I’m Not Very Good at Gratitude

by Elizabeth Trotter on November 22, 2016

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I like to think of myself as a content, happy person: my life is good, and I lack for nothing.

At least I used to think I was content and happy. That was before I realized — to my horror — that my prayer journal was filled with lament. Not thankfulness, not appreciation, but lament, through and through.

I have an everyday journal where I like to complain to God — er, pray. And I have an extra-special journal where I record the lyrics to my favorite worship songs. But until this year, I didn’t have a place to chronicle my gratitude.

I thought perhaps this was a problem for me. That maybe it’s one of my incongruous places: a place where my orthodoxy doesn’t match my orthopraxy. A bottle-necked area of my life. A cramped space in my soul that needs expanding.

Like many of you, I’d read about the importance of practicing gratefulness, of writing in a dedicated gratitude journal. Ann does it. Crystal does it. Good heavens, even Oprah does it. So I thought I’d try it.

And you know what I discovered? I’m terrible at it. I couldn’t think of specific things to be thankful for. I kept running into trouble thinking over my day and looking for the blessings. I couldn’t always find good things. All I could see was stress — and that very fact troubled me.

I could think of general things; I’m a very thankful person in the general. I’ve written all about my general love of creation, my general love of Cambodia, my general love of the church, my general love of worshiping, my general love for my husband. And those generic things were the only things I could think of when I started this venture. They are the things I kept recording on the pages of my pretty, pink journal.

Now don’t get me wrong, gratitude in the general is GREAT. But I’d like to inscribe more specifics into that journal of mine. I’d like to flex my gratitude muscles. I’d like to learn how to reflect on my day and see the “patches of Godlight” in it.

And I’m starting to. I’m noticing the little things and memorializing them. I’m seeing the small joys and giving thanks. But I’m a novice, a beginner. I haven’t yet learned gratefulness in the particular.

Then again maybe that’s what the gratitude journal is all about.

Do you struggle with gratitude, either in the particular or in the general?

How do you cultivate contentment in your heart?

What are you thankful for lately?

originally appeared here

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About Elizabeth Trotter

Elizabeth loves life in Southeast Asia, something she never imagined was possible. Before moving to Asia with her husband and four children in 2012, Elizabeth worked in youth ministry for ten years. She loves math, science, all things Jane Austen, and eating hummus by the spoonful. Find her on the web at www.trotters41.com and on Facebook at trotters41.
  • Much love to you, Elizabeth. I’m with you. Real gratitude is HARD!

  • Marlyn

    Shame… Thanks Elisabeth. Me identifique mucho con tu post.

  • Sarah Crane

    I totally get this! I have a gratitude journal that I always seem to lose/put away for quite awhile. And then recently I rediscovered it and I’m like “oh, maybe this is part of why my heart is so wonky in this season…” Not recording or really being mindful of any gratitude in the particular. Very much so in the general, but I long to cultivate more of a regular habit of gratitude for specific things. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Yes! I’ve found it’s so important to write it down, otherwise I forget all the little gifts.

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