This summer, after a tough school year full of noise, something always on the to-do list, and endless obligations, I found solace in the silence, love, and certainty of home. I could count on home, and because of its slow pace and routine took notice of the simple things around me that would’ve otherwise passed me by. From the hibiscus flowers in the backyard that thrived despite the scorching heat, the birds that would indulge in the makeshift bird bath we sat out, to the bunnies that would be gnawing away at the grass every day at around the same time as my family and I sat down for dinner – the beauty in the mundane and perceived simple produced the direct opposite: gratitude.
The Silver Lining
Practicing gratitude wasn’t intentional at first and it definitely didn’t happen overnight. There was an initial culture shock of sorts after coming back home for the first time in a long time, but nevertheless, it was home. I was bored at first, something I hadn’t been able to be since I was a kid, and I didn’t know what to do with myself! This boredom didn’t disappear, and I made the decision not to fill it with distractions. There was beauty in the silence and of the company of me, myself, and I. The sunsets and sunrises were taken in for longer, the warmth of the morning sun on my skin during my strolls without destinations felt deeper, and the intention to care for my body and mind as I do for my work through exercise and rest was set. For the first time, the quiet didn’t scare me or lead me to spiral. I expected home to get old quickly and lead me to nothing but my bed and television, but a routine was instilled and though not rigorous or eventful most of the time, it was fulfilling. From the nights spent catching up with old friends, to the donuts my dad had waiting every Sunday before church, and the opportunities I chose to participate in that had purpose. I learned that rest was not only necessary but productive.
With my focus fixed on what I had as opposed to what I didn’t have, my appreciation for the people in my life was enhanced. God’s grace and love shine through my friends and family and the little acts of service and words of encouragement served as a reminder of that. Through practicing gratitude, I learned how rich I truly was just by my support system. The appreciation I have for my parents has grown immensely simply due to reflection and taking notice of how much they sacrifice and do. My sister waking me up in the morning for our daily coffee runs was sometimes the highlight of my days. I found that being thankful for not only things but the people around me who support, love, and root for me changed something within. I was kinder and softer to my loved ones. The little annoyances that are just a part of life went unnoticed. I stopped complaining so much and was able to better communicate with both those around me and with myself. I could listen to my body, mind, and soul better and adhere to the rhythm of life without distractions outside of me and my control.
I grew up in the church and my parents planted the seed of faith and Jesus in my youth. I’ve been saved ever since I could remember but always viewed a strong relationship with God as something I’d foster later in life. This summer, I reconnected with my faith in a way I’ve never done before. I found power in having my foundation in Him in my youth. I studied the Bible as I studied my books for classes, learned how to pray, and even fasted for the first time – further increasing my capacity for gratitude. For so long, I viewed God as a fairy of sorts. A deity to go to when things got bad or if I had desires only He could grant. This summer, I came to God as an adult with a renewed heart. Through learning about God’s character, I experienced a change in my own.
This summer was unlike one I’d ever had before. As I revel in my last summer vacation, I aim to take the lessons from this quiet time at home and apply them to life even when it isn’t so calm and consistent. While I recognize that I can’t dictate the external factors that surround me, I’ve come to understand that the power lies within me and my reactions, mindset, and approach. I (unfortunately) can’t spend the rest of my life in the comfort of my childhood home, but I’ll carry home in my heart everywhere I go through the gift and action of gratitude.
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