Over the past few months I have been slowly reading through Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. There is so much to take in! What other way to read it, BUT slowly? My thoughts have struggled to process how thankfulness gets pounded out in my everyday life. And with my life as a mom of three preschoolers, where and how can I put this on tangible display for them?
Now, I am not really talking about the thankfulness that gets churned up because it is the month of November. I am talking about the thankfulness that is eye-opening to the life around us. The thankfulness that changes negative words into more than just positivity, but into clear, reliable God-truth. The thankfulness that smothers the fiery arrows of the Evil One and chases the dark-as-night fears away. The thankfulness that breeds prayers full of God’s promises, peace that cannot be explained, and joy that might at any moment burst forth in either dancing, singing, tears or all of the above.
Thankfulness. Not just thanksgiving, but “thanksliving.”
An unknown author once said, “Thanksgiving is a good thing; thanksliving is better.”
I don’t know about you, but finding the “better” in life seems to be an unwritten expectation in motherhood. Be it the better price at the grocery store, the better recipe, the better method of disciplining, the better eco-friendly, financially savvy, “granola” loving method of cleaning, doctoring, feeding, and decorating my household.
Finding the better often leads me to one of two extremes: “Big Fat Failing Mom” or “Snobby Supermom.” Neither of which are desired outcomes.
Though my mind can distort thanksliving into some unreachable utopian state, it is by far a simple way of focusing our Spirit-eyes to the glory and activity of God around us. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am by no means Ann Voskamp. There is no list or photographs of grated cheese. No farmer’s wife tales, moon chases, or daydream enlightenment here. For me, right now, thanksliving is about my mouth — about my mouth being an instrument of praise; a repeating song of the wonders of the Lord at work in my life.
I come to your altar, O LORD, singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all your wonders. (Psalms 26:6b, 7 NLT)
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and ever, praising your greatness from generation to generation. (Psalms 79:13 NLT)
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever! (Psalms 30:11, 12 NLT)
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)
So, how in this crazy busy, ever-changing, no time alone world do we begin to renew our minds towards a “thanksliving HEARTset?”
In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Voskamp states,“The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach, because who can bring peace unless they’ve held their own peace? Christ incarnated in the parent is the only hope of incarnating Christ in the child.”
Since it seems “more is caught than taught,” I must speak out loud the aspects in my life that can be given back to God through thanksgiving. Our children are always watching. Whether it be a huff, a groan, or a furrowed brow, they know when frustration and disappointment even so slightly jolt our world. Like the hunger pains and stomach growls during fasting are easy reminders to turn to the Lord in prayer, these “huff moments” are reminders to speak out loud what thanksliving looks like. Those huff moments, even when nothing is said, SAY something. They teach what is valuable or what is worth damaging and throwing away, whether we intended that or not.
Let me share an example that happens on a weekly, if not daily, basis in our house. Getting three small kids dressed and out the door is not only a time consuming escapade, but often a full-out sweaty mess. It is very likely that during this circus act, at least one kid is going to spill apple juice all over the floor, or go to the bathroom only to come out with all bottom half garments in hand, instead of in their rightful place. I am by no means a perfect mom. I am not a perky, bubbly, glass-half-full type mom either. Those crunch time spills and second time around wardrobe replacements can bring out an ugly, dragon-like “UGH!” and regrettably sometimes more.
Catching those responses before they exit my mouth is difficult, but what I do next is just as important. If my response is just gritting my teeth and leaving silence to sit and gloom, my child might learn through shame, that my love and even my happiness are dependent on their perfection. Or perhaps, if my response includes frustrated words of concern over ruined clothes or wasted time, would it not teach that material items are to be valued over people?
When those “huff moments” arise, I want to encourage you to take the opportunity to give thanks for the life you have been given, OUT LOUD. It is extremely hard, nay impossible, to speak with a nasty voice and praise the Lord with our words at the same time. Make a choice today to turn each huff into a reminder, so that our children might see a God-focus that is renewing our homes into an atmosphere of thanksliving.
“One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.” -Saint John of Avila
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