Tempted to be Grateful (Thanks {Dad})!

Gratitude.

Not a new concept. Not even a new writing topic of mine.

Yet here I am, pondering its importance again.

Not because everything is going perfectly and beyond my wildest dreams…

Not because I’m gushing.

But because I’m tempted.

Tempted to be stressed by the 40+ boxes in my basement… filled with things that need a place to belong.

Tempted to be frustrated with the daily rigor and drain of training up my children in the way that they should go… especially when they don’t want to go.

Tempted to cry over mangled boxes and broken glass.

Tempted to be discouraged that we don’t have a vehicle.

Tempted to run far far from the laundry pile.

🙂

Tempted to grumble and complain.

Then I look out my window and the day is beautiful. Birds flit from tree to flower to post. Rays of sun warm cold skin. Creations lifts its arms and stretches with such vibrancy I can’t help but pause, breathe deeply, and smile.

And everything else fades away.

The boxes, the glass, the laundry.

And I’m grateful. I’m grateful because all of these things are purposed… unsuspected gifts that enter our lives disguised as inconvenience.

But each circumstance, no matter how it draws us in to its negativity, is really an opportunity.

An opportunity to choose our attitude. To decide that we are the masters of our emotions… not the situations around us. I can begrudge the clothes to wash… or be deeply grateful for the little bodies who dirty those clothes… who live life fully, albeit in the dirt. 🙂

Gratitude doesn’t only flow on a good day.

It’s abundant on the hard ones too.

Confession: You’ll be surprised perhaps 🙂 but all of this gratitude-inspired living I learned from my dad.

He taught me about choice. Free will. That I can blame-shift… but that doesn’t lift the spirit.

He taught me about the brain’s design… and how it’s impossible to worry and be grateful at the same time. Impossible.

He taught me the power of being grateful… that a switch in attitude lightens the entire episode… so that it’s not as dismal and dreary, regardless of the situation. 

Imagine living a life free of frustration, negativity, and stress.

All because you chose to be grateful for something. Anything. Everything.

This is not often easy. Remembering that it’s an option is the first challenge. Choosing it is the next. But once the choice is made… there is not regret. Only a heart filled with pleasure and joy of recalling all things good… naming them, receiving them again, as gifts, and letting all else pale in comparison.

This is the hope I choose.

Because my dad taught me to give thanks in all circumstances.

Try it and see how your life is transformed… without a single altered circumstance.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

To learn more about 31 Days in 2012 or view other 31 Dayers blogs, click here.

I’m spending 31 days writing about my confessions and the lessons {Dad} has taught me. This is day 21 of 31 Days in 2012.

Transformational Thanksgiving

I have been the child who yelled out the injustices of my upbringing to a closed door- half hoping my parents heard what I really had to say, and half mortified that they might actually hear what I had to say.

The tables have turned.

I am now the parent on the other side of that door with a ranting child, loudly sharing opinions on fairness and right-parenting, proclaiming small-person authority to make the world right… at least in their own mind.

Thus, this post.

A week or so ago, one of my children was found in the midst of some natural consequences spawned by poor choices. This was evident to all, including to my child. Knowing that this “suffering” was the result of personal decisions was not enough to prevent the rant. My child went to their room, closed the door, and loudly began to whine about the many years of injustice, “like that time that dad…” and “It’s just not fair that…”

Remember that mingled feeling of mortification and glee that your actual thoughts might be heard? They’d been heard.

I opened the door.

“Really? You’re in this situation because of ‘the time that Dad…’? Oh no. If you want to throw a fit, throw a fit that sounds like this: ‘AH Man! Why didn’t I listen to Mom this morning when she warned me about the choices I was making?! BLAST! Why did I rush through that chore and leave it a mess? I wouldn’t be here right now if I’d only…’ THAT’S the fit you should be throwing!”

Silence.

Mortification.

Glee?

I closed the door and stood outside silently.

This child began again. Softly. Not taking my advice on the responsibility-claiming fit that I’d suggested. I wanted to run in there, throw my own fit, and force this mind to grasp the concept! Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and MOVE ON! Don’t find ways to blame it on everyone else! But alas, I knew my approach would not help.

Then it struck me.

Gratitude.

I learned a year or so ago that your brain can not possibly be anxious and grateful at the same time. Those two emotions occur in opposite sides of our brain and fight each other for the oxygen they need to function. This is also true for worry and worship. Can’t do them at the same time. Essentially, when you choose to be grateful, you join the tug-of-war in your brain in a battle-winning kind of way. You help drag the oxygen away from the worrying part of your brain and being grateful becomes easier. Oh believe me, the first seconds are a serious challenge- but the more oxygen that arrives, the easier gratitude will be.

All of this information came rushing back to me as I thought of my child- a child stuck in the ugly part of the brain. The only way I could effectively help this one get un-stuck would be to get ’em thinking gratefully.

I walked back in.

“Okay… you haven’t taken my advice on the kind of fit you should throw, right?” Shakes head. “Then I have a new assignment for you. I want you to write a list of fifty reasons that you are grateful for your dad. Let me know when you are done.”

Door closed.

This is what I got. (Click to enlarge)

No more ranting. No more raving. A heart changed. Gifts listed that my child is able to claim and name. Suddenly memories of a childhood not exclusively unjust (according to them) but fun trips, special outings, gifts, moments in time worth recapturing. And my child truly is grateful. SO grateful, that the paper is turned over and words are written that I wanted to hear from the beginning.

Gratitude.

It changes hearts. It changes minds. It changes lives.

Are there areas in your life that seem entirely bleak? Or other areas that cause in you the kind of worry and anxiety that lead to health or emotional disruptions?

Choose thankfulness.

And get your kids to choose thankfulness too!

*For a great book on how gratitude can change your life, read Ann Voskamp’s “1000 Gifts.”

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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