“Clean sheets, birthdays, packages, growth, wind, sharing, hugs, pacifiers, quiet time, coming home…” These happy words represent two of the hardest years in my life.
My husband and I moved to Missoula, Montana almost 10 years ago. We had big dreams for finishing college and starting a career. Instead, we found ourselves face to face with our demons. It was not time to turn away, but time to turn it around.
The events of these two years are what brought about my first real steps to healing. I shared some experiences in my book, but to be honest, my memory of this time is a blur. I can only pick out bits and pieces. It’s probably a gift my mind is no longer drawn to the painful details.
One time my mom asked me, “Do you remember when you lived in Missoula and you wrote little notes to yourself about what you were grateful for and put them on your wall?” “Yeah. Kind of.” I only half remembered.
On Christmas Eve this past year my husband handed me a large, flat, rectangular package he had neatly wrapped. My guess: a picture. But before I was allowed to open the gift he handed me a stack of small note cards. They were covered in my handwriting. All the things I was grateful for. The memory came flooding back and out my eyes as they filled with tears.
I was so desperate back then—desperate for something to hold onto. So I would think of things I was grateful for, write them on little note cards, roll a piece of tape, and stick it to my bedroom wall. Half my room was covered in this art. Every difficult day I woke up and went to sleep surrounded by reminders of the good things life provided.
When moving day came, I pulled the cards down, stacked them up, and tossed them in the trash. (Sorry! I’m not a saver. I have very few keepsakes.) As I sat across from the Christmas tree and flipped through the cards, I remembered watching them fall into the trash can. Then my husband reached down and pull them out. I asked him why. He simply responded he wanted them: my blessings, my gratitude, my thoughts, my heart, my sorrows, my little things, my world, my life. Then I continued on to my next task, not giving this moment another thought.
I pulled back the wrapping paper and sure enough it was something framed, but not a picture. It was a collage of all the things I was grateful for. They now hang over my front door. And when people come to my home, I can tell them how these things saved me.
Having gratitude for something, even it it’s only one thing, even if it’s a small thing, will bring knowledge of God’s presence. How can He heal the big things, if you don’t find Him in the small things? The first lessons in gratitude are the first steps in grace.
Because of trial, the things I was grateful for become more and more simple. Gratitude turned to humility. “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble: and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me” (Ether 12:27). When God was all I had left, God had everything I needed.
Although the years in Missoula were hard, I still had much to be grateful for. I have even more to be grateful for now.
“[T]o express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.” (Monson, Thomas S. The Divine Gift of Gratitude. lds.org. General Conference, October 2010. 7 February, 2016)