By Reverend Vona Wilson, former YMCA Chaplain

Do you ever wake up and discover you are out of coffee? Or that the homework due this morning slipped your mind last night? Or the schedule you planned for the day just got derailed by something out of your control…like traffic?

From small annoyances to heavy burdens—some days prove extra challenging. Yes, even for chaplains! When my phone rings late at night or early in the morning, it is usually a sign that things are about to take a 180-degree turn. In those situations, I’ve learned the best thing I can do is immediately express gratitude.

Expressing gratitude in the exact moment when things are not going so well is one of the most powerful ways to transform an experience.

I start with simple things, like having a safe place to sleep last night. I’ve spent some time in other countries where that is not the norm. The other common one for me is to say thank you for what I see outside—like the colorful leaves or rising sun. If God can create a beautiful sunrise, He can also handle any messy starts to the day.

Gratitude changes everything.

Acknowledging God's gifts sets the pace of the day. It can be the first thing we give God and the people around us every morning.

The gift of health—the simple and profound act of being able to breathe, move, and experience life through our body—is a beautiful gift.

Our mind is uniquely designed from all other creatures. We are wired to engage our minds in relationships—through conversations, working or learning together.

And our spirit is able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit, who helps us navigate life. It is God-given power that we access through prayer.

Thanking God for these blessings and many others while driving in traffic is a practice that clears my mind and reminds me of what’s really important. 

Here are five gratitude starters for the tough days:

  1. Lord, thank you for a safe, peaceful place to sleep last night.
  2. God, your sunrise this morning is incredible; thank you! Your creativity is inspiring. Help me to be creative today.
  3. Jesus, it helps to know you accept me and love me just like I am. Thank you that I have a body that can get up and move today.
  4. Lord, thank you for my family…my children, parents, grandparents. Their love reminds me of the special people you’ve placed in my life.
  5. OK Lord, I am amazed that you love me so much on my difficult days; thank you for your faithfulness.

Prayer for the day

Lord, help me to be grateful for all you have given me in my body, mind and spirit. Let your provision be enough for today. We trust you, Lord, and we love you. Amen.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35, NIV)

Deliver hope to a child overseas

Another way to express gratitude this month at your local YMCA is by packing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. These gifts will deliver hope straight to a child who needs to know someone cares. Over the next 30 days you will see the shoeboxes in your local YMCA just waiting to be filled by you. What a beautiful way to thank God for the gifts in your life!

Learn more about the Y's Spirit-Mind Ministries

At the YMCA, we know that growing in spirit, mind and body is the surest path to holistic wellbeing. Our library of Spirit and Mind workshops, seminars and small group classes is designed to support growth in physical, emotional, spiritual and financial health.