The Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #1

We are six weeks away from our Thanksgiving holiday.  These six weeks could change your life and your marriage forever!  But first a little history…

Every school play reenacts the first harvest celebration in 1621.  More than 200 years later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a holiday. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the date by signing a bill in 1941. It declared Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year.

Most major religions encourage a spiritual practice of gratitude.  One of the first verses I learned from the Bible was, “In everything give thanks.” (Ephesians 5:20.)  I confess that there have been times when I’ve asked, “Everything, God?  Really? Everything?”

During a particularly challenging time in my life, I began practicing gratitude as a spiritual commitment.  Being thankful for everything really did transform my attitude, and eventually the circumstances.

When new challenges come, the habit of being thankful (sometimes through gritted teeth!) reminds me that I don’t yet know the end of the story.  Circumstances change.  And they’re more apt to change in my favor if I keep my heart open by practicing gratitude.  Fear and discontent close my heart and my circumstances to happy surprises.

In this post and in the next five weeks, I’m issuing a challenge.  Each week I’ll be challenging you to focus on one area of your life where it may be hard to be grateful.

Are you up for it?  What have you got to lose?

Since I am a relationship coach, my first challenge to you is to be grateful for your partnerDECIDE that you will spend the next week looking for qualities, actions, and gestures for which you can express gratitude…not just in your heart, but face to face!

Examples:  “Thank you for being so consistent about helping out with the kids’ bedtime.”  Or, “I appreciate that you let me know that you might be home late.”  Or, “I love that you are so conscientious about getting our bills paid on time.”

Now these may not fit.  But you get what I mean.  Work this! Dig if you have to!  But find things you appreciate about your spouse!

Because….whatever we focus on, increases.  When you only deliver complaints, pretty soon, all you see are things you want to change.  When you focus on things for which you can genuinely be thankful, the irritations shrink as they are more than balanced out by things that are good.

Are you ready to try Radical Gratitude?  I challenge you to say, “Thank you for…” or “I appreciate….”  or “I’m grateful for…” whenever your mind starts to dwell on a problem or dissatisfaction with your partner.  Each week I invite you to share what this Radical Gratitude Challenge has done for your heart and your relationship.  And I’ll share my experiences with you!  If you are accepting this challenge, leave a comment below.

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Differences Can Be Scary

My late husband Jim’s father was a gifted mechanic.  All of his life he worked as a machinist.   He could fix anything with a motor or wheels.  Jim inherited his father’s work ethic and values, but was lost when it came to fixing his scooter or knowing what to do with a broken lawn mower.  His dad couldn’t hide his disappointment, and sometimes even anger, over Jim’s lack of instinct about mechanical things.

Jim began his singing career at the age of five by singing to the chickens. It wasn’t until high school, however, that his amazing voice began to be noticed in a big way. He was one of the first in his family to graduate from college, even getting a Masters Degree in Voice and Church Music. His father didn’t come to his Masters Recital, an event that filled the huge college auditorium.  He eventually recorded seven gospel albums featuring his gorgeous baritone voice.

In contrast, a story in the September 2013 Guideposts magazine tells about TV’s Mike Rowe and his relationship with his grandfather.  His grandfather could build anything…anything!  Whenever young Mike tried to help him, he’d muff the job.  Once at the height of discouragement, Mike said, “I can’t do anything right!”

His grandfather said, “God gave me a toolbox, Mike.  He gave you one too.  But he didn’t give us the same one.  You understand?”

Mike didn’t understand that day, but over time gained appreciation for the tools he had: a great voice (he sang professionally for several years) and a natural way of smiling and talking with folks.  He eventually designed and hosted a show called *Somebody’s Gotta Do It”–short profiles of people who do the tough jobs…like his grandfather.  Eventually that led to Discovery Channel’s *Dirty Jobs.

Near the end of Jim’s father’s life, he apologized.  He admitted, “I was wrong. I’m sorry I didn’t support your gifts.”  It meant a lot for Jim to hear that apology, but not as much as it would have meant to get his dad’s interest and pride all the years that went before.

Is there someone near you who’s gifts need encouragement?  Might you possibly be blind to her gifts because they are different than yours?

*Free Download: Giving and Receiving Appreciation