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365 WAYS TO SAY THANKS

Christine LeBaron

July 18, 2012

I’d heard it said that gratitude lifts us toward our Heavenly Father, especially when we express that gratitude to him. But when I lost both of my parents before I was forty and within a few years of each other, I admit that even feeling grateful was a challenge. I missed them.

But my mother raised us with a vision of making lemonade out of lemons. She was a cockeyed optimist, and her joyful outlook was contagious. So after her passing, I started thinking there must be some way to turn my sorrow to joy, my grief to gratitude. Attending a 2011 Time Out for Women event made me even more determined to choose to become grateful. And when they announced the 2012 theme, "Seek the Good," my plan took form.

I named my plan The Butterfly Project, and I resolved to write a total of 365 letters of gratitude this year. If expressing gratitude to God can bring us closer to Him, I thought to myself, couldn’t expressing gratitude via pen and paper draw me closer to those I love?

I sent one of my letters to my younger brother, an amazing man who tends to be too hard on himself. In the letter, I included reflections of our years of growing up and expressed how much I love him. Then I thanked him for the brother he is to me.

Such a small thing it is to write a letter, but since I sent it I’ve noticed an increase in our communications. He has always been better than me at calling consistently, and I’ve always appreciated his efforts to reach in around my chaos and remind me he cares. However, the letter has made me realize what’s important and how much I need to be an active part of his life too. Since then, I’ve tried to do better at staying in contact with him, checking on his sweet family, and being present in his life even though we’re 700 miles apart.

Gratitude has given me wings. It has elevated relationships in ways I never imagined, and I’ve learned that miles cannot separate hearts determined to be knit together. Likewise, the only distance that can keep us from our Heavenly Father is the distance we deliberately put between us and him. My heart overflows in praise and gratitude to a loving Heavenly Father that inspired me in a way that I believe He knew would change and strengthen me. Gratitude is healing my broken heart from the inside out. It’s changing my life. It’s giving me wings.

I’m still in the process of completing that grand endeavor, but I’ve already been amazed by what my efforts have done. Many times my loved ones have thanked me for the letters and expressed their mutual feelings of gratitude for me. But the greatest discovery has not been how the letters changed anyone else; it’s been how the letters are changing me.

I’ve extended a similar challenge to all my loved ones to write twelve letters of gratitude in 2012, and I invite you to join us. It’s only July! Plenty of time to love, write, and be changed.

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