Making the Journey from Bitter to Grateful

way of gratitude (2)

With Thanksgiving approaching, I can’t help but remember this miniseries I did during the summer of 2013. Reading through it recently, I wanted to share it with you again. It’s not all well written. It’s not all deep. It’s not always great. But here’s what it is: Honest. True. As I read it I can see my days progress from struggling to find something to be grateful for, to seeing goodness even on my most stressful day. 

I hope as you approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, that you can see God’s goodness, faithfulness, lovingkindness in your own life. May these reflections be the starting point on your journey to gratitude.

The Way of Gratitude: Day 1 (This post was originally published here.)

I had no excuse. Months ago, I found myself griping over my kids again and realized how ugly it was. Actually, Tim pointed it out. As most parents know, the hour before dinner is a tough time. Stomach’s are starting to growl, minds are tired, and tempers are short. I would make food, snap at my kids and then complain about it all to Tim the moment he walked through the door.

I’m surprised he kept coming home.

My attitude towards my children was largely negative as I let myself gripe. God used the words from James 4:11 to make me pause: “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another.” Do not judge others harshly. Do not gossip. Do not deface. Do not discourage, condemn, hate. Do not talk about another behind their back. Do not slander one another.

I was caught slandering my kids.

I felt challenged that day to take the time to be thankful for one thing each day related to my children. Be thankful for them. To choose gratefulness, not bitterness. To build up, not tearing down. To offer thanksgiving and for once be full of joy.

There’s been enough whining in this house.

1 choose gratefulness

 

So here it is, Day 1:
Today I am thankful that my kids make me laugh. I so deeply desire to give in to laughter. Laughter that’s not stuck in my chest, but can sink into my belly as I join the unique laughter God gave to each of my kids. I am thankful for today’s laughter in the midst of stress and illness (I don’t feel very well). I look forward to laughing each day.

Today, Ben made me laugh when he chose a unique way to copy his brother. But first, a story from about a month ago. Jack was getting dressed in the other room and he was taking longer than usual. So I asked, in a sing-song voice, “Jack, what are you doing?” Without missing a beat, he echoed my tune, “Putting my underwear on my head.”

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Today, Ben wanted to do just that.

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A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

update: Even today, Tim hears me complain. Even today, I whine. And even today, I need to choose gratitude. Lord, have mercy. Lord, help me. Lord, be with me.

I Turned Towards My Father, Repentant in Front of my Children

As I put my children to bed for the night, apologies were in order. They did not listen well, this is true. They also did not deserve the level of anger and frustration that came their way from their worn mama who was just trying to keep it all together.

As we finished up in the bathroom, I asked my son to pray for me. He repeated his daily plea that he does not know how and stated that I should pray for me.

He was right. I needed to go before my Father, and he needed to witness it.

So I asked for forgiveness. I asked for grace. And as my son climbed into bed, I asked for mercy.

“What’s mercy?”

“Mercy is help in your time of need. It is love from God to get you through. Mercy is goodness and grace and forgiveness… Jack means God is gracious,” I add.

“So, when you’re yelling at me: Jack!!! you’re saying God is gracious?”

The thought lingers. “Yes.”

giggles

“Do you forgive me?”

“Yes.”

“Ben, do you forgive me?”

nods.

I shut out the light, collapse on the couch and as I repeat my cry to God for his forgiveness in the hypocrisy of my life, the blessing from ages past wells up in my heart, tears dampen my eyes. I finally turn and rest in Him.

Numbers 6_24-26

 

May His blessing, His face be turned towards you, tonight.

This post is part of the larger Five Minute Friday community found on Kate Motaung’s blog. We write, for five minutes, together. No major edits. No second guesses, just writing to connect, to grow, to be. Today’s writing prompt: Turn.

Are You Ready?

Five Minute Friday… on Tuesday. Oh well. 😉 Today’s writing prompt, Ready.

Jack, Ready for Circus Night at Chick-fil-a.

Jack, Ready for Circus Night at Chick-fil-a.

Am I ready? Are you?

I’ve waited and waited to write my book, now that the time has come to actually do it, I’ve wondered, can I? Am I actually able, ready to do this?

We wonder if we’re ready all through life. Are we ready to get married? Are we ready to buy a house? Area we ready to have kids? Are we ready to have a pet? Are we ready to commit? Are we ready to pull away? Are we ready to work? Are we ready to rest?

We – or maybe I should say I, I don’t want to speak for you –  wonder so much about being ready, I often wind up sitting, not doing anything, but waiting when it is time to go. I don’t take the opportunity presented to me, but sit long past the time when God said, “Go!”

So, I’m ready. I’m ready to take the step to write the book. Yes, I’m writing a book. I don’t know the title (are you good at titles? Suggest something! ;)), but here’s what it’s about:

The  biggest struggle of a new mama is not breastfeeding, sleep schedules, or perpetual laundry, it is figuring out how to (re)connect with God in this new stage of life. My book is a devotional reflecting on the truth about God’s unique love for mamas as well as creative ways to meet with Him in the midst our bleary eyes and draining days.

I’m ready. Will you help me? Will you provide feedback? Because I know I need your help. I need your voice. Were you ready to be a mom? Were you ready to connect with God postpartum? Were you able to? What was it like?

Will you be part of my Awesome Mamas Group? Yeah, I’m making a group. It’ll be on Facebook and everything. Watch for it.

Will you follow this blog and provide feedback? Because your words, your experiences are sooooo important. You keep me going. You provide the perspective I need to hear and see, because your unique life can speak into mine and into the others who will one day ready the book.

I’m writing this book. And as we connect, talk, listen, pray, read, be, we mamas are writing it together. Are you ready?

I am.

Let’s go.

 

The Day My Son Got Hurt

It was the sixth morning of kindergarten and we were waiting for the bell in the school yard with the other kids and parents. Jack had gathered a pile of rocks and formed a smiley-face with a few sticks and a strip of plastic. He stepped back and smiled at his work before running to his new friends, “You guys! Come see what I made!”

The boy and girl obliged and stood over the pebble-person while Jack beamed, content to share his creation.

I’m not sure who started it, or how, or why, but within moments they started burying it. Much to Jack’s horror, his friends were drawing stones in and covering the face Jack had taken the time to create – and had the courage enough to share with them. He started to protest, but they argued that this was good fun, so I watched as he nervously joined them. But he didn’t like it.

And then it happened. The young girl pushed herself to standing, lifted one foot, and stomped on the buried pebble-person, obliterating it completely. The two kids quickly turned and ran with Jack chasing them, tears streaming down his face, “Why did you do that? I thought you were my friends!!”

Ashamed (perhaps), the kids ran to their parents who had observed the whole scene while I rushed to Jack’s side to quiet his shrieks of horror and to wipe away his tears. I comforted him and half expected the parents to send their kids over to apologize, but they didn’t come.

The bell rang. The kids grabbed their bags, got in line, and, while my heart ached for his crushed spirit, I watched my son slog into the school.

In that moment, I wondered, “What are we doing? How can we send him off into a harsh world and allow him to be hurt by hard people? Is public school the wrong decision?”

Days later, I read these words from Steve Wiens, “The Actual Pastor,” to his son Isaac:

My job is not to protect you from hard things, it’s to launch you out into this great big world, so that you can play your part in great Big Story. This means that sometimes, you’ll make mistakes. You might not make the team. You might try to make friends with people who reject you. When those things happen, I hope I’m the first person you want to talk to. I’ll cry with you. Isaac, this is so hard for me. I’d much rather do anything and everything to make sure you don’t fail or get hurt. But you need to fail, and even get hurt sometimes, because that’s how you’ll learn how to be a person who brings great things to this world. Only those of us who have suffered a little know how to really help.

I want to protect my children. But I believe I am mistaken if I think I am protecting my children by not allowing them to feel pain, by not exposing them to others, and by not guiding them through the hard circumstances of fights, injuries, misbehavior, and sadness.

As a Christian, I believe my task is to be a light in the world of pain and sorrow that is. It is to be a comfort to those who are suffering, to listen to those who are abused, to point the way to the true hope in the midst of confusion and sorrow.

As a Christian mother, I believe my task is to comfort my children as they experience the reality of a fallen world so that they may experience greater life than they could find in the safety of our own home. As they experience pain, they can also experience healing. As they experience hurt, they can also experience forgiveness. As they experience sorrow, they can also experience a greater joy. As they experience hate, they can also experience greater Love.

Paul wrote, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. If we ourselves have not experienced the comfort of God, how can we comfort others? If my children have not run to God in their pain as children, how can they run to him in the greater pains and struggles of adulthood?

That afternoon when I picked Jack up from school, we talked about what happened in the morning. I asked him what he felt when they buried his art and smashed it.

“Mad,” he said.

I nodded. Yes. I was mad, too.

Watching the guilty children walk by I asked what the rest of the day was like; did he play with them? “Yes, they’re my friends. They got married at lunchtime and kissed!” His face wrinkled up into giggles and silliness surrounded him.

His anger had passed quickly. Forgiveness and love took its place. I saw the softness of his heart and examined the hardness in my own as I considered the anger still there. As the days and weeks have gone by, I can see that these two children who had hurt him so much truly are his friends. Perhaps the conflict brought them together. Perhaps Jack loved them despite it. I don’t know. But I do know it has taken me time to forgive them, though Jack did so quickly. And in that, he has been a light to me as I have been hardened by hurts of the world.

We are showing God’s love to each other, my children and me. This comfort, this learning is not one way as we enter the world, but as God guides us we teach one another about compassion and light.

I know there will be greater hurts and heartbreak down the road, but as Steve said above, my job is not to protect my kids. I will rejoice with them as they rejoice and mourn with them as they mourn. I will seek God’s help as I try to be the light and comfort of God in their lives, releasing them to the grand stories God is writing in them. And trusting, always trusting, that HE is active, HE is love, HE is comfort, HE is good, and that HE is always with them.