1st Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
When I was a kid, we had 10 acres out in the country in Odessa, Missouri. In the early years of my life, our house was heated during cold Missouri winters, by a wood burning stove my Dad chopped wood for. I grew up rollerskating through our house on the painted peeling concrete. All my friends thought it was so cool that our electrical wiring was visible. My Dad was building our house by himself while we lived in it. He was juggling a full time nursing job at the hospital nearly 45 minutes away, ulcerative colitis, and he also was a minister in our church. We were really blessed to have amazing friends who would help my Dad work on building our house from time to time. We always had company over. I remember lots of awesome pancake dinners in the evenings with many friends. I didn’t know then, that we did pancakes because it was cheap and could feed a lot of people. I found that out much later in my life.
I thought it was normal to only order waters to drink in a restaurant, or split meals. Mc Donalds was a rare and exciting treat. At Christmas our parents would drive us kids to the dollar store, and we got to spend a $1 on a gift for each person in my family. One of my favorite gifts every year, was those gummy spider toys that you throw at the wall, and they slowly crawl down the wall. This was all coming back to me on Christmas day. My kids had received those as stocking stuffers. I was watching our kids laugh hysterically as they threw them and watched them get stuck and ease down the walls. I couldn’t help thinking back to the simplicity of things as a child.
My sister and I were really delighted with everything we got growing up. It was an awesome thing to receive hair bands, and chap stick, and clothes we needed at Christmas. As an adult, my parents have since told us how much they were financially struggling in those days. As a kid, I knew we couldn’t always have what we wanted, but I never thought we were poor. We always had food, and our needs were always provided for. We were always taught to thank God for what we had. The finances changed when my Dad got a job transfer to Ohio around the time I was 14, and the money wasn’t so tight after that.
I am thankful for those early years of mine. It prepared me for some very financially barren years at the beginning of my marriage. We would have been far worse off if it wasn’t for the generosity of my in laws. My Mom in law would make huge pots of soup for “herself,” and bake cookies, and then invite us over because, “she had no idea what she would do with all of the extra. She would never eat it all.” Then she would send us home with enough leftovers to feed us and the neighbors for most of the week. Haha! Mom, thank you for not letting us starve! My husband ate cottage cheese wrapped in a tortilla more than once, just to have a break from peanut butter. It was all we had, and I preferred to just keep eating peanut butter over the cottage cheese concoction. Gag! After all of our bills were paid, we usually had $80 left to cover gas for both of us and groceries. We were still very happy in that first apartment, because we were together and we were in it together. The groceries we buy these days, would have been a dream come true back then. I almost can’t believe how blessed we have been. Aaron worked full time and went to school finishing his bachelors. I worked early on and was in Nursing school before I got pregnant and then was home with our first son, and then our second and our daughter. I was alone with them during all of our waking hours for almost 2 years. We only saw Aaron on the weekend when he didn’t have to leave early in the morning for school and then be at work on 2nd shift till long after we were in bed. Those years were well worth it though. It’s taught us to be grateful for everything we have and where we are now.
I watched a short video that was made by a church, and it was about being thankful. It started an avalanche of thought, and I want to share a few things I’ve witnessed recently.
Very close friends of ours, are going through an incredibly difficult time. In respect of their privacy, I won’t share the detail of what the trial is. I have had the privilege of watching them praise God through this trial. Last week, they were surprised by co workers with gifts and cards and words of encouragement. Though the trial is still heavily upon them, I watched this same family volunteer at church with their four young children included, to sing “Joy to the World.” I watched them eagerly praise God in gratitude. I couldn’t help but watch with tears rolling down my cheeks.
My daughter is a great saver of her own money. She very rarely spends any on herself. For two years in a row at Christmas, I have watched her spend her savings on buying a gift for every single person in our family and our extended family. I told her she didn’t need to do this but she insisted. I witnessed her pure joy and excitement at the ability to do this. She was just elated. At 10 years old, she stuns me with her continual selfless generosity. This is not new for her. She is almost always this way. I told her she should save some to be able to buy something she wanted. She said, “Well, there isn’t really anything I need. I have everything I need.” Ahhhh…her grateful generous heart moves me to tears.
Last Sunday, my bestie Laura, sat with me as I listened to our Church live stream service, so I wouldn’t have to watch it alone. It filled my heart up so much. When I miss services because of my body healing, it’s hard to miss that fellowship. I was so grateful for her company. So many times, it’s not “things,” in life that we need. Sometimes we just need each other.
Good friends of ours brought meals to us the first few weeks after my surgery. It helped so much, and one of the very best parts, was that they would visit for a bit when they brought it to us. I need that visit so much and every time I just felt incredible gratitude for their love and generosity.
When I was spending my last night in the hospital, I hadn’t been able to get a shower for 6 days. The hot water was broken in my room and for the 1st 4 days my blood pressure was so low, I wasn’t allowed to get up. I had phenomenal nurses the whole time, but I had 3 favorites. On multiple occasions during the night when I couldn’t sleep, either because of pain or because my heart rate was so fast, they would come and visit with me in my room if they weren’t too busy. One of them went above and way beyond the call of duty when she got on shift my last night in the hospital. She came into my room with a wheelchair and a big smile and said, “Guess what? I’m getting a shower for you. I’m making it happen.” She wheeled me into a room that had just been sanitized for a new patient, and her and my mom helped me get my first gloriously hot shower. When we were done she wheeled me back to my room and told them to go re sanitize the room for the patient that was taking that room next. Guys, that shower made me feel so much better for so many reasons. She absolutely did not have to do that, but it meant the world to me. Several of my nurses hugged me when they knew I’d most likely be discharged before they had another shift. They made a rough time, so much easier to take. Those middle of the night chats meant so much to me, as well as their kindness and generosity to extend themselves further than their job required. I will always be grateful for them.
A cousin of mine posted a video of her children on Christmas morning. They are 3 adorable girls all under the age of 10. They opened up gifts of socks, underwear, and crayons, and were 100% content and joyful with what they’d received. The delight on their faces was made even more precious when they were told there was another gift, because they’d been so content with the simple gifts they’d already received. They each got a bicycle. It made me cry. Pure gratitude demonstrated by 3 young sweet souls.
A precious 3 year old baked and decorated cookies for me. She decided herself that she wanted to give them to a few people and I was blessed to be one of them. What an awesome generous kid at such a young age. I was so grateful that she even thought of me. Thank you sweet Gracie! I love you kiddo.
I was so filled to the brim with joy yesterday and Sunday evening. All of our family on both sides, spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with each other. How on earth I was so blessed to be a part of such wonderful family on both sides…I just don’t know, but I can’t even express my joy that this is my circumstances. I know many aren’t as lucky. Both of our Mom’s went out of their way to cook fantastic food and cart it to our house, so I could be a part of the celebrations as I healed from surgery. They did the bulk of the grunt work and helped clean up as well. Our parents are all a cut above the rest. The respect I have for them is deep and as solid as a rock.
This was our first Christmas in this house. We will have been here for a year at the end of this week. Last year we combined households with my Mom and Dad in law. They wanted to downsize to free themselves up to travel and not have the bulk of the property to care for by themselves. They built an apartment in what was once the 2nd living room in the house and the garage. We now occupy the larger side of the house. We actually were really in the position of needing to have more space. We had very much outgrown the home we were in. Only 1 person could fit in the kitchen at a time, and we were all kinds of squished with the kids bodies getting taller and more substantial every day. When they proposed this idea, it not only made sense, it really offered so many pro’s for all of us, that there weren’t any deal breaking cons. I’m not saying there weren’t growing pains, but we all know that being in a family that functions well…takes some work. It takes love, patience, endurance, and forgiveness to navigate any healthy relationships. I am so thankful that over the last 16 years, all of us have been willing to do those things. We really love each other very much. I just think of them as my parents as well. I am unbelievably fortunate to have 2 sets of parents to love. There has been so much blessing in sharing the same property with them. I love getting to run a question by them, or listen to the kids tell them about how their school day went, or randomly decide to eat dinner together during the week. I also should mention that when my parents moved here more than 5 years ago, they moved into a house one block from my in laws. I am even getting to see my own parents way more. I get to take walks with them in the evening sometimes, or sit and chat with my mom while I wait to pick up my daughter Alli from school. I am just so grateful for the blessings that have touched our lives. Spending our first Christmas in this house has brought the blessings of being in this house, to the forefront of my mind.
I just think…if we were stripped naked and every material thing we had was gone. How much more grateful would we be, when we received the very simplest of things? In so many areas of the world, this is the case. We live in a land of plenty. I have so many material comforts. If I spend even a moment contemplating the devastation in other lands, it humbles me. Christians, Jews, children, are all being mass murdered, enslaved, and abused. There are naked starving children drinking dirty water to fill their distended bloated tummies. There are war torn countries, where people are so desperate to flee, that they would take their chances being filled with bullets, if it meant a chance to escape. We need to remain conscious of how blessed we are. When we shield our eyes from these things, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the greed of society. Our children need to know these struggles exist or we raise generations upon generations of people who feel entitled to anything they want, and willing to get it at any cost, even if it means mistreating others by ignoring or hurting them. We must teach them gratitude and generosity. We have to teach them to be thankful for what they have and generous enough to share it when possible.
The ugliest thing to witness in society, is an attitude of entitlement. It stands out like a sore thumb. It’s the lady having a fit complaining about the wait in the checkout line. It’s the man who revs his engine and speeds through a busy school zone with children all around. It’s a kid who is ungrateful for a gift because it isn’t exactly what they wanted. These things flick us in the nerves. We recognize it because it’s not a pleasant thing to witness. It’s ugly and it’s selfish to witness a complete lack of appreciation. Sometimes we humans need a perspective shift. Can you imagine what might change in a person’s heart, if they suddenly had to life swap with a woman enslaved by the Taliban, or with someone living in North Korea or Ethiopia? Perspective really is everything. There is always something to be thankful for, even if it’s just a breath. I have discovered a tried and true method for myself when I’m struggling with a rotten mindset. I force myself to start listing the things I’m thankful for, down to the simplest things like having toilet paper and a toilet that puts up with way more poo than I do. I usually find myself content shortly after starting that process. Mr. Lincoln summed this up well.
All souls are struggling with something. There are all kinds of trials. The lack of a job, the desire for a baby, the desire for a spouse, the desperate need of healing from affliction, mental illness, substance abuse problems, marital trouble, the loss of a loved one, and poverty. I have observed something while in my own trials and while watching others as well. The souls who remain grateful, have better endurance and more energy to overcome. It’s noticeable because they seem to understand that they are not entitled to anything, and they recognize they aren’t more important than anyone else. They are willing to work hard for as long as it takes to succeed. Those who entertain self pity and blame, rarely are able to pull themselves out of the pit their own minds dig for them. They just kinda sit down in their own mind pit, wasting valuable energy on anger and bitterness, rather that figuring out how to change their circumstances. They sit there expecting someone else to pick them up and carry them out. They aren’t willing to humble themselves and do what it takes to succeed. They feel they are above it, and ironically it’s what keeps them down. I feel like this works the very same way spiritually. God blesses us, but He wants us to be thankful for what He has given before He gives more. If we can’t be thankful for what we already have, why should He give more?
There is so much power in the way we think. We determine our own mindset.
Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
I know bad days will come. They always do. This life is not easy and it’s not all sunshine and roses. Some days look like heartbreak and loss and grief, but they won’t all stay that way. After those days, better days are always on the horizon. I’m going to keep trying to wake up grateful for each day I’m given, and I”m going to keep trying to correct my perspective on those days I need a healthy and huge kick in the pants. Each day is a gift and someday I won’t have another day. Someday it will be my last day. I hope God finds my heart grateful on that last day. God is good and is worthy to be praised. That in itself is something huge to be thankful for. Isn’t Gratitude the very essence of praise?
Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old arefaithfulness and truth.
Amen. I love you guys and hope this post finds you wrapped in blessings. Huge Hugs! By the way…I am grateful for each one of you as well 😉 I hope you guys will like the church video I mentioned at the beginning.