The Value of Gratitude

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Ignite Retreat, held right here in my backyard of San Diego. There is only one word to describe what I experienced over those two days: magic. It was pure magic. I was in a room full of strong, brilliant ladies and we were led by two of the most genius and powerful female leaders I have ever had the chance to be with and learn from: BON.Fire co-founders Ash Robinson and MaryCay Durrant. And boy (I mean “girl”), did I leave that place feeling charged up, focused, and ready to tackle the next big adventure on my horizon.

I’ve always considered myself a leader. I excelled in sports from the time I was very young and, being tall and decidedly mouthy, I stepped into that role naturally and without hesitation. I felt comfortable there, bringing huddles together and calling out which cheers my softball teammates and I would shout so as to successfully annoy the girls on the other teams.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m not a softball player anymore, but I feel a little less like a natural leader in my current situation, both as a mom and as an entrepreneur. I think that’s why I’m so grateful for the time I spent over the last couple of days, being in a room with powerhouse women who are “up to big things in this world” (That’s Ash and MaryCay language - I borrowed it).  It was the first time as the founder of my company that I began to see the real possibilities of what women (including me) can do when we ignite the fire that lives inside and learn to lead from our values.

The first day of the retreat, I spent a lot of time thinking about my values, not simply the qualities that make up my personality but the ones that I believe are at the core of what makes me me. This is new territory for me; I honestly haven’t spent that much time thinking about who I am. I mean who I really am.

We completed several exercises that were designed to help us fish these values out of the storming sea swell that is at the deep core of a woman’s heart.  Before we arrived on the first day, we had to fill out an online inventory that measured our character strengths. We even had to send out some reflection questions to people in our lives and have them talk about what they admire most about us. On the first day, they gave our group a page filled with words that represented values a person might have. We had to decide on a few that we felt represented who we really are and then write them inside a drawn, red heart.

I chose a few words: strength, resiliency, faith. I wrote them down. I liked them, but to tell the truth I was a bit overwhelmed by the question and I couldn’t figure out if I actually believed what I was writing.

When we return the next day, our first moments are spent reflecting on everything we learned the previous day and then adding anything into our heart that we feel called to add. At the top of that day’s page, I write down the following question:

What value really lives in my heart?

I promise myself that I will write down anything that comes to mind. The first word I think of is gratitude. As I write the letters down, something amazing happens: Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out” comes on over the Bluetooth speaker set up on the back table of the conference room.

Florence.

I stop for a second because I know what’s happening.

I finish writing the word gratitude and close my eyes. Florence is Rooney’s favorite singer. She’s who we listen to every morning, who we sway back and forth to while we’re up making breakfast, who she calls out for in the car when we ask her if she wants us to put on some music.

“Who do you want to listen to?”

It’s always “Florence.” It sounds more like “Frowenth,” but it’s always her.

Okay God, I think to myself. I love it when I can recognize that He wants my attention. I’m listening.

I keep writing because I don’t want to lose the feeling I’m having: the beautiful, intense wave that the thought of my baby girl creates; it grabs hold of my body and I submit to it. I stay there. I don’t let it subside.

I start to cry as I continue to write. My tears drip down an inch from each eye before jumping onto the lined sheet below. I consciously chose, for every second that I was writing, to only think about what I was hearing.

And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around
 
All of his questions, such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it's always darkest before the dawn
 
I am done with my graceless heart
Tonight I’m going to cut it out and then restart
 

I cry. I cry, overwhelmed with guilt because I forget sometimes that my life is a miracle.

I cry, and I let the words come. They pour out easily because my thoughts are focused on this one value: gratitude.

I write:

“What value really lives in my heart? Florence came on when I was thinking about this question. Sometimes, I get so busy that I forget my gratitude. I forget that God gave me this wonderful baby girl and that I became something that I never thought I would be: a mother. How can I live so that this gratitude can be forever captured, preserved in every moment, a tender and total awareness, the truth that is still the truth even if I’m too distracted to remember it:

I.should.not.be.here. And neither should she. I have been given so many precious gifts: the gift of my life, a second chance to be the person God made me to be, a mother to my baby girl. How funny that I allow my life to be consumed by everything else and it takes a jolt like this for the feeling to enter back into my conscious mind. It’s not funny. How sad it is that I spend most of my time allowing every other aspect of my life to consume me and that I choose to live separated from my gratitude. It is sad. I’ve got too much of the wrong things on my priority plate. How unfortunate it is that I spend most of my time allowing that fire of thanksgiving in my heart to flicker weakly, dim and dull. It’s going to change.”


Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, oh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, oh whoa
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

No more. I will not allow busyness to attach itself to me. It’s too dangerous. It steals my precious moments with her, but it also steals my memory of what she is and, more importantly, who created Her.  No more. This baby was given to me by God, and she is both a blessing and a calling on my life. I pray for the ability to shake off and away anything that shifts my focus away from my family and away from the God who loves me. I pray for the strength and devotion that our God requires. He is good and He has showered me with mercy and love in ways that I never thought were possible. Things have happened that are better than I ever dreamed they would be.

I pray to never again forget my little girl. I close my eyes and hear her calling out, “Mama, I love you” after I’ve put her down for the night. Please, God, help me because I love her too, and I’m so incredibly grateful that You chose me to be her mom. She is a symbol of so many things, but mostly of God’s unending love and the need for me to live in remembrance of this and all of the other second chances He's given me. It's in the chances that this love resides. And it's for them that I am truly thankful.
Erin Weidemann
Erin Weidemann

Author

Erin Weidemann is a teacher turned professional author and speaker. A former college athlete, Erin is also a five-time cancer survivor. She lives in Encinitas, California with her husband Brent and their daughter Rooney. Alongside her husband, she is the co-founder of Bible Belles, a company that helps girls discover real beauty through the female heroes of the Bible.



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