It probably isn’t normal, but I struggle with gratitude. Years ago when Oprah made Gratitude Journals a big deal and all my girlfriends jumped on the wagon, someone gave me a blank Gratitude Journal of my own. It was a hard covered book with inscriptions about appreciating butterflies, kittens and clouds and all the simple things in life. Oprah, and then a sister at a church meeting challenged everyone to find at least three things everyday they were grateful for. My journal was optimistic and gave me 10 lines everyday to fill. I considered the expectation I would come up with 10 great things each day and decided that was too much pressure. If Oprah and Heavenly Father were asking for only 3 things, who was I to mess with their wisdom? I don’t remember the details of what was going on in my life at the time, but I know it was rocky. Since my life has revolved around my kids’ health, I am probably safe in saying I was heading into, working on or recovering from someone’s health crisis. Thus is the life of a mother with special needs kids.

I recently uncovered my long ago discarded Gratitude Journal. I had to laugh when the only thing written in it, day after day is the same list of Things I am Grateful for Today (The journal came with pre-printed headers and numbered lines to make my gratitude easy to document.) I kept my gratitude very simple. Every night before I went to bed (to give myself a whole day to receive all the blessings the Universe had in store for me) I wrote the same thing on lines 1-3 under each days designated spot. It looked like this:

1. I am grateful this day is over.
2. I am grateful this day is over.
3. I am grateful this day is over.

for 25 pages. I hung in there a lot longer than I realized. I thought I quit much earlier than 25 pages. It shows how dedicated I was to appreciating the good things in my life.

Before you think I am a heartless, shriveled human being, you have to understand that when faced with horrible, unrelenting situations that aren’t going away fast, I rely on gallows humor to help me through. I can think and say some really dark things that make me laugh when there really is nothing to laugh about. My Gratitude Journal makes me laugh and that is probably why I wrote in it for 25 days and why I kept it for all these years.

At the same time period as my Gratitude Journal, a real person reached out to me and gave me a gift I have also kept for all these years. One day the Relief Society President called and asked for my measurements under the guise someone had clothes they wanted to give me. Rob and I were broke college students with 3 little kids at the time, so I happily gave the Relief Society President what she wanted. I thought it was odd she insisted on my actual measurements, not just clothes sizes, but I didn’t question it. After a few days of waiting for a box of secondhand clothes on my doorstep that never appeared, I forgot about it.

A few weeks later on a particularly bad day, a day that one of my kids was given a new diagnosis and I was devastated by having to face yet another insurmountable heartache while I was surrounded by people who counted their blessings on two hands, the Relief Society President handed me a plain white dress box. She said that someone in the ward wanted me to have it and that a note inside explained it.

I opened the box and found this dress:

Grat

It was handmade, to fit my measurements perfectly. The note accompanying the dress said, “Heather – Although I can’t help your situation, I thought about what I could do and I realized that everyone needs a new dress to wear to church. I made this for you and hope you like it. Love, your sister.”

This anonymous person had been paying attention to me and my family. She noticed what I hadn’t. I was so busy dealing with problems in my life I didn’t realize I hadn’t bought a new dress in years and the 4 dresses I did have were long past their expiration dates. When I read the note, I immediately burst into tears. I felt so loved, so noticed. More than anything, being noticed was the best comfort I could imagine. Someone was aware of me! Someone knew I was struggling and instead of telling me to buck up and be happy, she made a dress for me. It fit my body and soul and was exactly what I needed at that moment.

I may not be so great at appreciating the green grass and the clean air I breathe, but I do recognize when God has reached down and comforted me through the miracle of service wrought by another of His children. I have a lot to be grateful for.