Countdown to the Gratitude Challenge

Hello, friends! No official post today. I just wanted to remind you that the gratitude challenge is coming in a few days. I am looking forward to it, and I hope you are too. For more information, please see this post. And here is a beautiful praise song to get you ready to pray, practice gratitude, and praise: Awake My Soul by Hillsong Worship. Blessings to all!

God’s Love Each Day

Every day is a gift from God
There’s much to be thankful for
If we open our eyes and our hearts
We’ll see life as something to adore

Each morning when we wake up
Thanking God should come to mind
He has blessed us with a new day
And we have new treasures to find

What a precious jewel each day is
A new day to soak in Jesus’s love
Every day can bring us peace and joy
If we keep our eyes on things above

God’s love is overwhelming
We thank Him for this new day
Eager to see what the day will hold
We seek Him every step of the way

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

In my last post, I mentioned that during the month of November I will be holding a gratitude challenge. A fellow blogger, DarylMadden, commented on that post, sharing a YouTube video. (If you enjoy poetry, then I highly recommend Daryl Madden’s blog!) I wanted to share the YouTube video with you, as well. So please take a few moments to watch it. It is so beautiful. I want to live every day of my life with this mindset. Here is the link to the video: A Grateful Day with Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Gratitude Challenge Coming In November

Hi Friends! I have exciting news today. I will be hosting a Gratitude Challenge during the month of November! I have to be honest. I did not originally plan on doing this. But a friend asked me last week if I would consider it. Since 2020 has been so difficult for many, she felt we all could use a gratitude boost. And she is right.

If you walked through the Gratitude Challenge with me in 2018, this one is similar. However, there will be some key differences. In 2018 we walked through my book Every Day is a Gift, and then we met up here every day to discuss each of the thirty short chapters. This time, you are encouraged to read through Every Day is a Gift again. But you don’t have to, if you don’t have time. We will still meet up here each day. However, the content that I will be sharing in each post will be broad enough for everyone, even if you did not read the chapter from the book.

My intent is to keep each post short, for those of you with busy schedules. However, I am going to pack each post with encouragement. My hope is that we can get our hearts in the right place each day, as we focus on gratitude, and ultimately the Lord.

The layout of this year’s Gratitude Challenge is going be set up with what I am calling a PPP format:

Pray – In each post I will include a prayer. This will be loosely based off of that day’s reading in Every Day is a Gift. However, you will still be able to get meaning out of the prayer, even if you were not able to read that day’s passage in the book.

Practice Gratitude – Each day we will be practicing gratitude. I ask you to come up with at least three things you are thankful for each day. (In the book I recommended that you come up with five things. But I am trying to condense this challenge for those with busy schedules. Of course, you may come up with more than three, if you would like to.) You are welcome to share your gratitude list in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so. But I encourage you to also write your items down in a personal journal. I will share three items of my own in each post.

Praise – In each post, I will include a link to a praise song. If you have been following my blog this year, then you know I talked extensively about the importance of praise. There is something miraculous that happens when we praise God.

I really am excited about this PPP format. Prayer, practicing gratitude, and praise should be vital elements in our daily lives. But often, due to our active schedules, we don’t take time for these things. Hopefully this challenge will show us how easy it is to work these things into our schedules. And what’s more, I hope that this challenge shows us how powerful prayer, practicing gratitude, and praise are. I truly believe after doing each of these three things for thirty day, our hearts will be transformed.

I hope you will join me for the 2020 Gratitude Challenge, starting on November 1!

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Are You Struggling?

Have you been walking through some difficulties? Are you struggling in any areas of your life? Have you been feeling defeated? I can relate! I was walking through some hardships recently as well. But I learned some valuable lessons along the way. I had the honor of writing a guest post for The Peaceful Wife blog, where I talk about the things God revealed to me during this time. I invite you to check out my guest post here: Why Am I Struggling So Much? I hope you get some encouragement out of it!

The Peaceful Wife blog is one that I have been following for over seven years! The blogger behind The Peaceful Wife is April Cassidy, author of The Peaceful Wife and Peaceful Mom books. April’s posts most often pertain to marriage and what God intended for our marriages to look like. She shares all that she learned along her own personal journey. But April also touches on other topics that have helped me, and countless others, have a closer walk with Jesus. I cannot tell you how much April’s blog has been a blessing to me, my marriage, and my Christian walk. Check out The Peaceful Wife blog here.

Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite Bible verses. The NKJV puts it this way, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” The NLT puts it like this, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” What an incredible promise that is. As children of God, we are assured that God will work all things together for good.

Many people like to say that “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t really believe that is true, to be honest. Sadly, we live in a fallen world. That means many cruel and evil things will happen to us and around us. Add on top of that all the mistakes we make as well. I don’t believe initially there is a good reason behind everything. But we often hear people say this as an attempt to bring comfort to a difficult situation. I would like to suggest, however, that instead of saying, “everything happens for a reason,” we turn to God and to the promise found in Romans 8:28.

As Christians, we can trust that God can and will turn things around for good. That promise really gives me comfort when I am facing something difficult that I do not like or do not understand. Or when I look back on my life and I wish I could erase some things from my past. Or when a loved one is struggling with something hard. In difficult times like these, we can find solace in knowing that God will work all things for good.

And, yes, the verse says ALL things or EVERYTHING, depending on the translation. There have been certain things in my life that I didn’t believe could be worked out for good. But one night when I was praying about some of those things, I felt God speak to me. He said, “Yes, even that.” What a simple, yet beautiful, statement.

As a child of God, this promise is true for you too. God can and will work everything in your life for good. Even the worst things in your life. Even the things that have brought you the most pain. He is a loving God and will love you through your suffering, if you allow Him to. The Contemporary English Version puts Romans 8:28 like this, “We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose.” That first sentence is so beautiful and truly portrays God’s love for you.

But perhaps there was something in your life which you have not seen anything good come from it. In our human eyes and human understanding, we might not see or comprehend the good that came out of some things. But we have to believe God, trust God, and have faith in God.

Charles Stanley puts it this way, “On this side of heaven we may never understand how all things can work together for good for God’s children. Though not all things we experience are in themselves pleasant or helpful – some of them are very painful – we are promised that God uses everything for our benefit. Therefore, we must have faith that He will turn our failures and hardships into opportunities for spiritual growth.” (The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible)

Our God is trustworthy and faithful. He does not lie and He keeps His promises. So when you are facing something painful in your life, or when you look back on something painful, run to the Lord and hand it over to Him. Pray about the situation and tell Him that you are trusting Him to work it all out for good. This process of surrender will take a weight off your shoulders and you will feel a peace that surpasses understanding.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Choose Joy

Hearing from God can be so special. I don’t hear an audible voice. But there are times when I “hear” something deep inside and I know it’s from God. One particular time when this happened was on February 26th of this year. I know what day it was because it was also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

On that day, I asked God to show me anything that might be a roadblock in my relationship with Him. And His answer was, “Negativity.” When I asked the question, an answer came quickly. And I had a feeling deep within that made me know this came from God.

If you know me, perhaps you think I am always a positive person. I do try to be. But I am not perfect by any means. Sometimes I complain and gripe, just like everyone else. I don’t like being that way. And it is something that I try to work on. But when the Lord spoke to me about it, it really hit home! So, this is something I have been working on even more this year.

It can be difficult to stay positive in our culture. And with all the events of 2020, it has been even more difficult. But it is possible. We have to stay rooted to the Lord, remember He is our source of truth and strength, limit time watching the news, express our gratitude towards God, and praise God. Those things have helped me to be more optimistic.

But I have two secrets to share with you that will catapult you into a positive frame of mind. (1) You have a choice. All the thoughts that come into your head, do not have to stay in your head. (2) Feelings are liars. Just because you feel a certain way, doesn’t make it truth. You should take your feelings to God and compare them to Scripture. When we know we are thinking or feeling negatively, we can choose to turn it around.

There are many Bible verses that speak about this topic as well, so it helps to memorize them and recite them when you are tempted to be negative.

  • Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
  • Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
  • Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23
  • The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6
  • We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. – Proverbs 18:21

Have you been sucked into a bad habit of complaining and negativity? Will you join me in turning it around? I hope so! Let’s start today! Let’s choose joy. And we can be a shining light to the world around us.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Praise and Gratitude

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

No matter what you are going through today, no matter what you are facing, I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that God is still on the throne. This is wonderful news. This means that we can trust Him with all of our needs. We can rest knowing that He has everything under control. Even if you are dealing with something that you don’t understand, He does. Today, take some time out of your day to praise Him, and to extend gratitude. Tell Him how amazing He is. And tell Him all the things you are thankful for. This is guaranteed to turn your heart around. You will feel more peace inside as you focus on the good, instead of the bad. God blesses us and cares for us. He loves us and protects us. We have so much to be thankful for and we have so much to praise Him for.

I have breath in my lungs
My heart beats steady
I extend love to God
And greet the day
Praise the Lord

I have seen another sunrise
As dawn tells the night goodbye
Displaying God’s artwork
Across the sky
Praise the Lord

I have the gift of salvation
A debt I can never repay
Jesus took my place
On a cross in Calvary
Praise the Lord

I look forward to eternity
Singing to our Savior
Every day with Jesus
Loving Him forevermore
Praise the Lord

(c) 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

One Thing At A Time

We have a million tasks we need to cram into our twenty-four hours. Many people have complained – if only I had more time! I have said this myself on many occasions. So what’s the solution? Multitasking of course. What is multitasking? Multitasking is defined as dealing with more than one thing at a time. In today’s fast-paced world, we pride ourselves on multitasking.

If you are one of those who pride themselves on multitasking, I am here to burst your bubble. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It turns out that our brains really aren’t doing two things at once. Instead our brains are just quickly shifting from one thing to another. One of my techie friends recently told me that computers don’t even do more than one thing at a time. Computers just do things amazingly fast. So if a computer cannot multitask, why do we think we can? What’s more is that research has found negative side effects associated with multitasking.

  • Multitasking can cut our productivity down by as much as 40%.
  • Multitasking diminishes our ability to tune out distractions.
  • Multitasking decreases our cognitive ability.
  • Multitasking actually slows us down.
  • Multitasking makes us lose time, not gain time.
  • Negative side effects of multitasking even occur later on when one is no longer multitasking.
  • Multitasking takes away our energy.
  • Multitasking weakens our memory.
  • Multitasking can lead to stress, depression, and anxiety.

(Information on multitasking was cited in articles on verywellmind.com and psychologytoday.com.)

I feel that sometimes multitasking is okay, if one task does not require brain power. For example, if you are folding laundry while watching television or if you are listening to music while working. Our brains don’t need to focus on the laundry or the music. But I do feel strongly about cutting back on multitasking in general, especially when the things we are doing requires our attention. We all know how dangerous it is to text when driving, for example.

Why do I feel so strongly about cutting out multitasking? Well all the side effects above are a good start. Personally when I try to do too many things, I feel frustrated and fruitless. But there is more. This is similar to my recent post on eliminating distractions. I don’t want to miss the life that is right in front of me. I don’t want to miss out on things God might be trying to reveal to me. I don’t want to miss out on precious moments with my loved ones.

Perhaps you are familiar with the story of the sisters, Martha and Mary, found in Luke 10:38-42. On this particular occasion, Jesus was at their home. Martha was running around tending to preparations while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Martha complained about her sister not helping. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (v 41-42). How sad that Martha missed out on time with the Savior because she was distracted! It even says in verse 40 that “Martha was distracted.” When we have a gathering at our homes, we want to make sure everything is perfect. I have been there and I am sure many of you have too. While it is admirable to put our best hospitality foot forward, we should not allow it to take away from the fellowship.

This is just one example. There are many other times when we are multitasking and miss out on things. We might be intent on listening to our favorite sitcom, but miss something the person right in front of us said. Or maybe we are on the telephone with someone, but we allow our mind to start worrying about a project at work. I am sure you can think up some examples as well. Let me put it to you another way. We don’t like when someone is ignoring us because they are focused on something else. So let’s set a good example and not do the same.

Life is made up of small moments. These moments can hold so much meaning, if we are present. And these meaningful moments can turn into deep conversations, and lasting memories. I want to be able to look back on these moments with joy, not with regret. How about you?

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

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Lasting Habits

A few weeks ago, I shared with you the list of things that I wanted to work on during the month of July. Today I want to share with you some things that I learned about making new positive habits and releasing negative habits.

Monthly Plan. A new month is like a mini New Years. It can be seen as a fresh start and a new beginning. I think using each month to start something new, or lay aside something old, is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated and on track. We tend to like the things in our lives to be tied up in nice, neat packages. And by using a particular month to work on a certain habit, it is a way to make these changes look more appealing and easier to swallow. If you are consistent with making a small, yet powerful change for an entire month, you will feel empowered to continue with that habit. The ultimate goal is to make new good habits, or lack of bad habits, so ingrained that we don’t think about them anymore. They just become second nature and not something we have to struggle with.

Daily reminders. Every morning, remind yourself of your goal. This will help keep it in the front of your mind throughout the day. You could also use sticky notes and place them in key places where you will see them to help motivate yourself.

Set yourself up for success. Try to find ways to “trick” yourself into following through. For example, if you want to exercise first thing in the morning, wear clothing to bed that could work well for both pajamas and workout clothes. Then when you get up, you don’t have to change clothes. Try to make it as simple as possible for yourself. If you have the opportunity to take your eyes off the task at hand, you will quickly run in the wrong direction, like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride.

Accountability. It will help you to stay on track if you are held accountable. You can do this a number of ways. Either tell a trusted person (or several) about your plan. They can check in with you and help encourage you when you are slacking. Or you can hold yourself accountable. In your journal each evening, have a daily “check-in” by writing down how you did. Another option is to blast it on a blog or social media. When you tell the whole world what you are working on, you will not want to fail, and this will push you to keep going.

Don’t beat yourself up. If you fell off the horse, just get right back up and start again. We are human, which means we are not perfect. We simply have to try our best. This might mean some days are not our best days. But that’s okay. We can begin again.

Adjust. It’s okay to adjust and tweak as you go along. For example, perhaps you tried exercising in the evenings, but errands and daily life got in the way. Switch it up and try the mornings instead.

Reward yourself. If you were consistent with your habit, think of a way you can treat yourself. Examples could include going somewhere fun with your family, taking a bubble bath, or getting that new book you have been eyeing. Get creative and do something for yourself that will motivate you to keep going.

What will I be working on in September? My top goals are to clear the clutter in my head so that I can hear the voice of God and to be consistent and concrete with my prayers.

Since today is the 1st day of a new month, this is the perfect time to work on a change in your life too. Take a moment to give it some thought. What is one thing you would like to accomplish this month? As Christians, we have a responsibility to live our lives well. This flows into everything we think, say, and do. We are to be a shining light in this dark world. So living our lives well, will in turn help us to walk out the calling and purpose God has for us. With that being said, what change would you like to see? A better sleep pattern? Daily Bible reading? Praying every day? Exercising? A new hobby? Or you can also lay aside a bad habit, such as not spending so much time on your devices or quitting smoking. If you are stuck and don’t know what to do, ask God to show you something you can work on in your life. If you come up with something, I would love to hear what it is!

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:22-25

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

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Creative Therapy

My grandmother was a master crocheter. Crocheting is something she learned as a child, and she never let it go. When I was young I remember her trying to teach my sister and me how to crochet, but it didn’t stick. In my adult years, I decided I wanted to learn. But I didn’t tell my grandmother about it. Instead I bought books to teach myself how to crochet so that I could surprise her. I am so glad I was able to do that before she passed. I am not a master crocheter like she was. Usually I stick with simple things like blankets, scarves, or hats. My grandmother, on the other hand, could create dolls, purses, and many other elaborate items. After learning to crochet, I tried knitting as well. I never stuck with it because it seemed to take a lot longer to complete an item. Then I was introduced to looms, which I enjoy using a lot. But for many months I had not touched any of these things.

Recently in the pandemic, I picked it back up again and I am so glad I did. I forgot how therapeutic it was. When we were riding in the vehicle recently, I brought my latest project along. My husband said to me, “Isn’t that tiring?” And I said, “No, it’s soothing.” He replied, “I should try it.” I agreed and he laughed. He was kidding, but I wasn’t. It really is a great art to learn, especially if you are looking for a stress reliever. It is believed that any kind of yarn-crafting can relieve depression, reduce anxiety, build self-esteem, reduce or postpone dementia, relieve insomnia, help relax, aid prayer, help with grief, and relieve stress.

But crocheting and knitting are not the only creative arts that can improve mental health. Drawing, painting , collage, coloring, and sculpting can help heal emotions, improve self-esteem, manage addictions, relieve stress, improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and cope with a physical illness or disability.

Crafts can also help us in this area as well. Crafts can help us recover from traumatic life events, relieve stress, build self esteem and find moments of calm.

Writing and poetry can also be very therapeutic as well.

If you prefer music, playing an instrument can also help with stress, insomnia, and depression. Singing, playing instruments, and dancing are also found in the Bible. Music is definitely a great way to boost your mood, especially if it is praise music. Praising God turns our attention towards Him, and takes our focus off of our worries.

“Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” – Psalm 105:2

If the events of 2020 have been bringing you down, I want to encourage you to try creative therapy. If you already are gifted in one of the pastimes I mentioned, maybe it’s time to pick it back up. Or if you have never tried any of these hobbies, perhaps now would be a good time to learn.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

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