I’ve decided to embark on 21 days of gratitude. Read on to find out more.
by Shelley Hitz
“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” ~Shakespeare
[Note: You can get the book that corresponds with this challenge here www.christianspeakers.tv/21daysofgratitude]
Thankfulness. Gratitude. Contentment.
These are words that are familiar to us…especially those of us that call ourselves followers of Jesus.
And yet, how often do we get stuck in the opposite…
Self Pity. Complaining. Discontentment.
And I have to admit that I’ve been there lately. I’ve been through so many changes recently and some people might think that I have it made. Others might think I’m crazy. But, I don’t think many realize how difficult it has been for me.
The Changes in My Life Over the Last Year
I resigned my job as a Physical Therapist last July to minister and work full time with my husband CJ. This is a dream we have been working towards ever since we came back from being short term missionaries in Belize. When we returned, we had thousands of dollars of debt which (in my thinking) forced me back to my job as a P.T. Although the job is rewarding and pays well, it was not what we felt God called us to in this season. After ministering together and working together for two years in Belize, we sensed that was what we were to continue to do.
However, seven years later, we were finally able to pay off all our consumer debt. Being debt free (except for our mortgage) allowed me to resign my job as a P.T. and embark once again into ministering and working full time together. What a great feeling it was to pay off our debt and yet the transition was harder for me than I anticipated.
I had become dependent on the regular paychecks and benefits that came with my job. And I realized that I got some of my self worth from my job title. People instantly respected me as a “Physical Therapist” whereas I get very different reactions when I tell someone I am an “Author and Speaker”. It’s almost as if people want to ask, “Oh really? What’s your REAL job?”
God is teaching me to gain my worth from who I am in HIM…not what I do. But, it’s been a hard transition.
And then we went from living in a 1300 sq. ft. home to a 125 sq. ft. RV to living in my mom’s spare bedroom to finally settling in Colorado Springs in our condo.
What a ride!
I wouldn’t go back and do anything different as God used these months of transition in our lives. But, after months of living out of bags and from place to place, I was ready to “nest” again and be settled in ONE place.
When we moved out of our house into our RV, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff. If I would have known that just a few months later we would be moving into a condo in Colorado Springs, I probably would have kept some of the things I gave away. But, the experience taught me a lot about living simply. I realized that I truly didn’t “need” all that material stuff. When it really came down to it, I truly only needed a very small amount of material possessions and was able to live without a lot of the stuff I thought I couldn’t live without.
When we left Findlay, Ohio, it had been a place I called home for over 20 years. We moved there when I was a junior in high school in 1991 and except for college and our time in Belize, Findlay had been home. All my family lives in Ohio and so to move over 1200 miles away from my “home” was both exciting and sad.
A Season of New Things in My Life, But Also a Season of Grieving
And here I sit. Although there have been a lot of exciting changes in my life, it’s also been a season of grieving.
- Grieving the loss of my job, career and what I thought I would be doing for the rest of my life.
- Grieving the loss of our first house and a lot of the material stuff that filled it.
- Grieving the loss of my “home” for 20 years and living close to my family.
And sometimes we can get stuck in the grief. God has felt distant to me throughout these changes and so sometimes I’ve felt alone and stuck in self pity. Poor me. Why can’t I live a “normal” life like most people.
It is Important to Grieve
And so I’m reminded that it is important to grieve…even the little things that don’t seem important at the time. My mom always says it is important to feel your feelings and then let them pass, surrendering them into the hands of Jesus so that they don’t get stuck or bottled up within us.
And so I have allowed myself to grieve. Even as I’ve written this post, I’ve cried a few tears. And for me, many times tears can be healing.
I Felt Stuck
And yet as I was processing some of my emotions this week I felt stuck. I’ve given into the habit of working long hours on both ministry and business projects. I believe workaholism is one of my last addictions from which Christ is now working to set me free.
And it’s an acceptable addiction in the church and in our culture. It is even often praised.
- Great job, Shelley.
- Wow, you’re a real workhorse.
- Look at all you’ve accomplished.
You get the picture.
It was also my way of trying – in self-sufficiency – to provide financially for our needs. I felt the burden of providing in this way after I quit my P.T. job. I felt the need to replace the income I was giving up when I resigned my job but also wanted to do whatever I needed to do to ensure that I wouldn’t need to work a “9 to 5” kind of job again. I wanted to have the freedom to continue to minister with CJ as God opens the doors as well as work from home when, in God’s timing, we start a family. We are praying that this happens sooner rather than later, but again trusting God’s timing.
Self-sufficiency and workaholism run rampant in our culture, I believe.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race. We keep ourselves so busy. Even after resigning my job as a P.T. there were often many times I would work 12 hour days. I am very driven and yet I joked with CJ that I was working harder than I ever did in my P.T. job.
Praying for Freedom and Contentment
And so here I am. Praying for freedom from the unbalanced life I created. Praying for freedom from the self-sufficiency and workaholism deeply rooted in my life. Praying for contentment in my circumstances.
And then this week I had a friend email me and say she was praying for accountability in a certain area and the only person that came to her mind was me. I agreed to do so for her and asked if she would also help keep me accountable in my workaholism and living a more balanced life. She agreed and I believe God is providing for both of us in this way. Even though we are thousands of miles apart, we are keeping each other accountable via email on a daily basis and praying for each other. God has provided accountability for me in other areas of my life just when I needed it and I believe He is providing it for me again.
A Reminder of One of Our Greatest Weapons as Christians…a Spirit of Thankfulness and Gratitude
Another thing God kept bringing to my mind this week is thankfulness and gratitude. I was reminded that thankfulness and gratitude are the opposite of self pity and a complaining spirit.
I know, I know. It seems like a pat answer. “Just be thankful for what you have.” “Give thanks in all things.” But, there is POWER in being thankful…even when you don’t FEEL like being thankful.
I remembered a book I started to read in a Barnes and Noble bookstore one day about a man who began to write thank you notes every day for one year. It wasn’t a Christian book but demonstrated the power in being intentionally thankful. I believe it is a Biblical concept that can be experienced by anyone who practices it.
And then I remembered people who I’ve seen post on Facebook or their blogs something they are thankful for everyday for a series of days. I felt let to do something similar and remembered that…
It Takes 21 Days to Start a New Habit
Many people say it takes 21 days to start a new habit or break an old one. Whether it is getting in the habit of exercising, eating right or developing a spirit of thankfulness.
And so I decided to take a 21 Day Gratitude Challenge.
21 Days of Gratitude…
What does this mean? It can mean different things for different people. But, for me, I sense that I need to take the initiative to write down the things and people in my life that I am grateful for in my journal for the next 21 days. At the same time, I will choose one person each day to write a hand-written thank you note to them. In the note, I will share why I am thankful for them and send it via postal mail.
I found 21 thank you notes and cards in my closet, got them out and wrote my first thank you note today.
Then, I got out my journal – that has been somewhat neglected over the past few months – and wrote out three specific things that I am thankful for in my life today in these three categories: spiritual, physical and relational. I wrote several sentences of what I am thankful for and why in each category.
And already I can feel the direction of my heart changing. Imagine what will happen after 21 days of being intentionally thankful for all I’ve been given.
Because I’ve been given a lot…more than I deserve.
And it’s time to not allow satan to keep me in the grips of self pity, a complaining attitude and discontment. I am asking God to break through in my heart through the power of His Holy Spirit as I take these intentional steps toward gratitude.
Will You Join Me?
What about you? Will you consider joining me in these 21 Days of Gratitude? It may look different for you and that’s okay. Simply ask God what He wants you to do and then do it. It may be as simple as saying out loud one thing you are thankful for each day. Or like me, you may decide to write out thank you notes.
If you feel stuck in self pity or discontentment, I challenge you to join me. Ask the Holy Spirit to change you as you takes simple steps of intentional gratitude in your life. And watch and see what God does.
If you’re ready to take this challenge with me and want to share the journey with others, join our Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/
And I encourage you to get the book that corresponds with this challenge here www.christianspeakers.tv/21daysofgratitude
“Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.” –Alan Cohen
Psalm 100:4, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” (NKJV)