First off, can I just tell you that I actually smiled about the toast-throwing episode? Not because it’s funny necessarily, but because I love that all moms, even the ones I esteem greatly, have moments where their children aren’t acting ideally. Can I get an Amen on that one? I know it’s a sidebar to the rest of the chapter, but I for one settled into my chair a little more comfortably as I imagined a scene, miles and miles away on a farm in Canada, that looked a whole lot like one of my days.
We aren’t so different, are we?
And what a challenge it is to express gratitude in the midst of these little pockets of frustration, where yes, it’s toast, but also it’s about us. It’s the nagging voice that wants us to believe we have failed at something God has called us to do, be, or live out, and it isn’t our first inclination to go to Him in praise. It might not be toast, and it might not be Ann’s kitchen, but it is the same heart that beats in all of our fleshly bodies. Longing to be a woman of God and yet pressed hard against the stark reality that life is often ugly.
As Ann so eloquently says, “How do I live the holy vision in this mess? How do I see grace, give thanks, find joy in this sin-stinking place?” (p.125)
This sentence resonates deep within me as I consider all the ways I fail at giving thanks, instead reverting to my initial reaction in those moments, and I love how Ann says, “Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love?” (p.126)
Anger feels so powerful, doesn’t it? Like it’s the one thing that will bring the intensity needed to cope with whatever is happening. It seems so, but in reality we have the opportunity many times a day to forego the anger, frustration, and disappointment in exchange for pure joy through improbable gratitude.
I will share with you something that I have been working on to flesh this out in my own life. I have noticed that day after day the same events happen, and each day I act like I’m surprised that the laundry never got done, or that there is toothpaste all over the girl’s sink, or that it is going to take 45 minutes at the very least to try and prepare to leave the house. My eyes see the dog hair gathering in the foyer, the buzzer for the soup ringing in the kitchen, and two of my girls bickering over a doll. It feels new every time, doesn’t it? Like you got sucker punched over and over again.
So, here’s what I have begun to do. I make a list of the things that will most likely push me to my limit that day. I literally write out all of the circumstances that will arise either with my children, Todd, my house, or any other situation, and I write them down on a piece of paper. Next to the list of scenarios, I list the way I would like to react. I think through specific things I can say instead of snapping, and ways to make gratitude seep through my reactions. For example, on my list says:
1. Kate will be dissatisfied with whatever bowl I suggest for morning oatmeal. I will try and remember that it makes her feel special when she gets the one she got to choose. I will stay calm and wait for her to choose, and then I will tell her how grateful I am to have a daughter who gets so excited over making a choice. Thank you Jesus that she is a girl who speaks her mind-please continue to shape her into the woman you dreamed her to be.
2. The girls with start to complain when school starts, and they will drag their feet (which usually ends with me raising my voice) and dawdling as long as possible before coming to the table with sulky faces. Today, when I am up against this challenge, I will set a timer and let them know that I expect them to be sitting and prepared when it goes off. I will tell them how grateful I am to have such smart daughters who challenge me to grow. God despite this momentary irritation, I am so incredibly honored to be able to home school my kids. (And so on…)
I don’t know what it is about writing all this, but for me it really helps. I’m going to go back and add Bible verses as well that relate to whatever the issue at hand is.
So for me this week, I would say my “seed” is the identification of moments that are perpetual joy-stealers. I am going to nurture this gap by making notes and using those to refer to instead of my knee-jerk reaction. I am hoping that the bloom part will be that I will have more patience through the anticipation, and that my reactions will more closely approximate the way the Lord calls me to love my children.
What are the small ways you are challenged to veer away from gratitude? It can be anything from dirty floors and piles of laundry to scheduling difficulties or dissatisfaction over a work situation For those of you who would like to share, I sure would love for you to write them here in the comments so we can pray for you. We’re in it together, friends; we would love a glimpse into your lives so we can be praying for you all…