Living In Fearless Gratitude

Someone I once knew used the phrase “fearless gratitude” as her mantra. She was a vibrant girl whom I treasured and I honestly can say she did live fearlessly grateful. She loved life and she was thankful for her place in life. And I held this girl to such prestige for those very reasons.

I knew this girl during some of my more gloomy days when I struggled to be both fearless and grateful. I marveled at her perseverance towards positivity even when times were tough. I watched from a distance and wanted to be more like her. I grew closer to her, hoping some of her resolve would rub off on me. She was a role model to me as I sat in my shade, and I yearned to live with fearless gratitude one day as well.

Over the years, I catch myself thinking back on how I idolized this girl. When a difficult situation arises and I find myself drawing back into the shadows I think of her. I think of her continuous smile, constant air of happiness, and ease of brushing things off her shoulders. And so I choose to say, “No. Not today. Today I’m going to live in fearless gratitude.” And I do — I change my thoughts and find strength in the silver linings of situations.

Yet sometimes I need more assistance than just my own convictions. And today was one of those days.

About a month ago I received a phone call from my physician in regards to my annual physical. She opted to call me personally rather than let me read her findings online because she has experience with my anxiety issues. Bless her heart. She began the conversation calmly, saying, “I want you to stay calm and take a seat.” I was already seated, but my heart started to race.

She continued to tell me that my Pap test had found abnormal cells.

Precancerous.

I had never received failed test results before, whether health-wise, professionally, or even in school. I didn’t know how to react.

I’m sure she told me more, but my mind was jumping a thousand steps ahead already. I was 10 tabs into Web MD when she asked me if I was okay.

Okay? That word crept at the edges of my thoughts: precancerous.

“I will be,” I answered. “What’s my next plan of action? What do I need to do?”

My physician said she had already placed a referral into our local gynecological health system to quicken the process of treatment. She wanted me to have the cells removed as soon as possible. I tried to take this as a compliment, but all the while I was questioning why she felt that urgency.

From one call to the next, I jumped on the line to schedule the next appointment. Speaking with the gynecological office, the receptionist recommended I have a second opinion done prior to scheduling the removal procedure. I agreed but also moved to schedule the colposcopy as well since there seemed to be a waiting list already. Better safe than sorry.

After being given the same results at my second appointment, I moved through the next two weeks with “FEBRUARY 14” triple-circled on my calendar. I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day, but this year’s reason far-outreached my usual disdainful criticism of the Hallmark holiday.

I spent the days leading up to the next appointment building my strength. I spoke with friends who had gone through something similar. I Googled every term I could remember being said concerning the issue. And I attempted to remain strong inwardly and outwardly.

Overall, I felt ready for my Valentine’s Day date.

The morning of my appointment, a slew of text messages provided strength and comfort to me as I mentally prepared for the unknown. I had learned over the past few weeks that the procedure was relatively common. Perhaps not for women as young as myself, but a number of ladies I had spoken to had received similar results throughout their years of the Pap test. I also had heard what to expect in terms of the procedure and after effects. By the time 10:30am rolled around, I swallowed 8 aspirin and was ready to get ‘er done.

Fortunately the procedure passed uneventfully. There was some discomfort, but overall I was in and out quickly. The doctor walked me through the process as she went along so I knew when to expect pain and when to breathe. I even made a joke here and there, in between my nervous finger-wringing and toe-tapping.

Once released, I found another slew of messages awaiting me. “How’d it go?” “Are you okay?” “I love you.”

Similar to when I received that first phone call from my physician, my heart began to beat faster. But for a whole different reason.

I am so grateful to the beautiful people who not only reached out to me today, but who have provided assurance, encouragement, and love over the past few weeks. Though I realize that my procedure was not as serious as it could have been, receiving news containing the phrase, “precancerous” is horrifying.

I am grateful to my husband for his persistence in being by my side throughout the past month. I am grateful to my parents for their care and support. I am grateful to the girls who prayed relentlessly for positive results and quick healing. I am grateful to the ladies who took time out of their day to bring dinner and laughs to the house. I am grateful for all the thoughts, words, and hugs. (And coffee — I am very grateful for the coffee, Toto.)

And I am grateful for that girl from years ago who taught me how to live in fearless gratitude. Without continuously saying that phrase in my mind, I would not be as readily able to see the positives in my life when the negatives rear their ugly heads. Strength comes in as many facets as blessings, one just has to be willing to shine a light of the darkness. 

I am also blessed to have tribes who pick me up when I am down and carry me to a brighter light when I find myself blinded. With my tribes, I was able to walk into the procedure today with my head held high, fearless.

Today, I lived in fearless gratitude to those God has placed in my life. And I could not be more humbled or honored to be surrounded by these courageous and loving people.

I am one blessed girl.

So from the bottom of my heart — thank you, my loves. 

 

What’s Your “Word” For 2019?

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? I have not been a big fan of resolutions in the past simply because they seem to have a poor stigma surrounding them. Resolutions seem to have become the butt of jokes, a frustration for gym rats, and stress-inducers for those who set them. For awhile I aimed to set goals rather than resolutions. My thought process behind this decision was completely based on definitions. Resolutions are decisions to do or not do things, whereas goals are focused ambitions to achieve a desired result.

Over the last few years, I made goals for myself at the beginning of each year. These goals provided direction, and also allowed me to plan and prepare to take realistic actions for my desired outcomes. Sometimes I realigned my goals throughout the year to better serve my changing lifestyle. Other times I quit on my goals or rolled them over to the next year. There were even a few goals I proudly achieved.

For 2019, I neither set resolutions or goals. Instead, I’ve chosen a single word to bring me guidance throughout the year. It took me some time to narrow down what my one word should be though…

I was talking with a few of my girlfriends this past week on their New Year’s resolutions. Instead of resolving to change or setting goals, each of them had instead chosen a single word to use as guidance for the upcoming year. One had chosen “present” to remind her to be happy with her current place in life and to keep her grounded when thoughts of her past or future may surface. The other chose “content”. She has struggled with finding contentment in her life, either rushing or attempting to persuade circumstances to fit what she feels is best. This ultimately adds more stress to her life, so she has aimed to focus on finding the silver-linings in the here-and-now.

I had heard the idea of One Word before. There’s actually a book called My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen which goes in depth on how to choose your word. (I’ve never read the book, but have known a few people who have.) The authors state that choosing your Word is a year-changing process. This process “provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.”

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also begins her years choosing a single word to bring her guidance. In a LinkedIn post on January 1st, Gates explained that this tradition “encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead.” She focused 2016 around the word “gentle” which helped her fight perfectionism, and 2017’s “spacious” prompted her to make room for the things in life that truly matter. She is doubling on the word “grace” for 2019 as it served her well in 2018.

I love the concept that one Word can set a theme for the year and be a constant reminder to focus on creating positive change in your life.

Looking back, I can roll each year into one word. In 2017 my year was focused on “release.” I released responsibilities, people, and stress from my environment in order to thrive (and in a few circumstances simply survive.) In 2018, “gratitude” was the resounding theme. I was grateful for a new career path and a loving husband and a first home. I was grateful for Life shining bright and for the releases of 2017 to finally make sense.

As I walk into 2019 I have been finding difficulty in narrowing the next twelve months into a single word though. The reason I didn’t make any goals was because I hadn’t considered what they may be — in all honesty, I am very content with my life as it is today and am not sure what more I could aim to achieve.

I considered “contentment” along the lines of my friend. Remaining content can sometimes be a challenge for a long period of time and perhaps that could be more 2019 focus.

I also thought I could narrow my theme to one of the goals I set back on my birthday. However, the whole point of One Word is to encompass a number of aspirations for my future.

I thought some more.

And some more.

I considered “wine”… to which my friends shook their heads and laughed.

So I thought ever harder.

And I realized that as I tried to figure out my intentions for 2019, my Word was right in front of me:

Intention.

Though I am living in a very happy, content bubble at the moment, I acknowledge that much of my life is lived in habit. Each part of my life (whether it be activities, things, people, etc.) has a sort of control over me and I see now I need to take the reigns. Intentionally.

I want to speak intentionally. I want to make intentional decisions. I want to intentionally put my life into action.

Gone are the days where I make significant number of choices simply because. Moving forward, I yearn to live with intention — living with more purpose on purpose. I don’t want to continue getting caught up in the outside noise of Life. You know, the busyness of everyday habits or the control of social media and other’s perceptions. Areas that may quickly spiral out of control if left unhindered and unchecked.

Instead, I want to take every step in my life as a well-thought, well-planned, and well-executed decision. To move my happiness and contentment of Life into the greater plane of joy.

I am aiming towards sustainable joy.

Thus I choose to live with intention.

Have you considered a Word of the Year for yourself? If so, what did you choose for 2019 and why? And if this little blurb made you think about a Word, what are you thinking to focus on in the new year? 

Until next time, friends,

What Happened When I Wrote in a Gratitude Journal for a Week

I am an extremely grateful person and try to show appreciation every time a new blessing enters my life, but sometimes I find myself lacking in consideration of those blessings, especially the small things. Sometimes I even find myself vying after things I don’t possess or talents in which I am weak which ends in stress, insecurity, and frustration. I was intrigued, then, when one of my friends mentioned that she tracks gratitude every morning by writing a blessing on a slip of paper and burning it during her yoga sessions.

As I constantly am working to better myself, I thought tracking the things I feel gratitude towards might be a great stress-reliever as well as medium to truly expressing the joy I have with the world around me. In order to do so, I decided to try writing a gratitude journal. Here is how my first week went…

Having zero experience with writing a gratitude journal, I did a little research before beginning the adventure. While some websites recommend writing one blessing a day, some others suggest setting a goal of daily things to be thankful, and some even suggest blowing all structure to the wind and simply going with the flow of writing items throughout the day as you think of them. Being who I am (that is meticulously organized and a sucker for lists), I decided to set a goal for myself to have a minimum of five things per day which I am grateful.

Some days I wrote all items at once and other days I jotted them down throughout the day. I attempted to keep all my blessings pertinent to the day at hand — noting specific people, places, and things which happened on that day which I was grateful for.

I did not write more than a phrase for each blessing. Instead, I took the time to consider and pray to God thanking Him for each blessing as I wrote them. At the end of each night, I reopened my journal (which is my bullet journal containing pretty much my whole life) and ran through my gratitude list again for a final prayer session. This practice brought back memories of the little and big things which made my day so wonderful. I did not go to sleep feeling stressed or frustrated once this entire week, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself sleeping better than I have in months. It was an amazing experience!

I also wanted to be more open with stresses I was facing each day to be better prepared on how to handle them. So in addition to my daily five blessings, I also included one obstacle which I felt may impede my happiness on that certain date. I wrote each obstacle at breakfast and focused my energy on overcoming it throughout the day. I found that stresses, specifically the one mentioned each day, seemed to diminish as I continued to be positive and open to every possibility. Knowing what to be weary of allowed fodder for my prayers and I also felt closer to God throughout this week as I leaned on Him to help me beat the fires for which I felt better prepared.

Each evening, as I reexamined my daily list, I also answered the question, “How did today go?” by writing a short snippet. I began with the line, “I felt…” and gave an honest answer. Some days may have had a negative inclination, but the further brief explanation always seemed to bring back round a silver-lining to those feelings. There was always the promise of a better tomorrow, and that better was what I would strive for when I woke the next morning.

With that in mind, I’d like to share my week’s gratitude lists and obstacles:

Monday the 9th

  • waking up to a four-seasons landscape
  • a body that aches due to growing stronger
  • friends who ask how the weekend was
  • whale butter dishes
  • mentors who open doors to their lives and home
  • Obstacle: a tweaked shoulder and lifting it above my head

My first day of gratitude tracking, and I think I hit the nail on the head with my very first posting. It is April 9th and it was still under 30 degrees and snowing Monday morning. I was not a happy camper when I woke up at 5:30am to hit the gym only to find I had to scrape my windows. Ugh! However, with the intent of finding positivity in my day, I decided to look at the bright-side of the weather: I live in a state where there are four seasons, and I absolutely love that! I can’t control the weather, so why let it control my mood for the entire day? Also, whale butter dishes are amazing and I happened to get a little email Monday morning stating a friend had purchased it off my registry. Better yet, I got a smirk and eye roll from G when I told him — he loves that I find happiness in simple oddities.

Tuesday the 10th

  • sunshine and the promise for weather to break
  • coffee. enough said.
  • unexpected solutions
  • new Netflix finds to make me laugh
  • coconut chocolate cookie crumbs for dinner
  • Obstacle: getting through a busier-than-expected Tuesday when I am already tired

In my defense of stating weather as my first blessing for my first two days on this journey, I did write them at breakfast while I’m staring out a window. Tuesday was a rough day. My hormones were on the fritz and I was straight-up moody all day. No matter how much I tried, my mood simply wanted to be in a funk. Coffee, as always, was one blessing I couldn’t highlight enough on this day.

Due to a temperamental phone that provides me with text messages on its own schedule, I also found out that in addition to a volunteer meeting I had Tuesday evening I was expected to play in my volleyball league’s tournament at 8:15pm. After all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and get some sleep, the late game was not ideal. Coffee, again, was my champion on Tuesday.

As for unexpected solutions, that volunteer meeting could have gone one of two ways: bitch fest or peaceful resolution. Thankfully for my stress levels, it went the latter.

Also, I chose to begin Santa Clarita Diet after (depressingly) finishing the latest season of A Series of Unfortunate Events and I *clap* am *clap* so *clap* glad! Ohmigoodness, I was crying from laughter — a feat in itself on Tuesday — after the first episode and haven’t stopped binging the show at every opportunity this week. Any show which involves Nathan Fillion, humor, and zombies is gold in my book. Highly recommended!

Wednesday the 11th

  • hearing from friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile
  • girls nights and reminiscing on the good ol’ days
  • funny mix-ups
  • work projects to quicken time
  • partner who openly looks forward to a future with me
  • Obstacle: being open to helping financial advisor get more experience and not be selfish with my time

Wednesday I was in much better spirits than Tuesday (the joys of a womanly body!) And my spirits continued to brighten as I had numerous conversations with my best girl friends. First, Toto alerted me to two packages which should be arriving at my home, mistakenly. She meant to ship them to herself but registry woes occurred. We both had a good laugh over the entire situation (she’s also the one who sent emails unknowingly to me on Monday of the whale butter dish she had purchased off a different registry.) Then another of my bridesmaids hit me up and I was given a flood of videos of her 10-month-old daughter. I could hardly contain my squeals of happiness watching the little girl while on lunch.

Another big shout out to G for making my lunch hour as well. We only have a half hour to chat throughout the work day, and our texting conversation was all about a house we are interested in visiting. My heart always soars when he talks about our future together and all the plans he has for us — gah! We ended lunch with a textual high five (and yes, I am going to trademark that terminology) and promise to schedule an appointment with our real estate agent friend as soon as possible.

The day ended in a girls’ night out with one of my oldest friends, Saki. I hadn’t seen Saki since her wedding in January and was so happy to hear how great marriage has been for her thus far. Plus, I lived vicariously through her many stories of her honeymoon in the Philippines. Sigh.

Before dinner, I “met” with a financial advisor via phone call. A friend of a friend, I had only agreed to talk with him out of respect and self-given obligation to help him get more experience in his career. I didn’t get to go for my scheduled run and had a bit of an attitude going into the call, but actually found the talk to be enlightening. Especially going into married life in a few months and thinking ahead at merging financial accounts. So I was thankful for the opportunity following the chat.

Thursday the 12th

  • prayers answered for Baby Slack
  • free Thursday evening events
  • no need for a winter coat #Spring
  • this quote: “every interaction results in one of three ways: good feelings, ill feelings, or indifference.”
  • excuse to wear heels
  • Obstacle: patience in hearing how C & S’s appointment and how MIL’s surgery went

I had a nervous stomach the morning of Thursday. Not only were we to hear the outcome of a doctor appointment for our future niece/nephew, but my future MIL also had surgery to repair her ACL. I felt a bit calmer by 10:00am though. G’s brother and SIL texted the family with good news, all was well with Baby Slack! Later in the afternoon we also received word that MIL’s surgery was successful and she was en route home to begin the healing process. It was so great to hear prayers had been answered in both cases.

Thursday also brought Spring temperatures to Southwest Michigan. Finally. Shedding the winter layers and saying goodbye to the snow from Monday, I pranced in a dress and heels to G’s and my evening outing: a presentation by Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger. The presentation was amazing, and even better being we were given the tickets free of charge. I will definitely be looking into Sully’s book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters after hearing him speak.

Friday the 13th

  • leg day
  • puppy bellies
  • shortened Friday work days
  • paying off debts
  • fires while camping
  • Obstacle: focusing at work with excitement of the retreat this weekend

This evening G and I are heading to a retreat weekend with the House group. So the majority of my day was attempting to focus on my work-at-hand and be in the present rather than looking forward to what the weekend promises. Thankfully it was an easy day to find thankfulness in the moment.

First, our gym session focused on legs and glutes which is always my favorite workout. Then I received a picture of Lacey (my parents’ new pup who just had intensive surgery) and her adorable puppy belly sporting a big incision. We weren’t sure if she would make it through the surgery, so seeing the picture of her home, safe, and seeking belly rubs was a relief. Then I skipped lunch to leave work a bit early and head to the bank to fully pay off my credit card. Returning home to pack and meet with G to head to camp was a bit of a rush, but was made better once we were surrounded by friends and enjoying a campfire — even if the rainy weather demanded the fire to be in a fireplace rather than outdoors.

Saturday the 14th

  • camp life
  • Spring showers
  • community and great discussion
  • reminder of why choice were made
  • so much laughter with good friends
  • Obstacle: getting through an active day on limited sleep and being patient once that deprivation hits

Camping is one of the best memories of my childhood, and I cannot express the emotions felt when I am able to participate in camping now as an adult. I revert back to a carefree child, full of energy and positivity and a refreshed sense of my place in the world. Something about being in nature gathers me closer to God. And this weekend was no exception. With only 5 hours of sleep, I came into Saturday a bit groggy but ready for a day full of deep discussions and fun activities. I am blessed to say my friends did not disappoint!

Sunday the 15th

  • so many transitions in only a year
  • wonderful retreat memories
  • movie days with my love
  • warm beds with spinach and feta bread
  • crock pots
  • Obstacle: staying awake on slippery roads

The retreat was rejuvenating and inspiring this weekend and I will be writing a post about it sometime in the near future. We discussed community and its impact in our lives, something which I have been struggling to pinpoint in my own life lately. However, after this weekend I feel more assured on my communities and my part in them.

I had a great talk with some of my girlfriends while getting ready this morning as well. We talked about how different our lives were at this retreat compared to last year’s in March 2017. I had to smile. Over a year ago I was jobless with financial stress overwhelming me, I was in a loveless one-sided relationship, and I was at the beginning stages of depression. My friends were both in poor places as well a year ago. This year, though, so many great transitions have occurred in our lives to bring us to joyous and grateful states. God is so good!

The only other negative of today, aside from actually leaving retreat, was the unwanted ice storm happening outside in mid-April. The roads were slippery and I fought drowsiness returning home. It is becoming apparent I’m getting old! I once used to be able to stay up to 4am and wake up at 7am to be completely okay the rest of the day. Now I require a minimum of eight hours of sleep or I’m down for the count. Thank goodness for a man who was in the same boat as me and was just as willing to get home, watch movies, and eat pizza for the remainder of the day. Also, thank goodness for crock pots because meal planning for this week was just not going to happen.


Looking over the past week, I am filled with all kinds of warm emotions. Even on days where my mood wasn’t exactly peachy, this gratitude journal is a sort of happy scrapbook of memories I can treasure in the future and look back on fondly.

Overall, my experience with gratitude journaling was heartening. I plan to continue this practice as it decreased my daily stresses, created better awareness of enjoying the little things in my life, forced me to evaluate all things in my life as blessings (aka find the silver linings), and helped me find better rest.

I’ve never kept a traditional journal because of the time commitment. I’ve failed numerous times at trying to sit down and write my daily thoughts. I simply don’t like writing so much by hand — I much prefer blogging. I also feel guilty if I skip a day, adding stress for no more reason than not meeting my own expectations.

However, having a gratitude journal was not the same type of commitment. I never felt pressured to frantically think of items at the end of each night. Instead, I kept the journal open beside me and added to it as I felt called to do so. Actually, one of the worst parts was trying to decide what to list in the very limited five slots on a daily basis.

Once I created the objective to track my gratitude, I found I was being grateful for a lot of different things happening around me. Be it the noises, weather, busyness, etc. there was always a positive spin to everything that occurred in my life. It amazed me that I hadn’t always been cognitive of those little details, usually finding similar things bothersome or unnecessary. This was such a great meditative strategy to better appreciate all things in my life and happening around me!

Have you ever kept a similar journal or seek gratitude in another manner? I would love to hear more suggestions on this topic to either adopt or adapt for my own practice.

Until next time, friends,