Today my journals from various times in my life came out for a review. For three years my husband and I lived in England and, because it was such a unique experience, I journaled our various adventures of learning to live in another culture. It was scary, challenging, priority-changing, and loads of fun. While rereading some of my English journals I was grateful for all the writing I did, recording details that memory alone can forget over time. As I read I am easily reminded of the personal growth that comes when everything familiar is left behind. Right in front of me was the value of lessons learned that I don’t want to forget. Journaling keeps it all alive.
And then out came my gratitude journals. Perusing through the year 2014 (my year with cancer) again revealed how therapeutic keeping a gratitude journal can be; not only at the time of writing, but also to look back and see again all the little daily miracles that were present. Even during the hardest days I see how people were reaching out to me, loving me, and encouraging me through the whole process of multiple surgeries until I was finally cancer-free.
During that time my goal was to write in my journal three things I was thankful for at the end of each day. What I discovered was it was hard to stop at three (so I didn’t) because there were so many more! Doing this before bed filled my mind with appreciation for the gifts of the day, and also created a positive focus to take to sleep with me. This helped even the toughest days feel better because my focus was on the amazing ways love carried me through that challenging experience.
Journals don’t need to be fancy books with leather covers – any notebook works well. And entries don’t need to be long to be meaningful. The treasure is in what you or I choose to write in them. A crisis usually brings us to a crossroads where choices invite new beginnings. Expressing our gratitude keeps its positive energy active and creates an ever-increasing spiral of appreciation. Brother David Steindl-Rast sums it up this way: “As I express my gratitude, I become more deeply aware of it. And the greater my awareness, the greater my need to express it. What happens here is a spiraling ascent, a process of growth in ever-expanding circles around a steady center.” Looking back on what we journal is a window through which we see how blessed we are, how well we were cared for, and how the same loving, supportive care is ours today and every day.
Melody Beattie said it beautifully in this quote: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, or a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Journaling gratitude is a gift to yourself and anyone you care to share it with. May your day be filled with miracles large and small to record in your own private journal.
Until next time – Sylvia