As the year winds down, I’ve fallen almost innately and surprisingly into a state of deep reflection and rest. There are 50,000 things I could schedule on my calendar and my daily “To Do Lists,” but my spirit keeps ushering me to slow down, take deeper breaths, do what I can as best as I can, and leave the rest to God. This by far is not my normal speed, but I also would not call 2019 a normal year. I moved twice this year, graduated from cinema school, transferred our three kids to a new school, premiered a new platform for spiritual formation, and signed on as Content and Communications Manager for De Pree. It’s probably best that I rest and take some time to cultivate an atmosphere of gratitude, but as I said, slow is not my normal speed.

How about you? Are you more inclined to rest and reflect this Holiday season or to run on and see what the end shall be?

In this season, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians:

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Philippians 4: 4 – 6

As simple as this may sound, it varies in complexity from person to person. There is always something to do, somewhere to be, needs to be met, people to communicate with, etc. etc. Life can be a never-ending cycle of demands waiting for us to resolve.

As a person who loves to be fruitful and effective, rest, reflection, and assigning myself time and tasks for the intentional practice of gratitude has in the past seemed counterproductive.

It’s easy for the Apostle Paul to say always be joyful and never worry. He did not have a spouse, children, a time clock to punch into, or Netflix. Compared to the average American’s lifestyle, Paul and the other disciples were monks.

But the Apostle Paul is not alone in his referral for us to be more grateful. Recently, Harvard Medical School published an article on gratitude citing that “giving thanks can make one happier”.

If it were not for exhaustion, I don’t believe that I would personally be slowing down and intentionally increasing my moments of gratitude. There is strategic planning for 2020 that needs to be done, prepping for the holidays with the family, and my own personal desire for social and professional engagements before the year ends.

However, I’ve noticed that the more I make space and time for cultivating an atmosphere of gratitude in my life, the happier I actually feel. And strangely enough this makes me more efficient in my endeavors. The Apostle Paul says it like this:

“Now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4: 8 – 9

May the peace of God be with you this week as you take time out to cultivate an atmosphere of gratitude with family and friends.


Clarissa Joan Middleton is the De Pree Center’s Content & Communications Manager. She is an artist committed to social change by way of immersive storytelling designed to enrich the spirit. Clarissa holds an MFA in Interactive Media from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she launched The Being Academy, a digital health and wellness entertainment platform. Prior to her studies at USC, Clarissa worked in business strategy and impact investing. She is also a talented writer whose work can be appreciated on Moguldom Media’s digital publication MadameNoire.