How to offer your gifts back to God in gratitude

Everything we have is a gift, something not guaranteed — the breath in our lungs, the sunrise over a new day, our loved ones, profession, health and home — yet how often do we consciously call to mind and express gratitude for all that we have in a tangible way?

At the start of 2022, I picked a “word of the year,” something specific to remember throughout the months ahead. I chose “gratitude” as my year-defining word, and in order to keep it in my mind, I also selected a song that went with it: “Gratitude” by Brandon Lake — which, according to my Spotify playlist, was listened to close to 100 times that year.

When we allow ourselves to experience deep and authentic gratitude, this is not a stagnant feeling, but one where we naturally want to give back. We want to bring about something good for all that has been given to us. In other words, we desire to co-create with God in blessing the world around us. I invite you to consider the visible ways you can cultivate a continuous inner life of gratitude by taking up the call to be co-creators with God in all seasons.

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In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II wrote a letter to all artists. You may not consider yourself a direct artist — one who works with paints and brushes — but you are nonetheless a woman with natural gifts and talents allowing you to co-create with God in diverse ways — as parents, designers, chefs, gardeners, writers, teachers and the like. As the pope affirmed: “Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece” (“Letter to Artists,” No. 2). In each unique fashion, to co-create with God is to bring about the existence of something new, something lived out of a place of abundant gratitude both for your opportunities and capacities to yield something wonderful for God.

In my own life, the most natural way for me to give back to God is through the gift of storytelling — such as in my upcoming Catholic fiction trilogy. Through this gift, I am able to craft characters and stories that glorify God and reveal his presence in the midst of a joyful yet broken world. When I receive the first inkling of a new idea, I rush to write it down, overjoyed at the possibility that through this inspiration, a story may be brought to life in which God can be found. For I desire to ignite the human imagination toward beauty and truth, through which Christ’s face is always revealed.

In recent years, I have also had the opportunity to co-create with God in developing and implementing lesson plans as a faith formation minister at my local parish. Content creation of faith materials has given me an opportunity to produce something tangible for the benefit of young minds, another expression of my gratitude to God through the gift of teaching. Through lesson planning, I am able to build resources — presentations, handouts, games, crafts, prayer experiences, service opportunities and the like — that, when shared with children and youth, I pray become openings for them to encounter the life and love of Christ.

Looking at your life

Now it’s your turn. How can you co-create with God from a place of gratitude? Co-creation can look like prayerfully and intentionally baking pies to nourish new neighbors. It is lovingly preparing a meal for your family and opening up a space for fellowship. It is sewing or stitching clothing to provide warmth for children or those in need. Co-creation is building or working with your hands, or it can be lovingly listening and creating a place of understanding and safety for another. All of these expressions of gift from a place of gratitude can, as Pope John St. Paull II affirms, “[render] visible the perception of the mystery which makes of the Church a universally hospitable community, mother and traveling companion to all men and women in their search for God” (“Letter to Artists,” No. 9).

St. Gianna Molla lived by some powerful words regarding gratitude: “The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what he is sending us every day in his goodness.”

Moment by moment, as we strive to live in that perpetual state of gratitude, may we also strive, through our talents and gifts, to enable that thankful gratitude we possess to manifest itself in ways of tangible goodness to the world.

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