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.

Grateful for Gratitude

The last part of our bedtime routine, in my home, is prayer with and for the children.

Tonight, my three-year old son excitedly exclaimed that he would be praying for me and that I would be praying for his little sister. Oh, and that I would be starting first. I prayed for my daughter (and the other three of my children) and notioned that it was his turn.

“Dear Jesus, thank you for Mommy and my sister and the big kids and Daddy. Thank you for Auntie Laura and Auntie Zelda and Auntie Chris and her kids, Noah, Sam and Gabe. Thank you for….” and the list went on. After thanking God for the entire world, nearly every animal on the planet, and every item in his room, I realized that he had opened a book. As he turned the pages in the book (also on animals) he thanked God for whatever he saw on each page. Really, he was stalling to keep me from leaving the room. The Mommy in me wanted to close the book, kiss him goodnight, and finally have my own time!

Suddenly my brain-train switched tracks. Actually, his idea was brilliant! How many times have I had a poopy day (literally and figuratively) and had the hardest time being thankful for anything? How easily I could pull just about any book of my shelf (with pictures, of course) and begin to choose thankfulness for whatever I see! What a great solution to the gratefulness-block!

As if that weren’t reason enough, I was reminded of an event at my local MOPS group. Karen Wood, a woman with much experience in the Psychology field, came and spoke with us about the human brain. She taught us that it is impossible for the human brain to be grateful AND complaining at the same time. Those two occur in very separate areas of the brain and therefore, can’t be done simultaneously. Equally, your brain can not worship and worry at the same time, for the same reason. (Or be grateful and worry or worship and complain).

Try it. The next time you are in a grumbling mood, stop and begin to be thankful for things. Your life. Air. Water. Whatever. The oxygen in your brain will begin to flow to the part that is required for gratitude. Beautiful!

With all of that in mind, my son’s choice to pull out a book and be thankful for its contents (when he’d depleted his own bank of items) inspired me to remember how important it is to choose gratitude. Its mind-transforming. Literally.


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