I know Thanksgiving’s over.
And now we’re on to decking the halls.  The walls.  The tree.  The door.  Whatever needs decking, I guess.

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But to be honest, I’m still trying to find thankful.  The groundhog days, the monotonous routines, the isolation, the constant demand of being needed:  It’s all I see lately.  Being in the trenches does that.  It limits your view.   There can be great things happening all around me, but I just don’t have eyes to see it.  All that I see is the pile of dirt that I happen to be shoveling (or another f-o-u-r letter pile, depending on what kind of day it is).

One day, Sean took the kids out of the house so that I could take a much needed nap, probably hoping that I’d wake up a different person.  I was being crabby, ornery, nit picky that morning.  It was day 3 of me being sick and I was frustrated since I wanted to be up and about doing things.  As he headed out the door, Sean said to me, “Just go to sleep, Rona.  Don’t clean anything.  Don’t touch anything.  Just go lay down and rest.”   I waved the white flag, and defeatedly crawled back into bed.

An hour later, I woke up and still heard no signs of life in the house.  What to do? What to do?  I made myself a coffee, bypassed the pile of dishes, and sat down at the computer to read some emails.  I clicked on a blog post by Ann Voskamp titled, The Grateful Christmas Project: 7 Ways to have more grateful kids this Christmas.  Too bad it’s not the kids I’m worried about, Ann.  How about 7 ways to have a more grateful mom?  So I started reading, and her first idea hooked me.

1. A “Gifts We Already Have” List
Hang a long paper on a wall, the fridge or back of the door to write down all the things you are grateful for.  Fill that list up before Christmas — a list of all the countless ways God blesses you all as a family.   The gateways into the holidays [holy-days] is always Thanksgiving.  “Enter into His presence through the gate of THANKSGIVING — and in His presence is fullness of JOY (Ps.100:4, Ps. 16:11) 

As I read that verse, I was sold.  I wanted Him.  I wanted His fullness of joy.  I shot right up after reading Ann’s post and went to the art closet to get that old 1980’s computer paper.  You’re days of use aren’t over yet, I said to that dusty box of paper.  And now as I write this, I think maybe He’s trying to say that to you and me too.  You’re days of use aren’t over yet either.   

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So here is my Finding Thankful list.
Notice the strategic placement of the marker tacked on the door.  It’s amazing how pens disappear around here at lightening speed.

And lest you give me more credit than I’m worth, this was not a “let’s try to focus on the real meaning of Christmas” activity just to make me feel like I was being a good Christian parent.  That cross on the door was not even intended.  In fact, I was just excited to tape the paper to the wall and call it good.  I was proud of myself!  But it looked so plain and white, so I thought I’d spruce it up a bit.  I found some red ribbon and those silver chunky letters.  I went to spell out the word THA- -FUL, and realized that I didn’t even have letters N and K.  Instead of getting frustrated, I looked at what I did have.  Maybe I should try that more often.  Looking at what I do have, rather than what I don’t.  I had a “W” that when cut in half, turned into an N.  And when I taped a “l” to half of an “X”, I had myself a “K”.

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Chalk it up for genius, or total ghetto.  But this smiling mama had begun to find T-H-A-N-K-F-U-L, literally.

The kids saw the Thankful List as the day went on, and I told them what it was for.  Let’s try to fill up the whole paper with things that we are thankful for throughout our day.  I bet we can do 100 things by the time Christmas comes!  And without missing a beat, my son responded excitedly, “Let’s do 1,000!”

Oh, the faith of a child.  Great idea, son, let’s do 1,000 things.  

We started filling the paper up with fun little happenings that I noticed throughout our days.  It wasn’t that hard really, finding things to be thankful for that are easy to be thankful for.  The feel of Juliette’s soft skin on her arm; waking up to a surprise snowfall; accepting Lily’s invitation to sit and color with her.  But how about the things that are hard to be thankful for?  Oh yeah, those just came rolling right off my tongue (hear my sarcasm).

We had a scare with our Lexie the other night.  She had a sudden spike in temperature due to teething and then getting sick from her mama’s cold.  Sean found her in her crib at the tail end of a febrile seizure.  Common in young children, later to find out, but in real time we thought our daughter was dying.

Thank you for my daughter’s seizure.  Not my first thought.  But then I said it.  Thank you for my daughter’s seizure in that a febrile seizure was all it was.  Thank you that I no longer will take for granted my daughter waking up from her nap, and for the very breath in all of our lungs.

Try it.  Say “thank you” for something that seems like it’s a chore, an annoyance, an obstacle.  How about this one I just said?  Thank you for my period.  For someone who went for 7 years with barely having any periods (the perks of being pregnant 6 times in 7 years), this was a hard one for me to be thankful for.  And instantly something came to my mind that I could be thankful for with having my period.  It means I could have children!  It means literally that I was made to be a mom.  Not that this changed the fact that I had the cramps and felt tired.  Wouldn’t that be grand?  Be thankful, and all your pain and problems go away.  Not quite though.  But it does help you to find purpose, goodness, and joy in harder things.

Thank you for the dirty dishes.  It means that my family got to eat lunch today.
Thank you that I hear Lexie crying.  It means she is alive. 

Finding thankfulness doesn’t mean you find yourself in different circumstances.  If it did, maybe the Psalm would read, “. . . and in His presence is a perfect world with no problems.”  But there are no tiny angels suddenly appearing to do my dishes.  And the crying continued around my ankles.  But something is changing in me: a willingness and a desire to keep going, keep doing the dishes and keep responding to my daughter’s cries.  Dish washer by day.  First responder by night.   That’s what His presence does.  It actually drives you back to that d-i-r-t pile, willingly.  Dare I say, joyfully.

Turns out Thanksgiving is not over.
Here’s to finding thankful.  Finding Him.  And Finding joy in the trenches.

 

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4 Responses to Finding Thankful

  1. RachelSarahN says:

    Profound! Thank you for sharing! John has said the same thing to me on his way out the door with the kids. Now to the pile of laundry that needs to folded and for which I am thankful!

  2. My dearest Rona, I am choking the tears as I type this. It is unspeakable joy to read this post. Knowing that I participated in your life which culminated that night at Saranac Lake when you decided to follow Jesus. The coolest part of reading this is seeing what a wonderful inspiring Christian woman you are! Speaking out to inspire women when you yourself are juggling a household of young children. I thank YOU for inspiring me to be thankful TODAY. God bless you my dear dear friend!

  3. Linda Cline says:

    You make me cry EVERY TIME. Thank you for your transparent life as a parent who loves wholeheartedly and is REAL. Loved this and love you and who you are. I guarantee you will 1) save that paper and have some lone bin somewhere filled with these yearly declarations that you swear you must save to mark these childhood years and 2) be doing the same thing 15 years from now when no one is crying at your ankles 🙂 P.S. GENIUS with the N and the K….proof positive that you are gifted with perseverance and tenacious faith, added with creativity and humor. You are inspiring! xoxo

  4. Jess Jensen says:

    I just started my own thankful list. This mama needs a new attitude as well. Fighting for joy is our new theme around here.

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