On My Gratitude Journey

One of my set goals for 2017 was to write daily three things in my life that I am grateful for. We are in week six of 2017, and so far, I’ve done pretty well documenting my three daily gratitudes. I haven’t written every day; in fact, there have been a couple of weeks I only wrote gratitudes for one day that week. But, I’m really surprised and thankful that I haven’t given up on it yet – out of laziness, or forgetfulness, or just plain not caring enough to document. My hope is that documenting these gratitudes will change my current thought patterns and increase the optimism in my attitude, thus, positively affecting my daily interactions, thoughts, marriage, and parenting. When I feel stumped or tired or uninspired to write down my gratitudes, I tell myself, Simply pick three words. You don’t have to elaborate. Just three simple things. Food on my plate. My daughter. My house. 

Seeking deeper gratitude in one’s life, I think, is key to accomplishing my other goals, like creating more positive, optimistic thought patterns, greater personal awareness, and building stronger, genuine bonds with new friends and people in my family and community. But here is the great thing about this project: You don’t have to elaborate on any one of the things you write down. You can write down simple observations. Or, you can write down in-depth experiences you had that day. You can give yourself 15 seconds to write or take 30 minutes to elaborate and really examine what you’ve experienced or observed about what makes you grateful.

It’s too early in this journey for me to say if this project has increased my levels of optimism (plus, I’m nine months pregnant with a toddler and husband who works 60 hours a week, and experiencing all the hormones and physical challenges that go along with life right now isn’t necessarily on-point with feeling positive and optimistic!). What I have noticed this far into the year, though, is that when I started, I would find “simple” things to be grateful for; easy thing, like, “Maxine”, or “our church.” Simple, easy-to-identify moments that didn’t require much brain power or consideration. But then I started to push myself to elaborate and really think about why I’m grateful. I now try to identify deeper issues, situations, circumstances, experiences, or relationships in my life that I am grateful for each day. So, yes, I am thankful for our church and its community; but, what I am really thankful for that it has allowed me to find the missing piece in my life that I’d been looking for – the message that “church” is about my relationship with God, not following a religion or its rules, rituals, and doctrines as I was brought up to believe.

Another interesting, but perhaps less significant detail I’ve noticed after starting this project is that, while I may only write a word or brief sentence about the thing(s) I am grateful for on a slow or lazy day, those acts of gratitude, however brief or elaborate, are still a peak into the key hole of my life. Those entries can still act as a journal or book of collected experiences. For example, on January 19th, 2017, I noted that the things I was grateful for were my women’s Bible study group and the support that they provide to me and each other; Maxine’s hugs and kisses that evening; and, Nathan being alive. In a few years, I may not know exactly what we spoke about in Bible study that day, or why Maxine gave me hugs and kisses, or what happened to make me thankful for Nathan’s beating heart; but those were relevant and significant thoughts I had that day. They moved me, and that’s worth something to me.

 

 

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Flourish

In my women’s Bible study group last Friday, our lead spoke to us about her word of the year – something she chooses each year and prays on before deciding what the word will be for her. It had never occurred to me to have a word for the year – a word to focus on, to be intentional about growing with for 2017. I had another word picked out, but this word came up and it fit perfectly. In group on Friday, I shared three of my top 10 goals for the year:

  • To be more optimistic;
  • To be intentional daily about gratitude; and,
  • To hike 100 miles in 2017.

To flourish is to act intentionally to increase your well-being in a profound way. Its definition reads: “to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way.” Its origin is Middle English: “from Old French floriss-, lengthened stem of florir, based on Latin florere, from flos, flor- a flower. The noun senses ‘ornamental curve’ and ‘florid expression’ come from an obsolete sense of the verb, ‘adorn’ (originally with flowers).” And how appropriate is it that we welcome a new family member into 2017, named Flora?

To me, the word flourish brings to mind beautiful, colorful petal-ly blooms, like peonies (my FAVORITE!), roses, carnations, ranunculus, and dahlias. These flowers tend to have full petals. Each flower tends to have thick, full blooms, representing the many blessings in one’s life. Each February when I start to see tulips and daffodils pop up, my hope for new life is renewed. I start to clean and prepare my house for fresh air and sunshine, for room to grow, for new adventures and exploring, for longer days that allow for more opportunities for goals to be reached.

In my research on the word flourish, I came across a 52-week devotional by Margaret Feinberg titled, Flourish: Live Free, Live Loved (just published this past September!). She asks, “What would a flourishing life look like for you?” I think that is an excellent question, and especially relevant as one of my over-arching goals for 2017 is to be happier, content, and calm. To flourish as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, sister, daughter, and in my relationship with God. I have been praying for His guidance in every area of my life as every area of my life lately has felt like a great challenge and uphill battle. And I feel completely emotionally ill-equipped and frozen with anxiety to move forward at times. I feel scared about having a new baby, which makes two kids under three!

I will be following up in my blog here on “flourishing” and how my journey is going this year. I am starting the Flourish devotional this weekend, and while I can’t guarantee how much I will do once the baby arrives, I do plan on keeping up as much as possible.

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2016 Year in Review: Go crazy, punch a higher floor!

Here we are, year 12 of completing a Year in Review (though, only the second year on this blog). Can you believe it’s almost Christmas, and just a little over a week away from 2017? I am notorious for Christmas shopping at the last minute. I remember years (when I was single) shopping on Christmas eve and just feeling overwhelmed, promising myself I wouldn’t do it again. (I did, though.) Two years ago today I took a 7-week-old Maxine out for last-minute Christmas shopping. And last year I was literally trying to finish shopping for my mother-in-law on Christmas Eve while she was with me. Insanity. Why do I do this to myself?

This year, I have almost all of my gifts; there is one more arriving tomorrow, and then I’ll be done. I’m even almost done wrapping presents – with some even under the tree! That’s an accomplishment for me.

As I was reflecting on this last year, it felt very uneventful for me. I’ve been pregnant for literally half the year, but given the joy I get out of pregnancy (very low), I’m more looking forward to the arrival of Flora in 2017!

These are a few of the Year in Review questions I answered. I think they sum up well what our year looked like and outlines the most important events of the year.

Important Events in 2016

  • Became an aunt (twice), to Stella and Geneva
  • Bought our first real dining room set (used, but it’s Ethan Allan in excellent condition, and it was only $300, which is the cost of one new EA chair!)
  • Started attending New Life Church
  • Travelled to Las Vegas for the first time (for me; Nathan’s a Vegas pro)
  • Remodeled our kitchen and main floor bathroom
  • Baked cookies with Maxine
  • Traded in the Audi Q5 for a 2016 Chevy Traverse (“mom car”)

What goals did you accomplish in 2016?
I accomplished one of five goals: Made new friends (mostly at church)

What song will always remind you of 2016?
Baby Shark, by Pink Fong. Maxine is obsessed with this song (and everything shark). She listens to this song as a reward for brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. This song is so significant that her 2016 ornament is a beautiful shark. (She’s also getting a super soft, super plush shark.)

Greatest New Musical Discovery
Beach House is pretty good! My dad introduced me to them.

Best Film 
I’m not sure if it’s a 2016 movie, but I saw it this year: The Dutch Girl. Just such a beautiful, moving and emotional film.

A valuable life lesson you learned in 2016
Take delight in the Lord , and He will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

A song lyric that sums up 2016
If the elevator tries to break you down, go crazy! Punch a higher floor! – Prince (Let’s’ Go Crazy). I love Prince, and I love this song. Especially since Prince’s death earlier this year. It found new meaning in my life after his passing. I find this line in particular to be powerful and uplifting, but also just a lot of fun. I need more optimism like this in my life!

Goals for 2016

  • Be more optimistic
  • Purchase all birthday cards in advance (yearly goals, haha)
  • Refinish one piece of furniture
  • Get back in shape
  • Make 1 or 2 new good, close friends
  • Hike 100 miles in 2017
  • Write 3 things daily to be grateful for
  • Write more about raising daughters, hiking, and life
  • Travel to one or two (or more) national parks this summer
  • Stay on top of Flora and Maxine’s baby books

We wish you a Morrow Christmas, and a happy new year!

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New Holiday Traditions

cutting the tree

I am one of those people who is ready for Pumpkin Spice Lattes during the last week of August and plays Christmas music the last week of October. I get so excited for holiday traditions and am so ready for the next season by the time the current season is ending that I can’t seem to reel in my excitement. This year, I really told myself that I would wait until mid-November to turn on Christmas tunes. That’s when the radio stations start playing Christmas music, so it seems like a socially safe bet, right? As Halloween crept up, I talked myself into waiting until at least November 1. But, no, I started playing the very old Christmas classics – Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Chuck Berry, Ella, Cash, Perry Como – right after my birthday. I need to accept that every November 1 – or sooner!, I start the holiday celebrations. It’s a tradition.

I love traditions. Growing up, they created the great memories of my childhood, whether it was the Saturday nights listening to the “oldies” station while driving to my at my aunt and uncle’s cabin on the river, sitting outside by the river roasting s’mores at the bonfire, or driving around looking at Christmas light displays in the station wagon with my family (and so many more). One of my absolute favorite traditions was our family being assigned another family at church to “secret Santa”. We would bake and drop off cookies and treats at the family’s door, ring the bell, and run! Traditions are so great. They are reliable. Comfortable. Exciting. Unique and personal. They fill me up with a sense of joy and brightness, and most importantly, they create happy memories.

And I want my girls to have happy childhood memories.

 

I sent off an email to family earlier this month asking what the holidays plans were shaping up to be. I found myself telling everyone that Nathan and I would be hosting our “third annual” prime rib Christmas dinner, and I thought to myself, third annual?!  That’s officially a tradition, right?! The first year we started this, Maxine was about seven weeks old and my in-laws were visiting for the holidays. We didn’t want to go anywhere for any holiday that year and decided to invite everyone to our house for Christmas. It was so much fun that we decided to do it last year as well. We expect to continue to host Christmas dinner for any family or friend who wants a warm home to celebrate the holiday.

After giving traditions some thought, I listed all the fun activities we plan to participate in for the third year in a row.

  • Nathan, Maxine and I went for breakfast and then cut down our Christmas tree;
  • Maxine makes her third trip to visit Santa in downtown Seattle this weekend;
  • We will make a drive with hot cocoa to marvel at the neighborhood Christmas light displays; and,
  • Maxine gets an ornament for the tree that represents her year (this year, it’s a shark, which has been her big obsession), which she will be able to take with her when she starts her own Christmas traditions one day.

We have some new activities this year that I hope become traditions now that Maxine is two and old enough to participate: baking Christmas cookies; giving boxes of cookies to friends, neighbors and family; participating in Operation Christmas Child; making a new Christmas tree ornament; and, opening a daily advent calendar. I was planning on doing the Elf on the Shelf, but I prefer to make it about kindness, and that is something I feel we can work on year-long, not exclusively at Christmas.

Have you considered your favorite traditions as a child? What traditions do you have as an adult?

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