away. Daily gratitude and frequently relying on your closest friends provide the best environment for growth. Start mowing down the concerns in your life now!