30 Days of Gratitude

30 Days of Gratitude

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I love it when researchers start telling us that something is good for us and that ‘something’ is a thing that the Bible has been saying for thousands of years – the importance of gratitude.

Psalm 118:24

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I especially love these words written by Paul while in prison:

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here is a link to an easy to read (and understand) research based article entitled How Gratitude Changes the Brain – And How to Make it Work For You.

A few weeks ago I read an excellent article by bereaved mum Angela Miller on her blog entitled A Bed for my Heart called Grateful and Grieving. I posted a link to it on my Facebook page and said that this describes how I feel about the month of December – ‘grateful and grieving’. Grateful for the many blessings in my life, but grieving the loss of our precious and much loved daughter.

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December is not only the time of year when family togetherness is totally emphasized and the empty seat at the table is at its most conspicuous, but it’s also the month in which Leah’s illness first began (2012), the month in which Leah suddenly and unexpectedly became critically ill and was admitted to ICU (2013), as well as being the month in which Leah was born (31st December 1997).

However, as December came closer, I quickly realised that I was more ‘grieving’ than ‘grateful’. I really thought that I had learned how to live with the pain of grief and loss that is my constant companion, but I suddenly found that I was starting to unravel. I was once again crying myself to sleep, grateful for the oblivion that a few hours of sleep can bring. At the same time I was feeling guilty for focussing so much on what I have lost instead of being thankful for all that I have.

Then, I noticed on Facebook that another bereaved mum with whom I’m friends, was doing #TheHappinessDare – 30 Days of Gratitude. I looked up the link that she included on her Facebook post and it took me to this blog post by Jennifer Dukes Lee: The Stubborn Refusal to Give in to Despair — A Dare for All of Us. Jennifer provides a printable list of thirty prompts (which she refers to as 30 Days of Gratitude) to help us count our blessings.

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I was immediately drawn to this idea. The only decision for me was whether I would do this publicly every day via my Facebook page or privately in my journal (or both). Having mulled it over for a few days, I’ve decided that I will derive the most benefit from following the prompts privately in my journal. So armed with a pretty notebook, the printed prompts, glue and a scissors, I have put together my own 30 Days of Gratitude Journal and I have it all ready to begin on the 1st December.

This Christmas season I’m going to take time each day to appreciate the gifts that I already have. Perhaps you too would benefit from participating in the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge this Christmas season?

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The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift

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On the 1st of December I came across this set of 25 downloadable notecards  by Ann Voskamp, extracted from her popular book The Greatest Gift. There’s one for every day this month, up to and including Christmas Day.

Ann Voskamp is also the author of the bestseller One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are which spent sixty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller’s List. I write about my experience of reading ‘One Thousand Gifts’ here.

When I looked at Ann’s daily notecards for Advent and read them, I decided that I would like to share one each day on my Facebook page and Twitter feed.

I’m not sure if any month of the year is particularly easy since Leah died, but December, with its extra emphasis on communal happiness and family togetherness, is especially difficult.

This year, December brings with it the second anniversary of Leah’s final hospitalisation on the 27th December and her eighteenth birthday on New Year’s Eve.

I find that these little thoughts for Advent by Ann Voskamp are just enough to catch my attention and to hold in my head – they are neither too long nor too short. They help me to remember that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday – something that meant a great deal to Leah. Read this blog to find out more about one of her favourite Christmas songs.

I was shopping today – something that I’ve consistently struggled with since Leah died, as she loved shopping so much and was my frequent companion on shopping trips.

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I was shopping in Belfast, the place where Leah and I spent so much time together while attending hospital appointments. Today, when I bought something to put on her grave on her 18th birthday, my tears started to fall once again.

However as I sobbed quietly, I told myself that this wouldn’t be the day when I would lose myself in sadness. I let the tears fall as I walked with my head bowed through the hordes of Christmas shoppers.

I remembered something of what I had read much earlier today. As I walked I gave thanks for the lives of each one of our four children – including the one whose life was cut short, the one who was only given to us on loan.

I prayed and talked quietly to God in my heart and I felt His comfort.

Nothing can separate us from God’s love

Nothing can separate us from God’s love

November 23

As you sit quietly in My Presence, let Me fill your heart and mind with thankfulness. This is the most direct way to achieve a thankful stance. If your mind needs a focal point, gaze at My Love poured out for you on the cross. Remember that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate you from that Love. This remembrance builds a foundation of gratitude in you, a foundation that circumstances cannot shake.

As you go through this day, look for tiny treasures strategically placed along the way. I lovingly go before you and plant little pleasures to brighten your day. Look carefully for them, and pluck them one by one. When you reach the end of the day, you will have gathered a lovely bouquet. Offer it up to Me with a grateful heart. Receive My Peace as you lie down to sleep, with thankful thoughts playing a lullaby in your mind.

‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Romans 8:38–39

‘You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.’
Psalm 4:7–8

This was my reading yesterday from Jesus Calling

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Those verses in Romans 8 have special meaning for Leah and I.

Rev M. Mc Keown read that passage to us before we went to Bristol for Leah’s treatment.

In the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit and at other difficult times during Leah’s illness we read and reread that passage to remind ourselves that no matter how horrible the side effects of chemo, no matter how awful Leah’s illness was or the complications of her treatment, NOTHING but NOTHING could or would ever separate us from God’s love for us, that He showed to us by sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.

Leah’s favourite band, Rend Collective, have a brilliant song based on that passage of Scripture:


Romans 8:31-37 (NIV)

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.