When we spend time taking note of everything for which we are grateful, and we consciously express that gratitude, our entire manner of thinking starts to shift.

My life is full of things for which I’m grateful. From my family to my wonderful new (and at the same time very old) house, a church fellowship where I am loved and accepted and of course the fact that I have a loyal and wonderful readership, there are many great people and things in my life.

Welcome to Day Eighteen of 30 Days to Forgiveness. Click here to read the first post!

When we spend time taking note of everything for which we are grateful, and we consciously express that gratitude, our entire manner of thinking starts to shift.

As a brain cancer survivor, I can even include my life and the fact that I’m (relatively) healthy and well. All surgery has risks, and doctors are careful to inform you ahead of time, but before surgery I was warned that any outcome in which I was breathing would be considered a success. Nine years later I am doing far more than “just breathing”!

If you take the time to think about it and make a list, I am sure that you will come up with many wonderful things for which you are grateful. One of the most popular Question of the Day topics on my Facebook page is when I ask people to name three things or people for which they are grateful.

And I will ask you – if you’re willing – to take a moment and tell us some of your gratitude list in the comments.

Too often we take these blessings for granted.

In our world today, gratitude sometimes seems to have become a lost art. People are focused on the negative, fixated on what’s happening next and very, very busy.

Too busy, as the old saying goes, to stop and smell the flowers.

There is much to be said for actively appreciating the positive and living in the present.

Here my readers nod and raise an eyebrow in confusion, wondering what in the world this has to do with forgiveness.

It all comes down to your frame of mind. You see, if you’re focused on negativity, busy-ness and complaining, fretting about what’s next and worrying about what you need or want or … any of that, really, you are not at all in the right mindset to practice forgiveness.

When we spend time taking note of everything for which we are grateful, and we consciously express that gratitude, our entire manner of thinking starts to shift.

It becomes much easier to appreciate what we have and focus on the positive in our lives. As a result, we find it easier to let go of negativity, and that includes the pain, anger and need for revenge that we may be feeling.

Have you ever noticed this in your life?

It’s one reason we confuse sadness, caused by events in our lives, with clinical depression.

What I mean is that, in the normal course of our days, good and bad things happen. When something good happens, it is normal to react with happiness. (And the flip side is true – it’s completely normal to feel sad when bad things happen. It’s just not normal to dwell on it forever.)

When we are happy and grateful, it’s harder to become down and depressed. It’s harder to be angry and we’re more likely to forgive and move on.

Of course if your brain patterns and chemistry have shifted and you are suffering from clinical depression, it will take more than happy thoughts to get you healthy again. Clinical depression is a serious thing and needs proper medical care.

Think of it this way – healthy eating and exercise may help prevent the onset of diabetes, but once you have developed it, more serious intervention is required. The same with depression.

But for the rest of us, those who are experiencing the normal range of emotions, responding with sad feelings when things go poorly and feeling happy when they go well, why not look at gratitude as another great tool in your forgiveness toolbox? Start using it in an intentional way.

One of the very simplest ways to get started is to count your blessings. When you wake in the morning and as you go to sleep at night, give thanks. Be specific! One of the things that I have taught my children is that, when they can think of no other words to pray, “Thank you, Father God” is always sufficient.

When we give thanks with a grateful heart, our mood improves and forgiving becomes easier. If we look at the grace and mercy that we have experienced in our lives, while still acknowledging that we, too, have caused pain and harm, it becomes much easier to extend that same grace and mercy to others.

It really doesn’t matter what your life looks like right now. If you stop and look for it, you will find a lot to be grateful for.

One moment in seared into my mind forever.

Remember how the surgeon told me that success would be any outcome in which I came out alive? That was a pretty low bar to meet – brain surgery is dangerous. In fact, since the tumour was sitting right between my parietal and occipital lobes, she said it would be a success if I came out alive but with no vision and an inability to communicate properly or remember things.

Cheery thoughts when going into surgery.

Anyway, what you might not know is that our life was very rough at the time. We rented a geared-to-income apartment and accessed the food bank about once a month. Not only that, we were struggling with some major legal – and obviously, health – issues. To say our life was rough is actually an understatement. It was during this time that Psalm 27 became my go to affirmation and I memorized it. “Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident …”

And so, in the middle of all of this difficulty, I was diagnosed with a large astrocytoma (brain tumour) that was just starting to turn aggressive.

When I opened my eyes after the surgery, sleepy and sedated, my first thought was “I’m alive!” and then I drifted back to semi-consciousness. My next clear thought, which brought me very much awake, was

I’m alive and I can SEE!

That’s when I started bullying my poor nurse to let me get out of bed because there was a life to be lived.

With that said, my memory is terrible now and I’m very grateful for notes and lists and digital calendars! And if I ever tell you to put something down on “that … um … that flat thing where we eat”, or if I suggest that you put the leftovers in the dishwasher and take the laundry out of the freezer, please don’t laugh too hard. Yes, I sometimes forget every day words. And people I see often. And names. The list goes on.

I have become used to hearing ‘Oh, don’t you remember …?” because usually, no, I don’t.

Maybe your list is going to start with that. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for my vision. I am grateful for lists because my memory is awful! I’m grateful for people who love me even when I forget what a table is called. I am grateful for universal health care. I am so very grateful for Dr. Schneider and her team.

Dig down and have fun with it. Make a list as long as you can possibly make it. Write it out and stick on a wall where you can see it every day.

Give thanks with a grateful heart.

Click to read the next post in the series.

Just Plain Living