An attitude of gratitude changes everything

You know that feeling as if the world is conspiring against you? When it seems like it is one blow after another. Every time you take one step forward, you take three steps back. A few days ago I felt that way. Completely and utterly defeated. I was exhausted – physically, mentally, emotionally. Work – stressful, studying – stressful, finances – stressful. My body was failing me in a multitude of ways – a broken rib, unable to exert myself in the things I love. Issues with my stomach that seem chronic and at times unbearable. A severe cold and cough preventing me from getting more than four hours of sleep per night. By the time I got off of work that day, I was spent.

I went home and collapsed on the couch, ready to take a nap and comfort myself in my own pity. As I lay there, I grew more and more frustrated. I wouldn’t settle for this. I needed to move. I threw on my gym clothes and drove back to base. When I walked in, Eric was elated to see me. Instead of returning the enthusiasm, I felt myself grow tense. He ran over to give me a hug and say hi. I immediately snapped at him. Everything he did to try and cheer me up, I rebutted. He too then became defeated, and sulked away.

I was so irritated at myself for treating him that way. Why is it that we always take our emotions out on the people who love us the most? I wanted to fall into his arms and not let these feelings consume me but I did the exact opposite. I went across the gym to the stationary bikes to do the only thing I could – sweat off some steam. A few minutes in, one of the guys from my ship, a good friend of both myself and Eric, walked in, smiling his usual suspicious grin. I removed my headphones.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked playfully.

AS I began to vent, he scrunched his face and furrowed his eyebrows.

“What?!” I demanded.

“You need to read your Bible more. And you need to pray,” he replied matter-of-factly.

I was shocked. And immediately convicted. I wanted to refute what he just said. I wanted to say how dare you. But he was right.

When in the last few days of disarray had I set aside some solitary time with God? When had I taken to His Word and to prayer to solve my problems? When had I trusted that there was purpose in the pain and the chaos? When did I trust that maybe there was a lesson to be learned?

“You need to go walk out there right now, tell Eric you’re sorry and give him a kiss,” he scolded.

“You’re right.”

Right then, Eric looked over and saw us talking. He trotted over to say hi to our friend. They began poking fun at me and my attitude. I got off the bike and wrapped my arms around Eric and apologized.

As I drove home that evening I was humbled. I was so grateful for a friend real enough to speak truth into my life and point me back to God. I was so grateful for a partner and best friend who continually tries to brighten my day and encourage me. I realized that I had been exerting so much energy focusing on the negatives in my life, that I was completely ignoring the tremendous blessings I possess.

This past weekend, Eric and I had a very candid conversation. We were driving down to St. Augustine, our place and our escape to enjoy quality time together, and I said “Babe, I don’t know what’s happened to me. I’m not Joyful Jessy anymore. I don’t know what happened to her but my whole life I’ve always been so happy-go-lucky, so easy going, fun, and carefree. I’ve always just been so positive and altruistic and this whole year, I feel like its been a struggle to find joy. I feel like I’m so short and so edgy, and I wind up taking a lot of that out on you. And that’s not fair.”

He grabbed my hand and squeezed, “You’re right. You are less joyful than you were when we met and were first dating. You were like a golden retriever puppy then. But I don’t think that’s changed. I think you have just had a lot of serious growing up to do this past year and you’ve seen a lot of ugly realities of life. It’ll come back. You’ve just got to choose to believe that. You’re a ray of sunshine to everyone you meet – you’re a light. But even you are going to face challenged. Sometimes you need to recharge.”

When I really sat back and thought about what’s so different now than its always been, sure I could easily say its been the difficulty of recent challenges. I could blame it on work, I could blame it on ship life, I could blame it on my injury, I could blame it on a lot of things, but the facts are simple. An attitude of gratitude changes everything. My whole adult life, I have been intentional in showing and feeling thankfulness for the blessings in my life. I have always been intentional to love on others, to give and to serve. I have always set time aside for Jesus and wanted to be like him in all I do. I chose to allow my circumstances to control my attitude, rather than allow my attitude to overcome my circumstances. The thing is the happiest people don’t have the best of everything; the happiest people make the most out of everything.

My life is far from perfect, but man is it pretty darn good. I have a job that as frustrating as it can be – I love and that provides me far more than most. I own a Jeep that I always dreamed of. I have an unbelievably supportive and loving family. I have the most amazing, handsome, encouraging, hard working boyfriend and life partner. I get to use my passions and my talents to help others live a happier, healthier life. I found an awesome church family to serve with and do life with, and an equally phenomenal CrossFit family to grow with. I have friends that would move mountains to help me in any time of need and that constantly uplift me. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a very comfortable life. I have a relationship with Jesus and I realize that I have all that I want and so much more than I need.

Upon waking at 0500, the same time as every morning, with no coffee in sight and exhaustion settled heavily over me, I pulled out of the driveway with a smile. I greeted the gate guards happily and made sure to be on base early enough to stop for coffee and breakfast at the NEX. The cashier was cheerful and it only amplified my own feelings of joy. I pulled into the parking lot to find a half empty lot – for us on Echo pier – a rare and joyous occasion in and of itself.

From there, the morning progressed bringing with it an avalanche and domino effect of happiness. Why? Because joy is infectious. A sincere smile and laughter can’t be contained. True joy seeps into every crevice of you, taking over and infecting all you come into contact with. I remembered the girl I was that stood along the Cliffs of Moher, laughing, dancing, and thanking God. I think that was the happiest I have ever been in my life. I may not be running along cliffs in Ireland, but I’ve sure got a lot to be thankful for and to dance about, which in fact I have busted out in song and dance about five times already this morning. When I sat down and opened my Bible, I flipped to these two passages Isaiah 45:22-25 and Mathew 11:28-30.

So take heart! Happy Friday y’all. I encourage you to find your happy song and start dancing randomly. Whether it’s on the flight deck, the hangar bay, the mess decks, the gym, the office, the living room – wherever. Bust a few moves and you won’t be able to control the smile that overtakes you – and those around you. Also I challenge you to think of five things in your life you have to be grateful for right now, then watch that list grow. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 Even in our toughest times, with a heart of thankfulness and our trust in God, we can find joy and peace.

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