Exercising A Thankful Heart

how to have gratitude
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I used to be a runner, averaging about 10 miles every other day for years. Then a car accident happened in my early thirties that required the Jaws of Life to come and rescue me. Nothing was broken, but everything hurt. It was a trauma that radically changed my life.

We all have hard stuff to deal with in this life.

The running stopped. It was replaced with pain meds, physical therapy appointments, spine therapy appointments, massage and something called cranial sacral therapy to help heal my neck injury. The docs said I’d be back to the gym in no time, but it was officially time to retire my running shoes.

It’s hard to let go of our worldly identity.

My heart broke that day. I still miss the freedom that comes from running. I desperately searched to find that freedom in a gym. It’s impossible. I’m a girl who loves to be outdoors and the treadmills and ellipticals of this world feel like adult hamster wheels.

Running brought my heart joy. Walking is what I do now, but it’s just not the same. I like to pretend it is, but some days, my heart feels ungrateful and bitter towards that day that radically changed my life.

Bitterness can spread if we don’t nip it in the bud.

It doesn’t help that three years following that accident another car smashed into me, setting my healing journey backwards. I thankfully bounced back quickly from that wreck, but setbacks aren’t just physical, sometimes they are emotional too.

I had to fight really hard to make sure I didn’t get bitter from another series of injuries that caused me pain. At insult to injury, a teenager was driving while texting and smashed into me while I was stopped at a roundabout.

I had finally conquered a 5k walk that summer and was so overjoyed that I had put all the pain behind. But thanks to distracted driver syndrome, the pain and healing cycle started all over again.

Life can often leave us feeling defeated, that’s why we need Jesus.

Defeat is part of the cycle of life, but so is victory! Life is often filled with more defeats than joys. And just when you think you’re finally recovering from a setback, another challenge pops up.

How we face the setbacks and distractions of life is in our control.

For years after that initial accident, I was so focused on what was taken from me, that I missed the fact that I could still do a million other things. It created bitterness and anger that took years to process through.

My identify as a runner, a rock climber and an athlete was stripped away from me in the blink of an eye due to someone’s poor choices. But I still had choices to make in the aftermath of my tragedy.

How is it that I forgot I could do a million other things in life simply because one major area of life changed?

How did I forget that I am a precious daughter of a mighty King?

I became a girl stuck on the hamster wheel of life. I was defeated by my pain instead of overcoming that pain with the million other joys that surrounded me.

I still maintained a heavenly perpective, I was thankful to be alive. I went to church. I read my Bible. But I wasn’t really living life because the negatives  in my mind far outweighed the positives. And that negativity stole my joy.

Don’t get stuck on the hamster wheel of life.

  • Do you feel stuck?
  • Struggling with bitterness?
  • Spinning in regret?
  • Circling your days with anger or shame?

Those are things the enemy uses to bring us down. We get so caught up and stuck in them that we can’t move beyond our circumstances to find healing or the joy that awaits us.

Maybe your marriage is in an unhealthy cycle of abuse that just can’t seem to be broken.

Or your parenting life feels like a broken record with an uncooperative toddler or teenager.

Maybe the negative cycle begins when you walk into your office and doesn’t end until you leave your coworkers or boss behind for the day.

So many things get us stuck in unhealthy patterns of anger, bitterness, shame and regret.

It’s our choice whether we focus on the one or two things holding us down, or the God who wants to lift us back up.

Did you get that? It’s a choice. It’s all yours. No one else can do it for you.

Will you stay focused on the bad stuff? Or will you choose to be thankful for the million other things that are good in your life?

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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There are a million little things going right in your world today. Choose to focus on the good in your world. It’s a choice that brings with it the fruits of freedom, joy and peace.

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20 thoughts on “Exercising A Thankful Heart”

  1. I can relate to a degree here, Nicki. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis when I was 30 and have not been able to run for many years. I still can exercise but low impact is the name of the game! Lol! But one thing I don’t share with you is a love for running. I wish I could run occasionally, but it’s not my passion, like it was for you. However, I can relate to feeling stuck for sure! And love your wisdom that I’m sure has come direct from those losses in your life. God has redeemed them and refined your heart so that it can soar like the fastest runner ever, my friend! Pinning!

  2. Nicki, your post brought tears to my eyes. I too have been in the cycle of victories then setbacks. It is a hard, emotional journey that only Christ can interrupt and heal. Nine years ago we found cancer and my body went through hell. It’s been a long road and I thought I was “normal” again until this past year when my body went haywire again. I needed your reminder that where I keep my focus is a matter of choice. Thank you!

    1. I have also faced cancer lady and I know what a roller coaster of emotions that diagnosis is. I am so sorry you are back in that realm right now and am praying that Jesus brings smart doctors and lots of medical wisdom to help heal you. So very sorry you are facing that road again. Hugs to you!

  3. Due to wear and tear I can’t run like I used to. Not 10 miles every other day but more like 3-5. I saw so much improvement and I loved my runner’s body. Anyhow walking is not the same and I’m not experimenting with different types of cardio.
    I’m learning again to be grateful for each new season and to view things with a heavenly perspective.
    Blessings to you.

    1. Yes, learning to be grateful for each new season…with a heavenly perspective! That’s so key. Blessings to you 🙂

  4. Oh Nicki, you have been through so much. And yet victory and grace shine through your words.

    And this right here –>”It’s hard to let go of our worldly identity.’

    No truer words were spoken. This remains a challenge for me in a season of change.

    Thank you for speaking to my heart today …

    1. I’m honored I could encourage you. We have all been through so much, haven’t we? Thank heavens, literally, we have Jesus! 🙂

  5. My running days have been long gone – but I do love my morning walks! Different season.

    1. Yes, different season indeed. Loss of kids, cancer and car accidents, too many seasons for my own liking, but God shows up in each of them with me and I’m so thankful. 🙂

    1. Too much defeat in my neck of the woods lately, but here’s to a new upcoming year filled with lots of victory lol 🙂

  6. Thanks so much for your testimony, Nicki! Your words speak to me because I suffered a neck injury and have experienced pain in recent months. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to look for all the good things in life tonight. 😉

    1. It’s often hard to look for the good things, but after going through cancer, car accidents and other craziness, God keeps showing me He always shows up and cares. 🙂

  7. So true. It is a choice. We too often focus on the negative instead of seeing what we do have! Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story. It blessed and encouraged me!!

  8. @Nicki,

    I clutched my pearls when I read about your third accident. My first thought jokingly was you should stay inside for a season for fear you’d get hit again? Jesus be a gate around you!

    I can relate to being knocked down by life, however, on the other side of it is resilient strength. On the other side of hardship is unexplainable strength.

    People often wonder how I’m so strong. My strength is a result of hardship and that keeps me in a place of gratitude.

    1. Yes! I think that is the case for me too. Cancer, car accidents and the loss of my kids…all make me either run from Jesus or get stronger and I’m so thankful I didn’t run. Hugs to you! Thanks for the giggle. 🙂

  9. My husband talks a lot about the need for thankfulness and more important so does God. Over and over He says for us to “be thankful.” It keeps us focused on the blessings instead of what we think we’re missing as you’ve said so well.

  10. Love this. I certainly need to do this more. A change of focus can definitely put an entirely new perspective on some of the hard moments. I obsess over them, but I certainly have so many other blessings.

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