Once upon a time we were friends with a family. There was a dad, a mom and they had kids – an average family in many ways. As our family spent time with their family we began to notice one glaring reality – the mom was a very, very, very unhappy person. She would grumble, whine and complain about everything, and when I say ‘everything’ I mean everything.
At first I thought she must just be having a few bad days, however, each time we were together it was the same story: She was woke up too early, the coffee was too strong, the sun was too bright, the shower wasn’t hot enough, her slippers were uncomfortable, there were too many people in the kitchen and on and on she went and that was all before 9:00am!
We were around them enough that we noticed that her husband attempted to appease her in every way: He did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom every evening after dinner, he bought her lovely things, he took her exotic places but her attitude was always the same. “The drive was too far, the music on the radio was too loud or the music on the radio was too soft, she was hungry, she was thirsty, the kids were asking her questions, the kids needed picking up and she didn’t feel like it because she was too tired because she didn’t get enough sleep”….and honestly it was wearying just listening to her. There was nothing that could or would make her happy. I loved her, but truthfully she was the most miserable lady I’ve ever known in my entire life.
The wild part was that all of the things that she bellyached about were not any big deal at all! They were life. Some days we do get shorter amounts of sleep, some days the coffee is stronger than normal, some days there isn’t any hot water left in the tank, some times our slippers don’t feel quite right, some times we feel like we’d like some space….but is any of that worth having people dread being around you? What does all that complaining do to our inner soul? What would have happened if she had chosen to focus on life through the eyes of thankfulness?
I can only imagine what her home would have been like if she had woke up and began with, “Thank you Lord for the soft bed I slept in! Thank you Lord that there is coffee to drink. Thank you Jesus that the sun is streaming in and it’s a new day that you have blessed me with. Thank you for these pretty slippers – they make me look like a princess! Thank you for my treasures who surround me – thank you that they are verbal and can ask me questions…so many people long for their special needs treasures to have the gift of being verbal, help me to not take that for granted. Thank you Lord for a hubby who willingly and cheerfully cleans up every night, he works so very hard all day and then he pampers me with cleaning the kitchen top to bottom after dinner!”
If she had chosen a posture of thankfulness, her home would have had a completely different tone. She would have brought joy to those around her instead of driving those around her away.
When we moved out of state we thought it would be nice to get together for the holidays. Our kids heard they were coming to spend a few days with us and one of our son’s look turned to dread as he questioned, “Is she coming too?” I stood in utter shock – I couldn’t believe it. He had noticed her miserable attitude so many times, knew her presence changed the entire atmosphere and although we all loved her husband dearly and loved their kids our son was dreading her chronic complaining, miserable, unthankful heart permeating our normally joyful holidays!
Years later our friends divorced and she told Dw and I that we could not be friends with both her ex and her, we would have to choose! Dw told her that we knew them both for many years, we were adults and we could be friends with both. She instantly deleted and blocked every one of us on everything – which was really no surprise. She was miserable and always had been.
All I could wonder was what would have happened if she had chosen thankfulness as a lifestyle? How would her life have turned out instead?
The truth is that we all have the opportunity to make a choice: grumble or be thankful, whine or be joyful, complain or celebrate! Thankfulness is a decision and it is actually a posture of the heart. Thankfulness can be chosen no matter our circumstances, nor our station in life, our socioeconomic place or our physical situation. There is no barrier to choosing thankfulness. But it is our choice! Not one person on the planet can stop us from being thankful! Not one!
In our home we regularly play “The Thankful Game”. We started it 35 years ago when Abigail was a baby. It always goes something like this, “Name 3 (or 5 or 10) things you’re thankful for.” And then we go around the room, the table, the car, wherever we are and start naming. Sometimes we add, “You cannot name anything someone has already named.” It seriously is a blast!!
Our kids have dreamed up some insightful things and it is always a joy to hear what they are thankful for – like – the joy of family, sisters, brothers, Ruby, Johnny’s finally home, Birdie’s beautiful eyes, wheelchair ramps, eyelashes that keep dust and particles out of our eyes, red barns with the flag painted beautifully on the side, farmers that grow crops for us to eat, tile/wood floors so we don’t have to have a dirt floor, ponds to splash in, balloons, dairy farmers, chairs, spectacular flowers, screens on windows, gluten free options at stores, our pool, living in Phoenix, eyes that can see the spectacular mountain views, long boards, legs that work, doctors, bunk beds, paint, FaceTime…God has blessed us so much – no doubt far more than we’ve ever deserved and we all have so much to be grateful for!
Ruby even plays The Thankful Game!! I remind her aloud of each thing she is thankful for…”Your pink wheelchair, Emma, Josh and Teddy were just home, we have a bathtub to take baths in and you know how you love your baths!” She squeals with joy! Yes, even Ruby has oodles and oodles to be thankful for.
Just the other day we were having some friction as we drove in the car and I suggested that a certain husband seemed to be needing to play the thankful game. But he wasn’t really feelin’ it and he was quite certain that *I* needed to play the Thankful Game! So he turned toward me and questioned, “Why don’t you name the things you’re thankful for?” I started rattling off a long, out-of-the-box list as fast as I could talk…and before long we were both laughing!! Yes, being thankful changes the whole attitude of life.
And you know friends, it’s funny how life works sometimes…Dw left at 5:10 am this morning to go to work. After spending my time with the Lord I began typing this post. Jubilee was the first one up and after coming downstairs she went to say Good Morning to Birdie and Ruby. Jubilee then came back to me and said, “Birdie poop everywhere – all over!” I literally laughed out loud. Of course she did.
This is not the first time and probably won’t be the last time, but in the middle of a post about thankfulness I knew this was a reality check for my own soul. Because friends I don’t really feel like cleaning up poop from all over her crib, her sheet or her. Nope I don’t cause actually I’ve done a lot of “poop duty” over the years. But it still is my choice to be truly thankful and I knew that my decision to choose thankfulness would influence my entire day with my kids!
So I began, before even entering Birdie and Ruby’s room, praising out loud, “Thank you Lord that Birdie is home and that instead of caregivers who don’t like her or wish she didn’t exist, she is home. She has a mommy and daddy who love her, poop everywhere and all. Thank you for the pretty sheet (although it is not too pretty right at the moment)…thank you for a washing machine and beautiful essential oils that will remove the unpleasantness of it all…”
And friends the morning has progressed beautifully. Birdie happily played in the tub, the mess is gone, the crib has been scrubbed, the room smells of Thieves cleaner and life is “gooder-than-good”. Today’s going to be an amazing day because we all have so much to be grateful for!