I’ve Got Praise in My Pocket

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“Praise came easily when things were good …”

By Stefanie Thomas | Twitter: @STsheloves

I’ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s Resolutions. Don’t get me wrong–I think the end of a year is a great time to take stock, offer gratitude and set intentions for the future. I understand the logic behind making resolutions, and I like to think that some people enjoy the satisfaction of keeping them for the entire year … or, better yet, for the rest of their lives. (If I’m talking about you, Go you!)

But I can’t help but wonder if this practice is, for many of us, less-than-helpful. Unmet resolutions can taunt and haunt us. (Insert a dejected “Who was I kidding, I knew I’d never follow through with that!” here.) It seems that a list of resolutions – perhaps full of earnest intentions to exercise regularly, take up meditation, write a screenplay, eat more leafy greens – often turns into a reminder of all of the ways that we’ve failed at making changes. We tell ourselves we have failed at becoming better.

So, at the end of 2010, when SheLoves contributor Sarah and editor Idelette both suggested scrapping the resolutions and instead selecting One Word for the coming year, I quickly jumped on board. If you’re a regular reader of SheLoves Magazine, you’re likely familiar with the “One Word” conversation. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can find out here.) This word could act as a guide, a reminder, a cushion, a prod, an intention.

My One Word

As I prepared to greet 2011, it wasn’t hard to pick my one word. When I got still and listened to what word bubbled up in my heart and spirit, it was PRAISE. My focus would be on gratitude, on offering praise to God for blessings big and small. I spent New Year’s Day last year at Crescent Beach, walking and talking with a kindred-spirit friend. It was a stunning day, and on our meandering we kept stopping to admire the beauty around us – the grey-blue ocean, the wheat-coloured grasses, the pink glow of the setting sun on snow-capped mountains in the distance. Not to mention the eagles, the herons, the pups and the smiling passers-by.

I was grateful not only for the glory of life and nature, but also for the beauty and depth of my friendships. PRAISE on that day seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

Cut To

A handful of you may know I’ve had a bit of a rough few months, health-wise. In early October, on the heels of a fantastic trip to visit some friends and my hilarious old aunties, a nasty virus hit, bringing the unrelenting sensation that I was swallowing shards of broken glass. After four weeks of this, I developed pneumonia. That really knocked me out. Just as my lungs were starting to clear, I came down with pleuritis, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs that can occur after a bout of pneumonia. I was certain I’d fractured a rib or two from coughing; that’s how much it hurt. When the doctor told me the pain would last at least four weeks, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I had no way of knowing–when I felt that first tickle in my throat in early October–I’d still be under-the-weather come January. More than a few times during the past three months I’ve felt concerned, discouraged, sick of being sick. If I had a dollar for every time I uttered the words, “It is what it is,” well, I’d have myself quite a lot of dollars.

It Is What It Is

During the worst of the pneumonia, it was almost impossible to sleep. The coughing intensified when I’d lie down, so I stacked a bunch of pillows and tried to sleep sitting up. (Unless you absolutely have to, I don’t recommend trying this at home) I was used to being healthy and regularly getting eight or nine solid hours of sleep, so those pneumonia nights (is it just me, or does that sound like the title of an Eagles album?) felt long and rather miserable. I’ll mention now that in addition to choosing my one word for 2011, I had also selected an intention for the year: SELF-CARE. I had made a promise to nurture myself and there’s no denying that being sick gave me a massive opportunity to put that vow into practice.

Self-Care

I adopted a new middle-of-the-night routine: about every two hours, I’d stand leaning over a pot of boiling water with a few drops of essential oil in it, hearing the crackle and pop of my lungs as I inhaled the steam. Then I’d do child’s pose on my yoga mat, hearing the crackle and pop of my spine/ribs shifting as I stretched out my mid-back. Then I’d crawl back into my bed-chair and read.

On one of those pneumonia nights, I sat propped up against my pillow pile, wide awake at 3am.I’ve never been one to get up and read in the middle of the night. (Typically, if I see 3am, it’s only because I haven’t gone to bed yet.) So even having the light on at that time felt a bit surreal. I don’t know if you could say I was at my wit’s end, but I just didn’t know what to do with myself. Tired of being sick, tired of being tired, I prayed to God for peace, comfort and healing to wash over me. And then I remembered.

“Praise.”

I reached for a notebook and pencil and began to write a list of things this time of illness had given me. I took stock of all of the ways it had allowed me to receive, to just be, to practice that self-care. I wrote quickly and before long I had a full page of things I felt grateful for. I read over this list and thanked God for everything on it.

I praised.

I felt God’s presence that night, enveloping me and bringing the comfort I’d prayed for. I loved the power and simplicity of having my one word to lean on throughout the year. Praise came easily when things were good, but even when– especially when–life felt challenging, turning to PRAISE helped me to get my eyes off of myself and back onto God.

By no means will I leave praise in the dust now that we’ve closed the book on 2011. I can always keep praise tucked away in my back pocket.

My one word for 2012? Drumroll, please …

 GRACE.

But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

_________________________________

About Stefanie:

Stefanie is a Registered Clinical Counsellor living in Vancouver, BC. She feels blessed to work in a helping profession and is grateful that her work requires her to show up not in a power suit but with listening ears and a compassionate heart. Stefanie enjoys spending time with family and friends and has never met a kid or baby she doesn’t like. She is a noticer and appreciator of birds (chickadees, herons, eagles) and many a beach rock has come home in her pocket. Stefanie is a lover of music, tv and movies, and she is gifted at absorbing and retaining useless pop culture trivia. She loves walking, fresh air, the smell of dirt, and anything of the salt and vinegar persuasion. She can often be found puttering.

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Stefanie Thomas

Stefanie Thomas

Stefanie is a Registered Clinical Counsellor living in Vancouver, BC. She feels blessed to work in a helping profession and is grateful that her work requires her to show up not in a power suit but with listening ears and a compassionate heart. Stefanie enjoys spending time with family and friends and has never met a kid or baby she doesn’t like. She is a noticer and appreciator of birds (chickadees, herons, eagles) and many a beach rock has come home in her pocket. Stefanie is a lover of music, tv and movies, and she is gifted at absorbing and retaining useless pop culture trivia. She loves walking, fresh air, the smell of dirt, and anything of the salt and vinegar persuasion. She can often be found puttering.
Stefanie Thomas
Stefanie Thomas

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