how to be grateful

At the beginning of the year, I picked a word of the year for the very first time. I always wondered why people chose one word, because how did they decide? And then somewhere around the first week of January, a word hit me and it was so obvious it was from the Lord that I tucked it into my heart and have carried it in my mind ever since.

My word was Intention. It meant that this year my family would no longer just survive — we would THRIVE. And it would start with me being intentional.

As I sat down to write down some words for you guys today, I realized that one of the biggest ways I’ve learned how to be intentional is by being grateful

When I am slowing down my mind so that I can be intentional with my actions, words, heart, I do so by doing one important thing first. I look around me and find things I’m grateful for in that very moment. The sun, the birds, the cluttered house, the heart beating, the breath. Once I focus on that gratitude, I notice something happening. 

It’s as if all the things around me start to rise up. They start to fill the room. Fill my soul. And they rise higher than my stress level. And that gratitude takes form and begins to shape my thoughts and actions. Suddenly, I’m intentional.

I’ve become intentional with my husband, my children, my work, my diet, my sleep, my friendships and even my self-care. I can’t even tell you what a life-changing thing this has been for me (I highly recommend it).

I have gone years with huge life struggles, and I know what it’s like to feel as though “being intentional” is a luxury only people with an easy life get to do. I get it, I do. I “survived” for a long time with that belief system, but it held me back so much. I definitely wasn’t thriving.

Only did I start to thrive when I took a hold of the things God had laid out on a platter before me saying, “Here, my daughter, take this life, take me, and soar,” and realized I had the choice to make things different in my mind. My revelation was that my perspective really could be God’s perspective. And it wouldn’t take all that much effort on my part. In fact, it took surrender and an easy trade.

God’s perspective is that I’m worthy of a peaceful, joy-filled life. And that I deserve to head in that direction and keep going until I find it, or I find Him. He wanted to do it, to change my perspective. I need only take the platter from Him – full of His gifts – and give Him my plate – full of burdens and suffering. The easy trade.

Have you ever thought about living an intentional life? Do you use gratitude as the catalyst for change in your life? 

I would love to hear your stories!

By Arianne, of Mabel + Riv

  • Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    I loved this! For several years, I’ve had non-stop, unpleasant, life-changing events taking place and I often felt like I was in survival mode. But, in those years, God still gave me good gifts: I woke up each day, the sun and blue skies, my children, His word, friends…when I took time to look around me for my blessings I shifted from “survive” into “thrive”. I agree with your thinking that intentional living begins with gratitude. It’s hard to be miserable when you are thanking God for His goodness. God gives us the gift of being able to be thankful so that we CAN survive the hard times. Our God is so good!

    • Arianne Segerman

      “…the gift of being able to be thankful so that we CAN survive the hard times.”

      Oh yes, Bev. Thank you!

    • Tracy

      This is so true!!! Within two years our family lost 1 friend and 7 close family members ( one of the last ones being my dear mom…suddenly last November 28, it was a shock to all of us ). I so agree with you Bev and Arianne…I would feel the sunshine and just picture is as a big hug from my mom. And it was through my husband, children, friends, family and His word that made me “focus” and “thrive”. I felt so scattered at times that I would stop and just say the word “focus”. “Focus” ended up being my word for 2013. I needed to collect my thoughts many times and focus on what I was so thankful for. I don’t think her anniversary landing on Thanksgiving this year was a coincidence…God had a plan…the plan was for us to feel so very thankful to have shared such a beautiful and blessed life with my mom.

      • Arianne Segerman

        Oh Tracy, this is beautiful. Praying for you as you pass by the 1 year mark. xoxo

  • Andrea

    I have decided that I would spend my time focusing on being grateful. Although I struggle from time to time with what the right gracious way is, I pray thankfully about it. And I see a difference in my life; the things that happen I am handling better. I am a less angry person, I reach out and hear people now. I am less judging of myself…and others situations. I don’t want to stop. And I love it. I see things clearer. Even tho things may not be crystal at all times I am thankful for the in between too. This was great! I will choose a word this year…..that sound like a wonderful thing to do. I must be living under a rock because I had never heard of that before.

    • Arianne Segerman

      Andrea, that was beautiful to hear. Thank you. And yes, see if the Lord gives you a word for 2014!

  • Glo

    Brave. My one word for this year has been brave. There have been times I forgot all about it. I have for a while been learning about being intentional, probably because alot of bad luck has found itself on my path and gratitude is a truly amazing catalyst. I keep saying, my God is good to me and that my soul knows very well.

    • Arianne Segerman

      Sometimes it can be brave to be grateful in the circumstances of your life. I so get this.

  • Tammy

    Great thoughts! We see that God used this to “grow” spiritual leaders in the Old and New Testaments, Moses, Elijah and Paul. When you strip down to “intentional” in your life you can slow down and see the blessings that were always there.

    • Arianne Segerman

      “…see the blessings that were always there.” YES!

  • Jessica

    This is so beautiful and just what I needed to start my day out. My “word” for 2013 was ‘listen’ (and it was my first time choosing a word, too). I have a tendency to talk.. a lot. And the less you talk, the more I will. I also noticed that many times, even when I heard the words, I wasn’t listening to the real story behind them. So, in a way, choosing that word was intention on my part. Your words are eloquently thought-provoking. I am so glad I started off my day with a visit to (in)courage!

    • Arianne Segerman

      I’m so glad you visited, too! I love that you pointed out listening is an act of intention as well. So good.

  • Gee’s Lemonades

    These days I love that word too! It’s active and not passive. Also it’s purposeful. I requires getting up and making your mid up to do something in line with God’s words. Things just don’t happen, we have the ability and grace to make them happen. That’s being intentional.

    • Arianne Segerman

      The ability and grace to make them happen – so good. Love it!

  • Laura

    Thank you for this. I have been exchanging daily gratitude messages with a dear friend since February of this year, listing at least 1-3 things I am grateful for that day. And I, too, chose a Word of the Year for the first time this year. My word is Trust. God has met me and filled me and calmed me through both of those ‘tools’ or ‘practices’ all year long, in ways both amazing and surprising. Add to that the action I’ve recently put behind a decision to be more intentional – especially in how I start my day – and I can completely echo the beautiful, encouraging thoughts you’ve shared here. Blessings to you.

    • Arianne Segerman

      Thank you, Laura. And what a beautiful practice you have been doing with your friend!

  • karyn

    Yes, I give thanks when things are tough. Like big time giving thanks.
    Once I had a really really bad night when me and my husband broke up and I cried so hard and told the LORD whatever was HIS will I would live by HIS will and not mine and be thankful no matter what. My husband came back almost immediately.
    It was like a release of thanks to the LORD and HE took care of everything. HE gave me HIS will in return for my trust in HIM and honouring HIM in all things no matter what. HE gave me LOVE in return for my heart for HIM.
    So, at hard times, I just give thanks.
    It’s a beginning. Tears and all. And pray God’s will in my life and not my will in HIS life, our life. Together as one in Spirit and in TRUTH.
    Nice post btw. Good subject.

    • Arianne Segerman

      That surrender is so crucial, and so important. Thank you, Karyn!

  • carol hiestand

    I have been finding myself resistant to gratitude lists. Finally I understand why. In my background, the message about gratitude was this: “be thankful and feel better.” Interstingly enough, my cousin got the same message. It was in the culture our families grew up in. So for me, gratitude became a way to get me to not acknowlege the very real hurts that cannot be pushed down and ignored without consequence. I learned a very black and white way of thinking. I am learning to say things like, “I am so grateful I am surrounded by friends who love me and are like brothers and sisters to me. and it is still very hard, and sometimes i feeel so alone, having lost of my siblings by age 57.”

    • Arianne Segerman

      I almost wrote about how I’m resistant to gratitude lists, Carol. I so get this. Your words are beautiful though, and I know God is so honored by your perseverance. Love to you. xoxo

  • Jeanine Conner

    How funny you should write about that. I made that statement a month ago after rededicating my life to the Lord. I see Him everywhere now! He is SO GOOD!

    • Arianne Segerman

      That’s amazing Jeanine!

  • alina y

    Intentional… that will be my word. Thank you. You hit the target in my heart today. Yes, intentional is what I’ll be.

    • Arianne Segerman

      I’m so glad. xoxo

  • Kate

    Sweet words.

    This line:
    “I’ve become intentional with my husband, my children, my work, my diet, my sleep, my friendships and even my self-care. I can’t even tell you what a life-changing thing this has been for me (I highly recommend it).”

    That sounds just right. I have resolved to pray and listen in …on what he Lord will have me concentrate on this upcoming year. Because I want to be intentional. Yes.

    Great thoughts for me as I lean into Him this years’ end :)

    Thank you!

    Kind Blessings,
    Kate :)

    • Arianne Segerman

      I’m so glad it resonated with you Kate! xo

  • Peggy

    I will choose a word for 2014. PRESENT. To be present covers so much territory, I know it will change me. It is what I need to see God in my life.

    For the remainder of 2013 that’s Thanksgiving to Christmas, I am choosing JOY! Not stress, not unfulfilled expections of what I want this season to look like, taste like or anything else. The pressure is off and joy is on. I want to feel the way I did as a very little girl and that was truly joyful.

    • Arianne Segerman

      I just LOVE this Peggy. I want that joy this season too! And being present is a huge part of being intentional – they go hand in hand! Thanks for your words!

  • Babs C.

    Heading in the direction of a peaceful, joy-filled life. It’s like finally getting home from a long battle assignment. I’ve survived and am making the shift to live life and thrive, but with more simplicity than last time I was here. I realize what really matters. I’ve slowed down while still moving forward. Thank you, Arianne, you’re post encouraged me. I hadn’t really thought about how integral a grateful perspective is in this process. Simply Grateful, Babs

    • Arianne Segerman

      Oh Babs, I hear you. I’m so glad this encouraged you, and that battle assignment analogy is SPOT on. Thank you!

  • Donna

    I have learned that being grateful causes everything to slow down. When I notice the small, wonderful things, the clutter starts to back off. I have been intentionally seeking gratitude every day for nearly three years (thank you Ann Voskamp). My journals are full of little and big things, there are joys and tears recorded there. I try really hard to not miss those special small moments and my perspective has changed dramatically. I have begun to think eternally and to view things through the lens of grace and gratitude and that has given me great peace.

    • Arianne Segerman

      This is beautiful Donna, thank you!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    In the midst of paragraph four, among the list of things for which you’re grateful, is: “the cluttered house!” I love that! Such a perfect reminder that attitude makes all the difference. With a bit of creative thinking we can discover positives–right in the middle of the negatives. For me, a cluttered house indicates a happy, busy family. And that’s a superior blessing on my list. Thank you, Arianne, for showing how gratitude can be a catalyst for great joy and peace. Who doesn’t want that?

    • Arianne Segerman

      Thank you for noticing that Nancy! :) Yes, a busy happy family indeed.

  • Marisa Slusarcyk

    Hi! I have just started following {and actually reading} several blogs that seem to be focused on a Christ based life as I have been struggling with my walk with the Lord and I have been looking high and low for ways to feel as though I am doing more. This post and the word “intention” really spoke to me. I really love the idea of using that as ‘my’ word for a year to see if my intention of creating and maintaining and growing a bigger better relationship with Christ is altered by me altering my thought process and truly living with the intent of serving and living as His child! What a blessing and an inspiration this post has truly been to me. Thank you!

  • Beth Williams

    I started out the year in kind of a blah mood due to work changing & new boss. Now things have gotten a whole lot better and I have become intentional about my attitude toward work.

    I have also become more intentional in my walk with God. Since my hubby and I drive a lot to work. and to church–we don’t go back on Sunday or Wednesday nights. To combat that lack of Christian learning I record 2 TV preachers that we can watch throughout the week. We also do a daily devotion and pray at all meals and at bedtime. I find the more God I put into myself the less of this world I want. Also the more gratitude I find in everyday living!!

    Thanks for a great & inspiring post.