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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

Name Five Things You're Thankful For

Do you ever think back to how things looked to you when you were little? Do you remember how giant certain objects or spaces seemed to be? And now that you’re older, those same objects and spaces are perfectly normal sizes, because you are looking at them through the lens of someone who is older and taller, right?

It can be hard to remember how we used to see things when we were small. But every once in a while, an image will randomly pop into my mind of how I used to see a space when I was young. My parents’ bedroom is a perfect example – though I am totally used to seeing it as it appears to me now, there are times when a memory will flash through my mind of how it looked to me when I was a little girl. It was absolutely huge to me. Almost cavernous. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a big bedroom. My Mama and Daddy knew what they were doing when they bought that house and turned the garage into a spacious bedroom. But the way I remember seeing it then and the way it appears to me now seem like two different spaces.

It’s just a matter of seeing things from a different perspective. The way my young eyes and mind perceived things when I was small is far different from how they perceive things now. I am older. I am taller. I have seen more things, been in more large spaces, been introduced to different kinds of environments. I have also probably started to take for granted the things that used to fill me with awe and wonder when I was young.

I think gratitude works in much the same way. The amount of gratitude that we feel at any given time typically depends on our perspective. Are we in awe and wonder of something new and shiny that makes us feel warm, fuzzy and oh-so-thankful? Or are we burned out on a situation that we have begun to take for granted? Maybe it was a new, shiny thing at one time and now its flavor has grown stale to us, and we find ourselves starting to resent the very thing that once made us so happy.

Or maybe it’s a thing that we’ve never actually had before but we think we’ve always wanted. Or a thing that we’ve watched all our friends get to have but for some reason that thing hasn’t come to us yet. It’s all we can focus on. It’s all we can see. It strips us of our gratitude for all the good things that we do have in our lives, because the only thing we’re staring at is the thing we don’t have.

I’ll be honest with you. We deal with this situation in our house fairly often. If we were having deep soul confession hour, I would share with you that my husband and I have an only child that we love to spoil. We love to buy him new Thomas & Friends trains because we know how excited he will be to get them. We were so pumped for him to get his very first big boy model train set for Christmas, because it’s all he’s been able to talk about for a full calendar year.

But friends, we’ve started to notice something about our boy as he gets older and starts acquiring more stuff. Every time he receives a new toy, he is over the moon about it…for a day or two. And then that shiny new toy starts to fade into the background of the playroom that’s overflowing with all the other toys that he used to be so thrilled about and now takes for granted. And we’re back to wanting more stuff.

In an effort to meet this problem head-on, I started inviting Brooks to help me write in my gratitude journal at night. We sit on the couch together, wrapped up in a soft blanket and usually under an animal or two, and we take turns naming things that we are thankful for that day. The list isn’t always particularly deep or meaningful – sometimes I’ll say my fluffy robe and he’ll say the Santa Fe Super Chief. But the point is that we’re focusing on the good things we already have in our lives and expressing our gratitude for them.

This nightly routine is meant to be a preventative exercise, done in an effort to keep away thoughts that focus more on the things we wish we had. But without fail, once or twice a week, we end up having a come-to-Jesus conversation about selfishness. And in place of harsh words that I’ll later regret saying to my precious offspring, I have started to loudly say: “Name five things you’re grateful for right now!” And everything stops in our house until my little man rattles off five things he’s thankful for in that very moment. It (hopefully) shifts his perspective. It redirects him a bit. It sets his mind on the many good things that are already his.

And now here’s the real truth. The actual deep soul confession that goes to a place that I don’t always like to go. It’s easy to spot the selfishness and lack of gratitude in my four-year-old son. But then Mama looks in the mirror and realizes she needs to name five things she’s thankful for about a hundred times a day. Because my thoughts, words and actions don’t reflect a heart of gratitude nearly as often as they should.

I am stubborn and impatient. I have such a tendency to skip right over the incredible blessings that have been poured into my life and fix my mind on the things that I want to happen. And friends…there are a lot of things that I want to make happen. My grand plans have been known to look like this: my husband and I working full-time jobs, starting a few side businesses, having another baby, adopting yet another baby, bringing home a stray dog and a couple of stray cats and oh by the way, let’s remodel the upstairs.

Thank God for His mercy and timing, for my husband’s logic and patience and for the power of my praying Mama. Lord only knows the trouble I have brought on myself that that woman has prayed away.

If left to my own devices, I am a wrecking ball. But learning to practice intentional gratitude is teaching me a new way. There is always, always something to be thankful for. And I promise you, no matter what you’re facing right now, there are at least five things that you can name to be thankful for. Try it. Write them down. I’m willing to bet that it will make you see your situation differently. It might not happen overnight – Lord knows it hasn’t worked that way for me. But I keep reading and learning and listening and writing…and I’m slowly starting to get it.

The message that has been in front of me the most lately is a message to wait. To slow down and soak in this season that I’m in, and to be grateful for it. My flesh tells me to sprint into a new season, and when certain doors don’t open, I don’t always understand. But seemingly everywhere I turn lately, messages of learning how to wait well are finding me. Here’s one of my favorites from this past week – it’s from Lysa TerKeurst’s “Embraced”devotional, and she’s teaching us what all we can learn from the olive tree.

“Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it, its bitterness would make you sick. For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes: washing, breaking, soaking, sometimes salting, and waiting some more. It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness and prepared for usefulness. If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well…the process of being cured.”

Ah. So maybe it’s me. Maybe the blessing that I can’t see is that I’m not being allowed to step into the next season because I’m not ready. I need to put the work in, and allow the work to be done in me, that will prepare me for that next season. Or maybe the season that I think is next isn’t actually what’s next. Maybe my Creator has something far better planned for my life – something that my finite brain can’t even comprehend right now. Or maybe – and here’s where it gets tough, y’all – maybe it ain’t all about me, my seasons and what I want. Maybe I need to work harder on my servant heart and look for ways to bless others in the seasons they are in. Hello. Now I’m really starting to get it.

Shifting my perspective in this way and deciding to see through the lens of gratitude makes everything look so different. My daily assignments aren’t quite so much of a chore; they are a gift. They are preparing me for whatever it is that’s next, and they are giving me an opportunity to bless others. This knowledge helps me wait well. And it makes me so very thankful. Maybe this new perspective will be at the top of my list tonight when I write down the things I’m thankful for. Followed closely of course by my pink fluffy robe.


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