Living in Gratitude

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I don’t know about you, but I can be a complainer… I admit it. It is a flaw God often convicts me to work on. I creatively thrive in order, but have four tidy-challenged children that generate enough dirty dishes, clutter, and laundry to bury me on any given day.

Can you feel it? Summers in the air and it’s planning an attack on my serenity. I’m getting armed and ready. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of happy kids swimming in the pool, movies, and board games, but then reality hits with momma yelling at teenagers in pajamas at 2 p.m. to get dressed, “and for goodness sakes brush your teeth!” There are beach towels to wash, friends to feed, and as soon as I walk out of a clean kitchen, bam!, it’s a war zone again. I have to throw my head into the helmet of righteousness often when it comes to thankfulness, and seek out the help of my gratitude cultivators.

My first tool in my cultivation armory is the Bible.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (Thessalonians 5:16-18, English Standard Version) 

According to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians we must have a grateful heart in all circumstances in order to be in the will of the Father for our lives. 

Another cultivator I uncovered is in a bestseller called “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are,”  by Ann Voskamp. It is a memoir of Voskamp’s gratitude journaling. Every day she jotted down the tiniest of gratitudes; for example, the full moon’s light splattered across the field or the seed that brings forth miracles. It is boot training for the mind and heart to recognize the gift in ordinary things. Ann states, “Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.” Bullseye! I recommend this book if you struggle with gratitude, along with the practice of journaling what you’re thankful for.

One of the best contentment cultivators is in helping someone else that is dealing with a hardship. Have you ever noticed the ones who are brimming with contentment are the ones who give their time, energy, and resources to those in need? I had the privilege of taking care of my sister for a year while she received chemotherapy for breast cancer. One night, sitting on the porch, I grumbled God wasn’t giving us the miracle we were begging for. 

She glanced across the table. “Tammy, if God doesn’t heal me in this life, He will heal me in the next. Besides, if I can reach one person for Christ through my illness, it’ll all be worth it.” 

There was my miracle, maybe not packaged the way I wanted, but her contentment in the valley touched many for Christ. Three years after her passing, I’m still seeing how her life bled into others and changed them. 

Serve others. Jesus said the purest form of the gospel is caring for the widows and orphans. Maybe Jesus was telling us when you pour into someone else you will feel so blessed, you will rejoice over any situation and any loved ones (albeit messy) that God’s placed in your own life.

I have learned grumbling is contagious and limits my association with habitually discontented people. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have friends that complain, because that’s what we women do. We vent out our problems before giving each other advice, and conclude with a pat on the back and laugher over coffee. What I’m describing is the friend that sucks the life out of the girl lunch with her petty complaints and criticisms. This woman will plop her night vision goggles on you and send you to war. You’ll go home skeptically peering over your own life.

During my sister’s illness, I visited a girlfriend. She and her husband just purchased a vacation home; she was complaining she needed to get away and also felt it was time to move to a different state because she needed a change. I received all that in a few minutes of conversation. 

She sighed. “I’m just discontent right now. I’m not happy,” she said. It dawned on me I didn’t enjoy her company because of this very thing. She had the ultimate life, travel, sporty vehicle, vacation homes, great kids and husband, and it was never enough. I thought of my sister knowing she wouldn’t see her little girl grow up, and this friend wanted to uproot her family because she was bored. Surround yourself with friends grounded in contentment and you will find yourself inspired to be joyful in the midst of boredom. 

Come at me summer, fire away. I’m armed with scriptures, journaling, positive friendships, helping others, and I’ve got my helmet of righteousness that converts every negative thought into positive charges. Dirty dishes? God is so good to give us enough food to feed these hungry boys. Dirty laundry? Lord, thank you for providing clothes for my children to wear. Nasty teen boy breath? Well, turn up the helmet for that one and grab the toothbrush! 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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