Gratitude and Grown Ups

We have a practice with our kids that when they are stuck in a complaining-only mode- we make them say a certain number of things they are thankful for.

You can see my previous post for an example of how magical this can be. It works on my 2 year-old, 4 year-old, 11 year-old, and 12 year-old.

Today I re-realized that it also works on a 30 year-old.

I’ve been sick with the worst cold of my entire memory for seven days and counting. Two days of intense headaches, then two days of repeated fevers, chills, and total non-functional living (I pretty much slept for 36 hours). I started to come out of the fog… but couldn’t breathe for an entire day (until I found the perfect blend of Neti pot, congestion spray, and ibuprofen), a day of face pain, and a day of snot: today. I’ll spare you the details. Other than last night my pinkie toenail fell off…. random! No injury, no infection, just came right off. *sigh*

You can see why I was caught in a mind-cycle of misery. Each day I’ve improved in health… and each day had a new challenge to face. Sometimes when I cough, I also pee. Really? I’d had it.

Something struck my on the drive to my son’s pre-school.

“Corban, you know how I have you say things you’re thankful for when you’re stuck complaining?”

“Mmm-hmmm” came the sweet reply.

“Well, Mommy is stuck complaining and I need to say things I’m thankful for.” He completely understood, of course.

Image by Lachlan Hardy

My list began, “I’m so thankful for each of my children- the unique ways that God has made them- and that He would bless my life with them. I’m thankful that today looks like it’s going to be a sunny day. I’m thankful that they’ve found a home for us in Germany- and that it’s better than I could have dared imagine. I’m thankful that I’m not as sick as other much less fortunate people who put me to shame with what they endure. I’m so thankful for my friend Dorina– what a gift to me (and one that I’m not ready to say good-bye to!)”

My list carried on and the tears came.

Picture this… a congested mommy, with a nasal-frog voice listing these gifts… tears falling, voice wavering… getting higher pitched and weepy. Oh, my poor children.

I explained that saying what I was thankful for reminded me of the many good things God has given me… and that makes my heart so happy that tears come out!

He giggled. I’m sure he was thinking, “My mom might be nuts…” but he hid it well.

The amazing thing was that 1) the tears cleared something in my sinuses and I could breathe a little better and 2) I felt better. Not healthier. Lighter. Lifted. An end to the dreariness was in sight because I’d chosen to shift my focus. Ahhhhh, the sweetness of looking at things greater than myself. I may be sick for another 7 days (that’s how long I’m hearing this cold lasts) but so what?! I have SO much to be thankful for and I will not let a stinkin’ cold rob me of all things beautiful!

Yes, gratitude even works on the grown-ups.

Life from a Thinker’s Perspective

Part 3 of “Feelings from a Thinker’s Perspective”
Read Part 1 HERE
Read Part 2 HERE

When I started out on this three part journey I had no idea what Part 3 would entail. I just knew that all good blogs have one (lol ☺). Not that this alone makes a good blog…

But the other night it hit me like a brick. I knew what I’d be writing.

Life from a Thinker’s perspective.

Last week my oldest had a stomach bug. My youngest got Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. My 3 year-old began to complain of a stomachache. My world of perfect health was being rocked…. in the same way that my one year-old loves to rock babies in their carseats… with really good intentions, love, and a LOT of turbulence.

Even though their illnesses were really small compared to the possibilities of disease out there, it was enough to shock me back to my senses. I could have let the feelings overwhelm me and become an over-protective, over-antibacterializing, over-everything kind of person. Instead, I sat back and reflected on these feelings and found the cause.

I take my family’s health for granted.

Not every day.

But on many.

How easily I assume that we will all stay well and be long-living if A. B. and C. are in place. We eat healthily. Drink healthily. Live healthily. We’ve got it covered, right? But even this is not truly in our control. I’ve known super active and healthy people to die on the spot of aneurisms. Or heart attacks. Okay, it’s not the norm, but it has happened.

And it could happen to me. I could be looking my lively child in the face when the phone rings. Brain Tumor. Cancer. Car accident. NameYourDisease. NameYourAccident.

I know that this has happened to some of you. I’m sure you rarely take life for granted. (It’s happened to me too, but not with a spouse or child or my own parent).

Again, I could have let this feeling and realization leave me feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, and forever terrified of the ringing phone, knock on the door, walking outside of my house.

Instead I chose to consider what can be done.

I can choose to live presently in every single moment that I am given with my kids. With my loved ones. How easily I forget this and begin to resent my family for being… my family! Because I just swept that or I’m trying to get the laundry done or could I please just pay this bill or write this book or… or… or…

And then that moment comes. And they are gone. And I have all the time in the world to do those things. Anyone can clean my house or do my laundry. But only I can be their mother. Be his wife.

The weight of days wasted feels so heavy. The hope of days yet to come feels so light and free.

That next morning I burned my to-do list. My two toddlers and I made ice cream in baggies, practiced fishing in the swimming pool, played in the water-park in our yard, looked for bugs…. Lived.

Together.

Presently.

No resentment.

Just the loving eyes of my kids, while I have them, a day lived.

My husband and older two kids came home. The floors were un-swept. The laundry was still sitting in the basket. I was putting the dishes away as I cooked dinner.

“Whoops, you caught me trying to make it look like I’ve kept the house up all day!” I laughed as he walked in. Then I told him what I had done.

And you know what? He didn’t care about all the stuff left to do. He simply entered the moment with us. Set down his work stuff. Grabbed our kids. And burned his to-do list too.

Living presently.

Why waste it worrying? Fretting? Trying to change the things I can’t?

Instead I choose to live NOW. My house will get clean (during nap times and bed times). But more importantly, my kids will know I love them. And we will all enjoy each other to the fullest while it’s ours to enjoy.

What will you choose? What does it look like for you to choose now?


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The Value of Pain (Feelings From a Thinker’s Perspective Part 2)

(Read Part 1 here.)

I’ve been thinking about my last post and how it relates to my purpose of providing inspiration and encouragement to my readers.

It’s always good to hear how another person views a particular subject… especially if it’s different from your own. I know I personally love to have conversations filled with depth and rationale and understanding one another. My purpose for righting about feelings from a “Thinker” perspective was to give voice to the many of us who can only be validated in our feelings by having someone understand how concretely we view them. On the flip side, we Thinkers have to be keenly aware of weight feelings carry for our “Feeler” friends and how unnecessary an explanation is. 🙂 I know that I have personally (and unintentionally) wounded friends by being so rational and logical about feelings instead of just accepting them regardless. Equally, I’ve been hurt by people wanting to talk about my feelings with no consideration of how I wound up with them!

May we each strive to love and accept the differences among ourselves- to cherish them in such a way that we are willing to learn the other “language” for the sake of friendship and the kinship of our humanity.

Speaking of hurt, I wanted to process some thoughts I’ve had regarding pain.

A friend was sharing in my Bible Study the other day and said something to the effects of “Pain is only valuable if God is allowed to use it for His and our own good.” Now, even if you don’t believe in God, I’m sure that as you read along, you will still be able to appreciate the way that pain can drive us toward betterment if we allow it.

Let’s consider the Flu. Or any cold. Unpleasant. Uncomfortable. Normally doesn’t kill you. The flu is actually a sort of a natural cleanse. It cleans your body of all of the nasties that have built up, albeit through some orifices you’d have rather left alone. Not only does the flu clean out your system, but it sends your immunity to bootcamp. An untrained immunity will be a weak enemy for real battle (i.e. much larger diseases and illnesses). Your body’s response to the flu virus is also a way of altering you to a foreign adversary is on the premise and works to rid your land of it. So, you can choose to see sickness as a horrible attack on your system or see it as an opportunity for you body to strengthen, prepare, and clean, though uncomfortably.

How true this is of emotional pain too! Feelings of hurt or anger or sadness are all indicators that something is not well within us. A red-flag that danger to our psyche is at bay. It would be easy to simply wallow in those feelings believing that they in and of themselves are the end-all/be-all. But really, feelings and emotions are so often just a reflection of the true issue at hand.

My husband, a person like so many who is very familiar with pain, reminded me of a quote: “Pain is the acid that cuts through the walls of denial.” Pain can get to parts of us that no one else can. It can speak to us on levels that nothing else can reach. The acid could destroy us if we didn’t know how to use it.

So how do we use pain? If you believe in God… this is a little easier. You trust His Word which says that His plans for you are to work all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). To give His creations a hope and a future and not to harm them (Jeremiah 29:11). To trust that God is allowing pain in order to “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It’s in our pain, when we are desperate to end our suffering, that we are finally willing to listen, to be changed. It’s not God’s mean way of making us something different than we are. Instead, it is God’s kind way of directing us away from those things that would harm and destroy us and ushering into a land filled with choice milk and honey. The way a Shepherd gently guides the sheep along the path… allowing them pain if it will teach them to stay the course and flee from cliffs, wolves, and thorns. This God, in His great love for us, allows us to trip, get poked, and encounter “the wild beasts” of the field to teach us the hard lessons that only experience can teach us.

If you don’t believe in a God who loves you, protects you, and ushers you, then your path looks a little different. It becomes a task greater than trusting God…but of trusting in yourself. In your ability to step outside of the pain and see it objectively- as the tool that it is. As we are imperfect and completely unable to be completely objective of our own life journeys, this is a daunting task. You must reframe your pain and choose to use it as something that improves you. Instead of swearing off all men because one man deeply hurt you… decide to learn the lesson of heartache and promise to be as honest and genuine with others as you can be to spare them what you have felt. Or challenge yourself to experience the satisfaction of being the “better” person and continue to “love” that person with kindness, patience, forgiveness, and peace. They, too, are learning on the curves of life and, unfortunately, you were an instrument in their own growth as well. See it as such and don’t let pain destroy you. Rather, let it build you. Better yet, choose to believe that there is a God who loves you and wants the best for you- and follow Him.

This concludes part 2 of how a Thinker views Feelings… in light of pain. I hope that whatever your life experience, today you can choose to look at the pain you’ve experienced and see how it has made you something better than you were… more mature, more kind, more compassionate or understanding. Perhaps you’ve let it tear you down a little…and make you cold or hard or distant from those who love you. My hope and prayer is that you will be able to find it within you to look at how you’ve let pain influence your life… and choose to use it for the better… and not the worse.

Blessings in your endeavors!


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