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Welcome to our blog! We are a husband & wife photography team based in Madison, Wisconsin who document weddings & anniversaries for joyful couples who believe in marriage. This blog is a journal about real love stories, marriage & our own adventures along the way! We are so glad you're here — please stay awhile!

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Ungrateful to Grateful | The Heart Side of Our Asian Adventure.

May 10, 2017

When I was in college, I spent a month in Ghana, Africa on a mission-type trip. While we were there, we visited several rural communities and I witnessed the most severe poverty I have ever seen with my own eyes.

It’s amazing how you can be exposed to something and feel so moved and so passionate and so hopeful all at the same time … but then, before you know it, you kind of … forget about it.

Out of sight, out of mind. 

I hate that.

In April, Caleb and I did a bunch of traveling throughout Thailand and I mentioned on Instagram several weeks ago that we strategically picked Thailand because while we knew it was a beautiful and scenic country to visit, we also had ties to some organizations there working to fight the extremely complex and overwhelming beast that is the sex trafficking industry. Our time in Bangkok, specifically, was spent visiting these organizations and learning more about the realities of the industry and what we could do to be involved.

I had no idea what was about to happen in my heart.

The city pictured above CHANGED me. I can tell you, 1,000,000% that I am a completely different person now than I was when I stepped foot into Bangkok on Sunday, April 2nd. The way I view the world has been flipped upside down.

I mentioned in the beginning of this post that I experienced the worst poverty I have ever seen when I was in Ghana several years ago. I’m not sure if it’s because now I’m married, I’m a business owner, I’m older … I don’t know why exactly, but the poverty we experienced in Thailand really disrupted my worldview.

Physical poverty.

Mental poverty.

Emotional poverty.

And all I kept hearing was, “ungrateful.” You are so, so ungrateful.

I need to quick interject that absolutely NO part of me thinks that people who live in poverty are LESS than me. That couldn’t be further from the truth and that’s actually what I think makes this whole thing so infuriating. But there IS a reality that SO MANY of the people we met, rubbed shoulders with, passed on the streets in Bangkok … they DO live WAY different than we do. We can’t deny that for most of us here in the United States — we REALLY do have it so good. So, so, sooooooooooooooooooo good actually. We live in abundance. Trust me. There are more people living in abundance here in the US than anywhere else in the world.

Ungrateful. 

I have been so ungrateful.

I think what happened — from Ghana until now — was that every day, I kept letting little things into my life that made me forget. Made me justify. Made me apathetic. Made me ungrateful.

It’s so easy to look around and compare yourselves to those around you or those who you think are doing better than you and want what they have. But I believe it’s a fine line between being inspired by others to achieve certain goals and becoming ungrateful because you are comparing your life and thinking that what you have isn’t good enough. 

We never compare ourselves to those who have much less than we do.

I don’t know what switched, but in that city I made a choice: to be done with ungratefulness.

Living with an ungrateful heart really sucks and it affects everything in your life. It steals joy, it hinders relationships (and your marriage!), it affects patience, it increases worry, shortens temper, negatively affects confidence while increasing judgment and assumptions about others … the list goes on. These are all things that I have experienced.

On the contrary, living with a grateful heart is FREEING. Freeing from everything I just mentioned above.

Since intentionally pursuing gratefulness in my life (because I refuse to let the “out of sight, out of mind” thing happen again), I notice my thoughts switching from:

  • I am so stressed with all the work I have to get done >> I am so grateful for a job.
  • I hate working out and I have no motivation or time to do it >> I am so grateful for my health.
  • I can’t believe there is another thing wrong with the car and we have to spend money to fix it >> I am so grateful for a vehicle.
  • It’s raining again, I really don’t like this weather >> I am grateful for rain because it makes things grow (and I love flowers!).

 

It seems so elementary but it IS elementary. There can be gratefulness found in EVERY single day (hence my #ungratefultograteful personal Instagram challenge that I am doing this year). All of those things I was mentioning before — as a result of ungratefulness — have been flipped completely upside down as I CHOOSE gratefulness in my day-to-day life. I’m experiencing joy, deeper intimacy and more laughter in my marriage, patience, peace, confidence, and compassion.

There are opportunities every day that try to steal my gratefulness but I am committed to fighting those opportunities because I know what is on the other side.

I want to end with a quote that I recently heard because it really speaks to what I have been learning:

“The struggle ends when the gratefulness begins.” 

Amen.

Personal

  1. Mike

    May 11th, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Beautifully written.

  2. Maison Engel

    May 11th, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Thank you so much, Mike 🙂 That means a lot because I’m always nervous to share these kinds of posts!

  3. Uncle Jim

    May 11th, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Attitude of graditude honey. Simple as that…

  4. Maison Engel

    May 12th, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Amen 🙂 Hope you are doing so well!!

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