Monday, January 9, 2012

My New Year's Challenge to You: A Gratitude Journal

This article appeared in the January issue of the Nebraska Family Times. Even though the "official" day for resolutions--Jan. 1st--has passed, I challenge you to begin a Gratitude Journal. "Counting my blessings" every day helps me realize how truly blessed I am--and it will do the same for you. 
Here is my list from yesterday, Jan. 8th, 2012. 
1. Went to church with Morgan, heard a great sermon, and strengthened my faith with the Lord's Supper.
2. A nice afternoon nap. :-) 
3. Tim and Cody arrived in Denver safely (for the National Western Stock Show). 
4. Time with Morgan, just talking and being together. 
5. A walk outside--short, but great to get some fresh air. 
2012—A Year of Gratitude
by Shelly Burke, Editor

We are in the time of year in which gratitude and thankfulness are easy, with the focus on Thanksgiving and our Savior’s birth at Christmas. But what about the rest of the year? Are you as thankful every day throughout the year as you are during this season?

The Bible commands us to be thankful. Psalm 106:1 says, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1 repeats the command, as does Psalm 136:1.  And God truly is good. He gives us the greatest blessings in life—eternal life through the death of His son. He also gives us our faith, family, friends, homes, and on and on.

The Bible also tells us we should be “always giving thanks…for everything (Eph. 5:20) and we should “give thanks in all circumstances(1 Thess. 5:18). Always” and “in all circumstances”—not just when we’re having a good day.

Obviously the biggest benefit of giving thanks is obeying and honoring our Lord. But there are other benefits as well.

  • Research has shown that people who made a list of three to five things they were grateful for every day were more optimistic about the future and felt better about their lives overall than people who recorded daily hassles or negative happenings. Listing things daily resulted in a greater increase in gratitude than only doing so weekly.
  •  Some research shows that feelings of thankfulness can help reduce stress; stress is linked with many illnesses, including heart disease.
  • Grateful people are usually more optimistic than others, and some researchers say that being optimistic helps boost the immune system. This means that people who are thankful may become ill less often. A thankful attitude has also been linked to quicker recovery after surgery or when sick
  • An “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better sleep, a decrease in anxiety and depression, kinder behavior toward others, higher satisfaction with life in general, and overall better health.
  • When we focus on gratitude, even for small things, our thinking shifts to being more positive in general.
 One of my goals for 2012 is to list 5 things I’m thankful for, every day. Will you join me in starting a “Gratitude Journal”?  Choose a notebook or journal, big or small, fancy or plain, and take a few minutes every day to jot down 3-5 things you’re thankful for. You could also make your list on your calendar. Your list can be in phrases, complete sentences, or even paragraphs. But keep it simple so you’ll find it easy to do every day.

If you would like, share part of your journal with me. Every month in 2012 I’ll be listing some of the things I am thankful for, and/or contributions from readers. Just e-mail me at with what you are grateful for—it can be one thing or several.

I started my Gratitude Journal on Thanksgiving. Here is my list for today (December 13, 2011):

1. I got a good nights’ sleep so I could get up early to pray and read my Bible.
2. Work that I love--publishing the Nebraska Family Times!
3. My hard-working husband who works outside on cold, snowy days while I’m in the warm house.
3.  My “assistant editor,” our dog Jenny, who sleeps in my office when I’m working and calms all of us when we’re stressed.  
5. A hug from Morgan (she’s almost 18 and not as generous with hugs as she used to be) and a text from Cody telling me his biology final went well.

I hope to hear from you in 2012! 

Nook Winner!

Congratulations to Michelle Vanderheiden, winner of the Grand Prize of the "Give the gift of 'Good News' that Gives All year" promotion that was held this fall!

Michelle extended her subscription to the Nebraska Family Times and her name was entered in the drawing. She said she is looking forward to learning about and using her new Nook.

THANK YOU to the sponsors who supported this giveaway! Other prizes and money to support the contest were given by:
Author Rebecca Jordan
Author Lynn Cowell
Author Shelly Burke
Author Glynnis Whitwer
Author chris Tomlinson

John Worsham--Christian CDs

Other companies or organizations who made the giveaway possible:
Encourage Me Kids
Columbus Arts Council
Mackey Elevator
Big Red Printing
Drs. Kincaid, Fett, and Tharpe

Thanks to everyone who subscribed to the paper, extended their subscription, and/or gave a gift subscription! ENJOY your subscription and prizes!

Happy New Year!

WOW--I can't believe it's been a whole month since I've posted! Time flies when you're having fun! :-)

We've had a very good month! It was great to have everyone home at Christmas, at least for a few days. We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas Eve service at Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus, NE. I'm all for "change" (when it's for the better) but I have to admit that one area in which I don't like much change is the Christmas Eve service, which I've attended for many years--with my "growing up" family and Tim and the kids. I have a lot of wonderful memories of that service--when Cody was just a few weeks old and at his first service he cried and cried and cried...I was in the cry room with him more than I was in church that Christmas Eve! And just a few days before Morgan was born we missed the service--doctor's orders--because I'd had a lot of problems with premature labor. Thankfully Morgan was born just fine--although several weeks early--on Dec. 28th of that year.

As usual the church was beautiful, the music was outstanding, the sermon was inspiring (Pastor Burma spoke from the perspective of the angel Gabrielle, who took the wonderful message to the shepherds) and everything made us more thankful for the amazing gift God gave us that night.

Morgan turned 18 during Christmas vacation. I'm often reminded of the words I heard first during a MOPS meeting many years ago; "The days may seem slow but the years go fast." They sure do! I share those words with all moms of young kids because I know how fast they go...I have treasured the days with both kids and pray that Tim and I taught them what they need to know--most of all the importance of their faith.

During the last few weeks several dear friends have gone to their heavenly home. Each of these ladies played a significant part in my life, and in the lives of so many around them. Two of them died before Christmas (one on Christmas Eve) and I know their first Christmas in heaven had to be fantastic--can you imagine singing Christmas carols with the heavenly choir and being with the Baby who was born that day? Another friend died just last week. She was a friend of the family and I don't remember NOT knowing her.

I went to the visitation of each of these ladies; they had all been sick for many months before they died. While of course there were tears at the memories, underlying those tears was joy in each family member--the joy of knowing their wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt--was in heaven, happy and healthy again, and the joy and certainty of knowing they would see that loved one again in heaven. Their faith was and will be an inspiration to many people for a very long time.

I'm excited to start 2012! I have personal goals and goals to improve the Nebraska Family Times and do some more writing. I pray that the paper will continue to "inspire, encourage, and motivate you in your Christian walk," and I seek God's guidance in every issue I publish.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas as well! I pray that God will bless you and your families in 2012!