As we approach our Thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded of the power that gratitude has to change our hearts.

We were raised to be polite and tell others thank you for any kindness, gift, or service given to us or done for us. We hate to arrive empty handed to a friend’s home and unwritten thank you notes weigh us down until we jot off the few words and either hit send or dig out the address and apply a stamp to the envelope. Trained as gracious guests, we quite often do things out of reflex rather than with reflection. Not that this is bad at all. But, there are gifts we receive that we often take for granted.

This summer, I was speaking to a fabulous group of women about my practice of prayer journaling. After I walked through each section of the journal, I asked if there were any questions. One of my dearest friends raised her hand. She gently reminded me that I had forgotten to talk about one of the most important sections in the entire journal: Thanks Giving.

She then shared her story about the power of gratitude. Her sister was diagnosed with cancer last year and was being treated by wonderful doctors with every tool that modern medical science had in their arsenal. These sisters were particularly close, but did not live near each other which made it even more difficult for my friend.

When anyone we love faces a difficult road, we ask so many questions. “Why her?” “How could God allow this?” “What will be the outcome?”

After the diagnosis, my friend struggled to reconcile all that she knew about God, her faith, and her situation. Thankfully, she had a powerful tool in her arsenal. Before her sister was diagnosed, my friend started using my prayer journaling method. Every day she would pray with Scripture and take notes.

When she raised her hand, she let me know that the section of the prayer journal that helped her the most was the one that failed to mention. In my haste to get to the actual making of the journals, I forgot to outline the Gratitude section. She said that there were many days that, being so weighed down with burdens, she struggled to add anything to her list. But, stopping and forcing herself to reflect, she could always find at least one thing to be grateful for. Knowing that she would have to find something new to include on her list next, she paid more attention to the blessings found in each day. As she recognized more gifts, she saw God’s presence in each day and was reminded of His loving goodness.

Pausing to praise God in the hard days reminded her of God’s unfailing love. That is probably why the Psalms are chock full of reminders to praise God in all things. Life is hard and no one is exempt from the hard, even the One who was love.

So, today, take some time to pause and look for His gifts. Feel free to add some to the comments below.