Hope Says It Forward

Several times in the past months, I have shared with friends and clients one of my key principles for life. I discovered it years ago while reading The Hallelujah Factor by Jack R. Taylor.

To describe it simply, this practice centers around the focus of gratitude. It changed my life by flipping my mindset.

Many followers of Ann Voskamp learned about her practice of gratitude journaling through her book 1000 Gifts. Ann dealt with her depression by listing what she was thankful for each day.

Journals became more popular with an almost cult following. Multiple followers found solace in listing their daily gratitudes. It was a practical way to “give thanks in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Anne Lamott also gave credence to the gratitude practice in her book, Help, Thanks, WOW: Three Essential Prayers. As Anne wrote, ““Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”

But my discipline is different and sometimes more difficult to pinpoint.

My gratitude practice flips the motivation and becomes what I call, “Say it forward.” Before God answers a prayer, before I see the results, before the end happens — I speak my thank you’s.

In the darkness and gloom of winter, I said, “Thank you, God, that spring and sunshine will come soon.”

While dealing with a hip injury, I prayed, “Thank you, God, that you’ve already healed me and promised that recovery will happen.”

Even now, when the world feels chaotic and so out-of-balance, I repeat, “Thank you, God. You are the One who can change everything. Someday, this earthly mess will be over, and we will live in peace with You.”

By focusing on the “future” gratitude and saying it forward, my mental image changes from negative to positive. Light illumines the darkness. Belief in God’s miraculous self reminds me I do not have to figure it all out.

Do bad things happen? Of course. So I say it forward — far into the future. “Thank you, God, that even though my young cousin died, I will see her again. She is safe and happy with You.”

“Thank you, God, that even though my niece cannot find formula for her baby, You can keep the little one healthy and make a miracle happen.”

“Thank you, God, that You give strength each day to the Ukrainian people. And even if they lose everything, You can restore it.”

The practice of Saying it Forward merges a please and thank you. It gives the problem to the only One who can truly solve it.

And even if the problem continues for a while, I can thank God for the strength to live with it.

So give it a try. Say it forward. Believe and receive the joy of finding hope in the Hope-giver.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a devotional thought about Saying it Forward, check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom, page 83.

Hope Thrives with Gratitude

It makes sense to post about gratitude during this Thanksgiving week. Each year’s Thanksgiving week brings a variety of experiences to draw on.

More wisdom learned (hopefully). More intuition about possible gratitudes.

Several years ago, I learned more about the power of gratitude when I followed the blog of Ann Voskamp. Her book, One Thousand Gifts, fostered a cult following and ushered Ann into the world of best-selling author. I applaud her fine work and still promote her book(s).

For a while, I followed Ann’s prescribed plan of writing several gratitudes each day in my journal – different ones for each day. It was a great practice and a way to remind myself daily of all the blessings around me.

Then I decided it was okay to develop my own plan. And it WAS okay to repeat the same gratitudes each day, whether in my journal or out loud.

So I present to you, my followers, my 2021 list. At least for today. It may change tomorrow. And I encourage you to share your list in the comments below. As the saying goes, we can always – always – find something to be grateful for.

  • Hot water. This is a daily “Thank you, God” while I’m standing in the shower, doing dishes or folding laundry.

There are people in the world who have never experienced the bone-warming joy of hot water. So I am grateful for this blessing. Every. Single. Day.

  • The roof over my head. Although I’m thinking about downsizing, wanting something smaller and easier to manage, I am grateful for my duplex. Although I would like to accomplish some DIY projects and change my place a bit, at least I am out of the cold and sheltered — with hot water.
  • Food in the fridge. I like to cook, and I find particular pleasure in making unusually creative meals out of leftover scraps. Rice bowls are my current favorites with a variety of colors, textures and nutrients.

Every day, I pray for those places in the world that struggle with famine. As a farmer’s daughter, I am keenly aware of the blessing of the harvest and the need for food. We are truly blessed not to live every day with hunger.

  • Jesus. What more can be said? I am grateful for this Savior, God-man, of the Divine Three. Always. Every. Single. Day.
  • Color. The variety of greens outside my window. The leftovers of autumn’s show. The choices I make to wear each day — the brighter the better.

How colors make me feel. How they add warmth and beauty to everything. How they have deeper meanings I can add to my books. How color changes the world of gray gloom to a warmer and more inviting visual.

  • Texture. The ability to feel different textures is a blessing that signifies feeling alive. Several years ago, a clinical depression stole this joy from me.

After my healing (thank you, Jesus!) I spent hours in a fabric store, just feeling the rough corduroy, the slick satin, the smooth cottons. Tears streamed as the numbness of the depression was replaced by the joy of touch.

It is with gratitude these days that I caress the texture of rocks, yarns, rough bark on trees, the smooth cheek of a child, the fuzz of my cat’s fur, even the slick peel of a carrot.

  • Words. These are the tools of my craft, the way I communicate with God and others, even with the cat in the previous bullet.

Words have the power to make me gasp with delight or surprise, to frown or to shed a tear. They make me laugh at jokes and sigh with the reading of a Psalm.

And each time I begin any type of writing, I start with the prayer of Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord.”

One of my clients uses Facebook as a type of journal in listing her gratitudes. Many of them hail back to her country life. All are examples of the beautiful world around us and the need to see it more clearly — with a full heart. Check out the beautiful blog posts of Elece Hollis.

So let’s all be more cognizant of the gratitudes of life. Each and every day.

Let’s strive for hope as we use our words to speak a Thanksgiving message.

And let us never forget there is always something to be grateful for.

©2021 RJ Thesman

In Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms, each day’s journaling practice contains the question: “What are you grateful for today?”

Hope Proposes One Change

Sometimes it takes only one change to find hope.hope endures

One of my friends made one change in her diet. She stopped drinking soda and lost ten pounds. One change gave her a healthier body.

For writers, if we change one thing in the narrative, we can affect the entire story. For example, if the Wizard of Oz took place in New Orleans instead of Kansas, L. Frank Baum would have written about a hurricane instead of a tornado.

Hope sometimes hides under one possibility of change. And that one change may alter everything else.

Ann Voskamp lived with chronic depression. When an older woman challenged her to make a list of gratitudes, Ann balked. “Change can’t be that easy,” she said.

But it was. As she began to list her gratitudes—even noting something as simple as the translucent rainbow in her dishwater—the clouds of gloom lifted. Ann continued looking for gratitudes and finally, her depression left.

Last spring, my kitchen was driving me nuts. I knew I couldn’t tear down walls or rearrange the main floor, so I made the one change that was possible. I ripped off the old outdated border and painted the walls a healthy green.

Just that one change seemed to lift my spirits. Working in my updated kitchen offered new hope.

So what about you? What one change can you make in your own narrative that might change everything?

Sometimes hope is one tiny step away.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

To read more about hope and how it can change our lives, check out Hope Shines – now available in Large Print.