Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lately I am Jacob and Thankfulness is the angel being wrestled. And I won't let go. (Actually, let's be honest, it is more accurate to say that God won't let me give up the fight for thankfulness -- one way or another, I will learn it.)

I have been trying to get up before the kids get up (which is usually by 6 am) to have some time to read my Bible and pray. On good days I am up by 5:45 and send the boys over to the couch to read or, better yet, upstairs, until I have a good 30 minutes. My favorite part of this is the 5 or 10 minutes before anyone is awake and the window is swung wide with the gentle morning light and birdsong. And the quiet, semi-alone-ness. (Alone-ness is so much better than loneliness.) I've started ending my time there at the table with writing 10 things I am thankful for. Seems pretty easy, right? Well, I try to make them different things than I wrote previous days. And I try to make them super-specific. Like, I can't say "Thank you for Brad." It would have to be something like, "Thank you that Brad is so good and cheerful about keeping our finances in order for us." Many years ago someone gave me this little fat paperback that was titled something like "1001 Things to Be Thankful For". Initially I thought it was a cheesy sort of thing, but I cared about the giver of the gift and eventually picked it up. I would read ten things off the lists inside, mark it and pick up again the next morning. They were good lists -- simple things, big things, esoteric things, concrete things. And slowly the practice of being reminded of all that I had to be thankful for began working in my spirit. I began seeing situations differently and the weight of restlessness and discontent began lightening a bit on my shoulders. 

For a few months I've been going to a counselor and one of the things that she has been encouraging me to do is to go through an inexpensive paperback New Testament and mark it with color-corresponding categories. (Blue for truth statements, green for "do it" commands, red for "don't do that" commands and another one I've added from our on-going conversations is a *heart* for anytime our relationship with God is cited as a reason/source of strength/motivation for doing (or not doing) something) One thing I have noticed reading again through so many of these New Testament books is how often we are called to Thankfulness. Over and over again. And not just in the New Testament. As I have also been re-reading parts of the Old Testament, it is just as prevalent there. Thankfulness. So for right now I am driving my "tent spikes" down deep (an image of the meaning of "abiding in") into my belonging to/with/in Christ and His utter belonging to me and cultivating a heart of thankfulness. I am not letting it be flim-flammy but working to make it blood and flesh.

Things like this: 
1) When Brad walks through the door in the afternoon and asks me how the day went, I am "willing myself" to tell him at least three good things about the day before (and maybe leaving off this part eventually) launching into the horrid exploits and impossibility of remaining sane and cheerful in the midst of my whining/complaining/violent/destructive/needy little band of hoodlum children. 
2) I am purposing to foster more thanksgiving into our lunch-prayers. To my surprise, Atticus has really latched on to this and loves going around and around the table multiple times having each person say what they are thankful for. (Sidenote to keep it real: Spongebob Squarepants, Butts, and Pooping have been banned from the thankfulness list -- though arguments could be made for all three -- in an attempt to foster a greater variety of thanks-inducing items; So far, superheroes and other heroic cartoon characters are still fair game (-:) 
3) When I find myself in a particularly trying part of my day -- either from repetitiveness/restrictiveness of project/activity/conversation or much conflict/naughtiness in my children, I am trying to stop (even remove myself from the room for a moment) and find something to be thankful for about even that moment -- like that my kids have siblings to work these things out with; that I caught them doing whatever sinful thing that did so I can talk them through it/train them in the moment; that I've had 3 weeks with no strep or other illness; that my husband is not on a business trip (and rarely/rarely is) so he will be home by the end of the day; that I have this home to ourselves so training and disciplining kids are simpler than if we were living with another family or people who had very different standards/etc. And so on and so on. 
4) And I have even been encouraged by a very trying/chronic sin of my kids -- complaining-grumbling. Because, it is so very annoying to me -- and not just annoying because it is repetitive or because it is an affront to my cooking or decisions but because of the utter unthankfulness in their hearts -- it truly grieves me. Like when we have picked up a friend to play with us for the morning and then drive to a favorite playground and I will hear complaint after complaint about how this particular park is no longer their favorite or long it is taking to get there or that they didn't have enough for breakfast and how could I have forgotten the snacks (I did remember drinks!) and grumble*grumble$grumble%. And suddenly I am thinking of the Israelites in the wilderness after getting released from slavery out of Egypt. Grumbling on and on and how God eventually sends them various plagues and deaths to get their attention and produce thankfulness in their hearts. And I start to understand why complaining is so odious to God. Surrounded by blessing after blessing and given strength after strength to continue and I choose to wallow in my restless, unthankful discontent. "But I AM thankful, God. For this and this and this..." but then my heart starts listing all the hard things and I find myself spiraling into despair about how hard some relationship is or why our church doesn't have a desire for a children's ministry or how difficult it is to have boys who break everything and can't seem to live happily with one another for longer than 3 minutes, blah, blah, blah. And it is really just plain unthankfulness (with some self-pity, lack of trust, anger and self-centeredness thrown in for good measure). 

I have more thoughts on the very real difficulty of mothering and generally living a responsible, full-of-people life...but there are so many words already...
 I think that I will end with King David's exultation: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Ps.16:6
And the sweet book of Colossians...whose warp and weft (I *love* that image of the cross-threads of the fabric of a book holding it together and speaking through every particular...) are our relationship in/with Christ and the thanksgiving (satisfaction/gladness/hope/strength -- all the same fruit) that grows out from that assurance, that security of belonging together.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him...abounding in thanksgiving. Col.2:6-7
And be thankful...with thanksgiving in your heart to God...and whatever you do...[do it] giving thanks to God the Father through [Christ]...Col. 3

1 comment:

Lisa said...

just found a few spare moments to read some of your blog and i have to say, i needed to read this particular post today. i am astounded how much we/our children have in common...thank you for the encouragement to press on and be thankful. how could i not?! so many blessings! i tell my boys the story of the israelites when they are especially complaining (same exact park scenario, mind you!) to teach them how serious that sin is...and then i feel guilty b/c i know i am just the same as they are! grace, grace, grace...