Attitude of Gratitude
by Chelsy Helmick
Tis the season for gratitude. Or so I was reminded on Sunday evening when I called
Amanda and said, “I’m not really sure what to talk about this Thursday [for our mom's group]," and she said, “how about something that has to do with gratitude since it’s November.” Duh! Yes, of course! Cue crickets chirping. It turns out I’m not in the habit of practicing gratitude and no doubt this lack of intentional gratitude is affecting my attitude. Amanda’s suggestion to focus on gratitude was harder than I expected… so here we are. This challenge to focus on gratitude has opened my
eyes and reminded me that for myself (and probably some of you) and most likely for our children,
giving thanks and showing gratitude may be something we regularly overlook as we take for
granted all the blessings we experience on a daily basis.
A quote (or rather a question) popped in my mind this week, and I think it’s from Max
Lucado that asks “What if the only things we had today were the things we thanked God for
yesterday?” Yikes. There are so, so many things I haven’t thanked God for EVER let alone daily. And what may be worse than not saying “thank you” is probably complaining about those very things.
Instead of saying, “Thanks for our home,” I say, “Geeze, it’s always a mess.”
Instead of saying, “Thanks for my 2 beautiful kids,” I say, “These kiddos are diving me crazy.”
“Ugh, I’ve got to get gas again,” instead of, “Thanks for a reliable car.”
“I don’t want to go to work,” instead of, “Thanks for a good job.”
“I’m tired,” instead of, “Thanks that I’m healthy.”
And these are just the physical, kind of superficial things that don’t even attempt to tap into
Ephesians 1:3 that tells us “God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." That list would be impossible to complete.
How many of you can relate to this experience as parents… we are gracious with our kids
and bend over backwards for them just to see them smile and show them that we love them. And
it certainly doesn’t have to be by buying them something. It could be as simple (yet as urgent and
profound) as playing a game with them, cooking their favorite meal, or taking them to their
favorite playground. A back rub. A warm bath. Their favorite TV show and a bag of popcorn.
Maybe even a new toy. We expect that they will notice and appreciate our efforts and the sacrifices that we make to put them first, but instead, we’re met with sibling rivalry, complaining, or the dreaded tantrum. Worse than not saying “thank you” is the behaviors we see in them that tempt us to want to label them …“ungrateful brats”. Maybe that term hasn’t made it from your heart to your mouth, but surely you’ve thought it… right?
Take for instance our most recent Target excursion. We went as a family of four. I told Jarrett I wanted to try on a pair of jeans (lie #1… we all know a woman never tries on just one pair. That’s crazy talk.) 7 pairs of pants later, I realized I’d rather shop in the fitness section of Target. And not necessarily because I plan to work out (lie #2), but because the fitness section and the stretchy pajama pants section are in the same area. I got the text “We’re checking out," so I made my way (empty-handed) to the checkout line. As I examined what was in the cart my husband had been pushing around, I noticed some essentials... but I also noticed the toys. My son had picked out a single monster truck… ok, I’m good with that. No problem. But my daughter… my daughter had picked out a 9 piece Peppa Pig family set with carrying case. I made eye contact with my husband and asked him, “You know how much that costs?” and he responded that she had picked it up off a random shelf so he wasn’t sure of the price. So, we did what any logical parent would do, and we started placing bets. Have you ever played the check out game? We both made a deal that whoever’s guess was closest to the actual price of the item would get a reward of their choosing. I guessed the 9 piece Peppa Pig family set with carrying case was $24.99 and if I was the closest, I’d get a back rub. Jarrett’s guess was also in the $24.99 price range and his reward was probably something more laughable. So we agreed to each other’s reward suggestion (lie #3).
So, does anyone want to guess the price of the Peppa pig set... $31.49… $31.49 is way too expensive for a mid -week Target run, but I wasn’t paying. And by the way, I won’t brag about who won the bet, but I did enjoy my back rub.
Now, one could argue that we need to teach our children how to handle being told “no". And I agree. But we also learned that when our kids pick up a toy on a random shelf, there’s probably a reason why said toy is conveniently misplaced. And it wasn’t for our convenience. I didn’t dust for fingerprints, but my mom-detective skills tell me that the 9 piece Peppa Pig family set with carrying case was placed on a random shelf by a mom way smarter than us. Chances are, she outsmarted her child who wasn’t looking and slid the overpriced pig family between some fitted sheets and decorative throw pillows. Out of sight, out of mind. Until the next unsuspecting customer with a feisty 2 year old falls prey to this unfortunately misplaced toy.
But I can’t complain or criticize this mom’s decision, because I’m sure there has been at least
one other family whose child has picked up a “misplaced” toy I’ve shoved onto a random shelf
in an attempt to avoid the meltdown. And I’m in no way saying this is the right thing to do… It’s
just what I do. Sometimes. Not often, I promise. I do use the word “no” and actually have a
strategy where when my kids see something at the store that they want, I take a picture of it on
my phone and add it to their Christmas/birthday wish list. And I do feel guilty putting items on
shelves where they clearly don’t belong, but it brings to mind the verse from 1 Peter 4:8 “Love
covers a multitude of sin." And since God is love, I believe He extends grace to the Target mom
who is just trying to pick up toilet paper and a loaf of bread and avoid making a scene.
So, we check out and get back in the car. My son opens his monster truck. We free all of
the Peppa Pig family from their plastic jail and put them in the carrying case. All is well… until
it isn’t. My daughter starts screaming and crying about how the carrying case isn’t closing and
blah, blah, blah. I’m sure she’ll calm down soon... when pigs fly. And as I listen to the whining
and turn around in my seat to see how in the world I can possibly help, the phrase crosses my
mind. Ungrateful brat. Not that she was intentionally trying to be an ungrateful brat… but she
also wasn’t trying to be intentionally grateful either. We just spent $31.49 on a toy and never
even heard thank you. Instead, this. Maybe it would have been better to save the $31.49 and hear the meltdown inside Target. To offend the public instead of our bank account.
The point of this illustration is to reflect on the many ways I’ve acted like an ungrateful
brat as my heavenly father pours out his goodness and faithfulness and mercy and grace on me
and on my family time and time again. God hands me a blessing and longs for my heart to thank
him (and really not for His benefit, but for mine), and I curse my blessings. And for that, I am
sorry. Because if I only had today what I thanked God for yesterday, I’d be walking around
empty handed and empty hearted. I’d have no home, no car, no family, no money, no job, no
health… and certainly no Peppa Pig family set. I’d have no fond memories of people and places
that have blessed my life, no favorite song or favorite meal. No warmth from the sun or air for
my lungs. No voice to speak and no ears to hear the sweetest words coming from little voices
that say, “I love you, mommy”. If God wasn’t constantly and consistently good, I’d have no
forgiveness from sin, no promise of eternity. No fruit of His spirit, no armor of God.
In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp asks the question, "What if the height of our joy is equal to the height of our gratitude?" How deep we thank is how high we soar. We acknowledge the miracle and overflow with joy. The joy of the Lord that is our strength. In the song "Million Little Miracles" by Elevation and Maverick City, the lyrics say:
"All my life, I've been carried by grace Don't ask me how 'cause I can't explain It's nothing short of a miracle I'm here
I've got some blessings that I don't deserve I've got some scars, but that's how you learn It's nothing short of a miracle I'm here
I think it over and it doesn't add up I know it comes from above
I've got miracles on miracles A million little miracles Miracles on miracles Count your miracles One, two, three, four, I can't even count 'em all
You held me steady so I wouldn't give up You opened doors that nobody could shut I hope I never get over what You've done
I wanna live with an open heart I wanna live like I know who You are I hope I never get over what You've done
It's not coincidence and it's not luck I know it comes from above
I've got miracles on miracles A million little miracles Miracles on miracles Count your miracles One, two, three, four, I can't even count 'em all"
There are a million miracles we could make a conscious effort to be thankful for. My favorite line from the song is "I hope I never get over what you've done," because I know the ashes God has pulled me from. So even on days when I'm feeling crabby and less than grateful, there are some unchanging truths about what (or should I say Who) matters most.
In a sermon from Priscilla Shirer, called "Who's Your Daddy?" Find it here. She shares these words about our God:
"He is the First and the Last
The Beginning and the End
He is the Keeper of Creation
And Creator of all! He is the Architect of the universe
and the Manager of all time
He always was,
always will be
and Never undone!
He was bruised, but brought healing
He was pierced, but eased pain He was persecuted, but brought freedom
He was dead and brings life He is risen to bring power
and He reigns to bring peace
The world can’t understand Him
Armies can’t defeat Him Schools can’t explain Him
and leaders can’t ignore Him
Herod couldn’t kill Him
Nero couldn’t crush Him The new age can’t replace Him
and Oprah cannot explain Him away
He is Light,
He is Love,
He is Longevity,
and He is Lord
He is Goodness
and He is God
He is Holy,
His ways are right
His Word is eternal His will is unchanging
and His mind is on us
He is our Savior, Our Guide
Our Peace Our Joy
Our Comfort Our Lord
and He rules our lives
I serve Him because
His bond is love
His yoke is easy His burden is light
and His goal for us is abundant life"
And that is more than enough to be thankful for. And I'm sure that God has had more than enough opportunities to call me (or my kids) an ungrateful brat... except that one translation of Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the thoughts that I think of toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Psalm 139 includes these verses:
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
The cannot be numbered!
I can't even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
His thoughts toward us are always good. He is God, I am not... and as a mom, my thoughts toward my kids are not always good. The Peppa Pig meltdown in the car seemed like the behavior of an ungrateful brat... Takes one to know one. Maybe I expected that because we bought her something she would be overjoyed and have a thankful heart. Instead, frustration go the best of her. Money can't buy happiness. It can't buy gratitude either.
When I've spent $31.49 on toy pigs, God has sacrificed His only Son. For me. For my daughter. For you. For your kids. When I try to prove my love for my family by treating them to a new toy, "God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Christ died for us when we weren't at our best. Right in the middle of a Target meltdown. While we were acting like ungrateful brats. He didn't say, "If you behave, I'll buy you a new toy." Instead He said, I'm going to offer you a gift, even when you're at your worst. In the middle of my fit throwing, He threw Himself on a cross.
As moms, we expect and hope for gratitude from our kids. And I believe God expects the same from us. In 1 Thessalonians 5, it says, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." It doesn't say necessarily to give thanks FOR our circumstances but IN our circumstances. Psalm 50:14 says, "Let THANKFULNESS be your sacrifice." Gratitude is a choice, and sometimes it's a sacrifice. It may take everything in us to utter the words "Thank you, God," but when we muster up the courage to praise Him in the storm, we please the heart of our Father. When we sow seeds of gratitude, we'll reap a thankful heart. We'll cultivate gratitude and thankfulness in our lives as well as serving as a model to our
children and family and friends. And our light will shine.
As we enter into the season of giving thanks, (and PS Thanksgiving is fast approaching!) I'm reminded of Proverbs 22:6 that it is my duty to raise my children in the way that they should go... to train them, to direct them. And the best way I know to do that is to model it. Let's spend the month of November being thankful for our blessings (even if the living ones act like ungrateful brats) because Jesus has been kind to us when we've acted the same way.
I recently purchased this activity to help my family and I practice gratitude daily. You can find it here.