Thanksgiving is a time for concentrating on gratitude, enjoying family and reflecting on our blessings. Having an attitude of gratitude is desirable, but with it should come a healthy balance of surrendering ourselves to God.
Missy Naumann created a method of journaling that encourages her to examine her blessings, but also the crosses in life that we must hand over to God. Naumann, a member of Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles, was commissioned in November as a spiritual director after completing training with the archdiocesan Catholic Renewal Center.
Naumann designed her own journal template after she was left unsatisfied with several generic gratitude journals that she considered. The template includes five sections: giving thanks to God, things that need to be surrendered to God, thoughts for the week, personal desires and things that spiritually feed her.
“You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.”
“Looking at what you’re grateful for is a good part of the picture, for sure, but it’s not the whole picture,” she said. “There are also things that we’re waiting on … things God hasn’t given us yet, and we can’t control the timing.”
Focusing solely on prayers of petition or intercession has the potential to leave us “stuck” in those moments, especially when we have no control over the situation. “The next step is to hand it over (to God) and not keep dwelling on it and remaining sad,” Naumann said. “That’s why I came up with identifying the need to surrender. You’re keeping in mind that you’re waiting on things God hasn’t given you yet.”
Once we surrender ourselves to God, the eventual answered prayers from Him are transformed into an opportunity to give Him thanks. But key to that is understanding those moments of petition through the lens of seeking God’s will for us, rather than simply getting what we want.
Keeping notes about everyday moments is a helpful tool in recognizing where God has been working in our lives. “Sometimes those movements (of the heart) are so small, we don’t see the significance until later,” Naumann said. “If something moved me, I think, ‘Woah, what was that all about?’ We don’t always see the significance in the moment something happens to us. But once you start mulling over it, you become fed.”
Writing down our desires entails developing those small habits that we have within our control. Naumann used an example of seeking connection with family members that are spread out across a distance.
“I think, ‘What are the things I can start planning to get us all in one place?’” she said. It’s easy to become distracted by things right in front of us, such as notifications on our smartwatches. “Meanwhile, we have really important things that are notifying our heart in the background. But when you don’t write it down (in an effort) to act on it at another time, it might take longer to come to fruition.”
Naumann said she feels that God speaks to her in themes. Journaling has become a way of discovering how God communicates with her. “Every little stirring of the heart and thought, God is using those times to talk to us,” she said. “We don’t always realize that. Why am I being moved about this, and what is His purpose?”
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”