Years ago, when I lived in the snow belt, I exited my office building met by snowflakes falling at record speed. My co- worker and I laughed as we walked to the parking lot, both expressing surprise. Snow was due at midnight. Our offices were in a windowless basement and we had no idea we’d have to clear and scrape icy windshields before driving home. We had a choice: laugh and admire the beauty of freshly fallen snow- or complain. We chose the former.

Gratitude-seeing beauty in the inconvenient; finding the positive of what we have that we didn’t want.

Each day, we have the potential of meeting inconveniences in our day, or obstacles to our plans and expectations. With the coming holiday season, we are bound to be inconvenienced by people and places. Our plans may fall through and our expectations not met. How can we cultivate gratitude?

If we can write, we can cultivate the art of gratitude.

Last week, I shared the practice of daily gratitude journaling; finding something each day to be thankful for and recording it. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found people who wrote and delivered a heartfelt thank-you note felt happier even a month later. The same researchers discovered writing three positive events each day for a week, kept happiness levels high for up to six months. It’s not about receiving accolades for the lost art of writing thank you notes today, or accumulating journals filled with sentences of gratitude, but stopping to appreciate, then express it, and develop a lifestyle of gratitude.

We can actively acknowledge our blessings and opportunities.

I also shared my nighttime prayer practice-rewinding my day and thanking God for five things about my day. What amazes me as I count, is most are non-material items. Yes, I’m thankful for a reliable car to get me places, but more so that my grandson holds my hand in a parking lot when we park and go to the store. There will come a time, when independence and maturity will trump hand holding.

I’m thankful for words. As a former speech-language pathologist, I’ve seen poverty of expression when language is compromised. As a writer, I’m thankful for the ability to put thoughts to paper, easily backspace or delete on my computer, and print off as many copies as I need. I recall carefully typing term papers in college and using a special eraser for erasable bond paper, occasional white-out, and messy carbon paper for a duplicate copy. Robert Brault reminds us, “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Let’s make gratitude our default setting.

On an Alaskan cruise several years ago, a lecturer cautioned cruisers not to compare the scenery with what they left back home. “You may wonder,” he said, “how or why people live here.” There were no tall buildings, bustling cities, or superstores, but we did see glaciers and crystal water. He reminded us, “Don’t compare; look for the treasures”. We don’t have to be on an Alaskan cruise to see treasures. The sights of autumn leaves are among our current God-sent treasures-glistening gold or brilliant red on trees, and the sounds of dried brown leaves on the ground when we step. Yes, I’m thankful for my five senses, one of which allows me to enjoy drinking hot spiced cider on my porch.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

We can stop to notice and appreciate others:

“Everyone enjoys being acknowledged and appreciated. Sometimes even the simplest act of gratitude can change someone’s entire day. Take the time to recognize and value the people around you and appreciate those who make a difference in your lives.” Roy T. Bennet

Greetings, courtesy, and acknowledgment can become automatic because they are meaningful. How has someone made your day better?

Let’s practice thanksgiving in prayer.

One of the exercises in my grief share group after my husband died, was to make a list of my secondary losses. My list exceeded one hundred and I won’t elaborate here, but there were also lists of thanks-support of people, provisions to solve problems and dilemmas, and opportunities to grow and learn. Ultimately, I was thankful for God’s constant grace, love, and presence.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.  Psalm 28:7

As we acknowledge in writing, spoken words, and prayer—in the inconveniences, obstacles, and gracious moments, -we can cultivate the art and practice of gratitude and discover there are no limits.

Since that day scraping my windshield, I’ve moved south. Life stops when a few flurries fall. That inspires laughter and gratitude too.

What speaks most to you in your gratitude journey?

Well into the first semester, here are 15 Timely Thoughts to Encourage College Freshmen

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