Choosing Gratitude

This post has been stirring in my heart for many weeks.  My intention was to post it two months ago, as the second part in a 3-part fall series.  Then I found out I was pregnant, and soon after I became sick.  This pregnancy has been much more difficult than my experience with Ian, and the nausea-filled days have kept me away from the computer.  I've started this post several times in my head over the last few weeks, but tonight I heard news that crushed my heart and moved me to stop thinking about it and actually write it. Gratitude is a choice.  And so is bitterness.  Bitterness is much easier to choose though.  It flows so naturally out of hearts that have been disappointed.  Bitterness says, "yeah it's good, but it's not great"..."it's just not fair"..."yeah it's nice, but look at all the hard work it comes's too hard."  Bitterness focuses on the costs, and not the reward.  It shoots envious eyes at the blessings of others, overlooking the gifts in our own baskets.

Gratitude says "thank you", even when we don't get everything we want.  It acknowledges the overflow of gifts that we swim in everyday, and is humbled by how generous the Giver is.  Gratitude says no to bitterness.

We recently began to include our son in our prayers.  We all fold our hands, bow heads and close our eyes (while this isn't a posture we normally take for prayer, it works well in teaching a toddler about this moment that is separate).  The prayer normally goes something like this, "Dear God, thank you for our food, thank you for our new baby, and thank you for Ian. Amen".  Then he excitedly yells "MAE-MEN!"  

He loves this new time, so he will frequently ask to pray multiple times throughout the day...often just minutes after we finished another prayer.  It's caused us to think harder about the things we are thankful for.  We find ourselves on the third prayer in 20 minutes saying "thank You for the rain outside, and that we are inside and warm.  Thank you that we all got showers this morning and thank you that the water was hot and clean and safe.  Amen."  The more often we stop to pray, the more we recognize the "small" things to be grateful for.

We've all known people who cannot find something to say unless it is negative.  They narrow in on every uncomfortable detail and complain more than rejoice.  After a while, you start to realize that if everything in this person's life is negative, it probably has more to do with the person than the circumstances of their life.  Some choose to live this way everyday. But all of us choose to live this way at some point.  On certain days, or in specific circumstances, we choose bitterness over gratitude.  We choose to complain, rather than say thank you.

Earlier tonight, I found myself looking at multi-million dollar homes online.  It was one of those moments where you click on one article and that leads to another article and then bam! Suddenly, I'm scrolling through pictures of $38,000,000 homes in Beverly Hills and wondering who can spend $147,000 per month on a mortgage.  I was fascinated for the same reason that I love to look out the window on flights.  I love to see places I've never been, and in this case, take in how different it is from where I'm from.  At first this wasn't a problem, because every house I saw was a bit too ostentatious and cold for my taste.  They all screamed "I have lots of money!" and I didn't want to live in any of them.  Then I came across a house that was different.  It was the most expensive (go figure) and yet the most simple.  It was the house I would have built if I could design my dream home.  I found myself not just admiring it, but idolizing it and wondering how I could attain something like this in the future (since our future will likely be funded by the incomes of BJ's ministry and my part-time counseling work, this is unlikely).  My curious investigation had quickly turned into an ugly unveiling of my jealous and discontent heart.

Shortly after this, I heard about the death of a young woman from the church I grew up in.  She died suddenly and left behind two young children.  I am overwhelmed with grief for her and her family - and struck with a heavy sense gratitude for the life I am living.

Life with a toddler is hard, but even the hardest moments are beautiful.  During dinner tonight, my strong boy threw his food from his high chair onto the floor.  He cried when I didn't respond fast enough and I ended up eating my dinner standing, so that I could follow him around the house.  And all I could think was..."Thank You God.  Thank You for letting me feed him dinner and follow him around the house cleaning up after him.  Thank You for the gift of giving him a bath and even changing his dirty diaper.  Thank you for letting me read to him and hold him and pray with him before bed.  Thank You for every hard part of being his mom, because it means that I am his mom.  Thank You."  I was thinking these things while I read him a book and prayed with him before bed.  The emotions in my throat were so thick I could hardly utter a word.  I left his room and cried.

Recently, I've been overwhelmed remembering how difficult labor is and feeling anxious about the prospect of doing it again in May.  Tonight I found myself thanking God for the blessing of carrying of a child and the opportunity to deliver that child.

When I first planned out this post, the tone wasn't quite this heavy.  But sometimes we hear news that is just too sad.  And it is from this place, of deep grief and profound gratitude that I write tonight....thanking God for my whole life - the exciting and the mundane...the painful and the beautiful.