Have you ever seen this image? It’s called a Rubin Vase, designed in 1915 by a Danish psychologist named Edgar Rubin. It’s called an “ambiguous” form. Looked at from one perspective, you see a vase in the center. Looked at from another perspective and you see the profiles of two people facing each other on the sides. Can you see both views? Crazy, isn’t it?

Recently, I had a “Rubin Vase” experience as I looked back over the past year of my life. It’s no secret that my last twelve months have been extremely challenging. Quite the (cough) “growth opportunity.” During a recent morning walk, as I reflected on all that has transpired, I was thanking God for sustaining me through this difficult season. And I truly am grateful for that.

But I also felt a distinct prompting from the Lord to look at the last twelve months from another perspective. To reframe what I have been through. And I came back from that walk with three very specific assignments:

1. Look back through my gratitude journal and make a list of ALL the PEOPLE who have loved and encouraged me, who have done such thoughtful things, who have shown me God’s love in tangible ways over the past year. And, one by one, begin to thank them again.

2. Make a thank-you list for God. Write out ALL the ways He has sheltered and PROVIDED for me, comforted and encouraged me and surprised me with joy.

3. Think about the STRENGTH God has given me over the last year to do things that seemed overwhelming or impossible. Write down every situation where I have found unexpected strength.

The project took me a few days. The more I recorded, the more I remembered. Names, faces, experiences. Incredible. I was overwhelmed by God’s amazing Grace, and by the beautiful way He has loved me through people. So humbling, and so life-giving. So many reasons to feel grateful.

What about you or someone you love? Have you just walked through a painful season or experience? Are you in the midst of the muck right now? Maybe you aren’t ready to start making lists and shouting hallelujah. But one of the many benefits of journaling and especially in keeping a gratitude journal is that it will help you to remember in the days to come.

Back to the Rubin Vase. Here’s my suggestion for changing your perspective on a painful season of your life. Imagine yourself putting all of the painful memories into the vase, and then shifting your focus to the silhouettes. Remember the people, the provision, the persistence and the power that God has given you to press through.

No, the reality of what has happened won’t change. History is history, and life has hard seasons for all of us. But as you look back at whatever difficult time you’ve walked through, there will be many reasons for gratitude. Remember the Rubin vase. Changing your focus can make such a difference!

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28