The Grateful Road by DawnCheré Wilkerson

 
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gratitude is specific, not generic.

Have you ever wanted to tell someone how much they mean to you, but you didn’t know what to say? Maybe it is a friend, parent, teacher or boss… whoever it may be, it often seems like it is never the right time to say what’s on your heart. My husband’s grandfather was famous in our family for his wisdom filled one liners. One statement in particular I will never forget is this: “The things you appreciate tend to get better, the things you depreciate tend to get worse.”

 

That line has always stuck with me! Unless I appreciate and recognize the good around me, I might completely miss when things get better. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV) Learning to express gratitude is God’s will for our lives. Being ungrateful can lead to heartbreak, dissatisfaction and cold relationships. Who wants that? Not me. Gratitude on the other hand sustains friendships, secures marriages, and opens your heart to a road of purpose that only grateful eyes see. What do we find on the grateful road? You’ll never know unless you get the guts to start recognizing the beauty in others around you. But I’ll give you a little preview if it could mean you possibly decide to choose gratitude.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

 

On the grateful road, we FIND OUR SOURCE. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and last year I was home in Louisiana with my family for the entire turkey filled weekend. As we sat around the table eating dinner with the family, I asked my little 4-year-old niece what she was thankful for this Thanksgiving. Her quick and confident response was “myself.” I started to laugh and then explained the question again. She put on her best stubborn face and responded again, just a little slower this time - “MYSELF.” That is a hilarious statement from a 4-year-old, but as adults we make a dangerous assumption when we believe we are self-made. You are not self-made. You are not you own source. There was a teacher, a mom, a friend, and there has ALWAYS been a God who has been watching, guiding and providing for you. So, if we were to have a coffee break today together and I asked you who your source is, would you know? Source of what? Strength, direction, wisdom, provision… your daily source for your daily needs. And have you shown them gratitude? You see, gratitude is specific, not generic. It’s not just “I’m blessed..” WHO are you blessed by? Not just “I’m grateful” Grateful for what? Not just “This is a good day..” Who made it a good day and why? The ungrateful sit around examining what they don’t have, while the grateful recognize what they have been given and who gave it.

 

"When you choose to be grateful, you find your voice because only YOU can express gratitude for what others have done for you."

 

Once you find your source, it’s time to put gratitude into action! On the grateful road, we FIND OUR VOICE.  I grew up in a family that had traditions… some were kinda crazy. Like every Easter my mom would make a fake knock sound at the door and there would be bunnies sitting outside on our porch… yes, real, live, hopping, bunnies. Other traditions were expected. Like Friday night football and cheering for all my brothers as they took their turn out on the gridiron. But there was one tradition that stayed with me far after I moved out of the house at 17 years old. My parents call it the “honor circle”. Any time there was a birthday, graduation or special occasion, we would take time before the end of the night to go around the table, one by one, and honor whoever we were celebrating. Everyone was expected to verbalize their gratitude and there were no exceptions to escape this moment. My parents forced us to get over any awkward feelings, embarrassment or self-centered silliness, and gave us the space to express encouragement to those we loved the most. They truly helped us find our voice!

 

When you choose to be grateful, you find your voice because only YOU can express gratitude for what others have done for you. Its empowering to be able to explain how someone has impacted your life. It doesn’t have to be weird, dramatic or long. Gratitude simply needs to be authentic. Every day we have the opportunity to find our voice and use it to build the relationships in our lives. And as you find your voice, you find your place. On the grateful road we FIND OUR PLACE.

 

I grew up in a family of 6 kids. My older sister and I could not have been more different as children, and the differences only grew as we entered our teen years. We were civil, but I would not say we were close. She left for college and law school, then I left for college and somewhere along the way, we started to chat on the phone. I started to call for advice and she would call to see how I was doing. We became grateful for one another. Before I knew it, we were talking every morning, and that has been the case for the last 10 years. She is one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given me. We were not close living under the same roof, but now, we’ve never been closer –  even though we are separated by thousands of miles. Relationships are not built on titles, they are built on intimacy. Intimacy depends on the heart, not on physical miles.

 

Gratitude expressed consistently creates intimacy. Our gratitude brings us close to God. He responds to our worship and thankfulness. Our gratitude towards our family and friends changes the atmosphere and makes a house a home. Our gratitude for our leaders and those we lead creates trust and genuine relationships. We find our place when we become grateful! You belong close to God, close to your family and those you love. Its solidifies and sustains relationships. Ungrateful thoughts, remarks and actions create distance. Gratitude captures the heart of heaven! Salvation secures our eternity but daily gratitude towards God brings us close to him in genuine relationship.

 

If you are ready to start on the grateful road, here is my challenge to you:

 1. Make your gratitude specific. Make it a habit to thank God for the little and the big things in your life as you go through your day. Watch as you begin to feel closer to Him and aware of His presence.
2. Look someone in the eyes and verbalize that you are grateful for them. Make it a goal to express gratitude to someone each day. Watch as the atmosphere changes and your relationships gain more intimacy.