Making Gratitude a habit (Our 24 Family Ways #9) & Podcast

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"We are thankful for what we have, whether it is a little or a lot."

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

I Thess. 5:16-18

Joel, my wonderful oldest son, celebrates his birthday today.

I love to celebrate him because he is such a gift to his mama. He is talented in so many ways. (His new Christmas album is utterly amazing! You will love it.) By God’s grace, Joel has become such an gifted and articulate theologian and creative writer. He has shouldered so many projects with me, encouraged me along so many of my paths and be the very best and truest of friends. Yet, he is also the “helper” guy of our family.If something needs fixing or if Clay and I need help on the internet or if an errand needs to be done, he is there. I know we have probably all abused him because he is so willing to do whatever any of us asks. I am deeply thankful for the gift of “Joel” and am so very privileged to be with him today. He brings me so much joy.

As I was thinking about him this week, I remembered his birth. We were living in Austria in a very tiny, old little cottage. It was quite small and the rain poured in through one of our walls every time it rained. We had pigeons regularly nesting in our attic just above our bedroom because of the hole in the roof. (We named one of the pigeons, Walter, after the actor, because Sarah as a 2 1/2 year old would scream with delight—”Mama, listen, I think Walter is back.”

We had very small quarters and a sweet friend, a young woman, was living with us but was quite depressed. That year, we had walls of snow, literally, as it was below 32 degrees for 3 weeks straight.

Yet, I was to learn one of my best lessons of life. I learned day by day, to be happy that I had a home, even though it was quite flawed, and have the sweetest memories of my toddler Sarah delighting me every day and Joel, the boy I had prayed for cooing and smiling from cheek to cheek. My joy was full.

I find I am so very happy here for reasons that are deeply satisfying to my soul. I love being able to be down the street from my very first grandchild and care for her each week. I love interacting and living near several of my children and being inspired by what they tell me they are learning.

I have found such spiritual and soul filing relationships with women who are hungry for training, encouragement, help in their journey’s as women who love God. I love being a small part of helping them in their walk with God.

Even though I miss home and I miss Clay, this year is a gift in many ways and being grateful for what I do have makes it a blessed place.

A grateful heart sees the fingerprints of God in normal every day circumstances, be they great or challenging.

My children learned this lesson many years ago when they were tiny. I thought they needed the “more” that this materialistic culture persuades me they must have. But life taught me that they could be quite content with the basic needs of love given, mental, spiritual and emotional life provided and a home where meals were celebrated every day. I hope this will encourage you today.

Many years ago, as a young, idealistic mama, I wanted to provide my children with all the best experiences, opportunities, books, toys, bikes, lessons--all the things we all feel pressured to provide for our children. When we started Wholeheart Ministries, though, we moved to a tiny country town, lived with my mother-in-law, and got by on a negligible salary for several years.

Shopping at Goodwill was the way to go, as we could not afford department stores. Spending at the grocery store sometimes made me feel guilty, because we just didn't have much money. Our budget didn't allow for all the things I thought my children needed.

Living out in the country with lots of space to roam and only a few friends, but lots and lots of time together as a family is probably the best thing that could have happened to my children. Because we did not have lots of toys, our children learned to pretend, create their own stories, draw and study nature, make up games, read lots of books, and spend lots of time outdoors with animals.

Because there was not even an option to have lots of "things", they became thankful for what they had. I was the only one who had any idea that they might be missing out, because I was listening to the voices of my peers!

Life to them was a joyful adventure where we had a little community called Clarkson. There was no need to be constantly entertained, because we did not have lots of media, gadgets, and toys, so they had not learned to expect them, and there were few neighbors nearby to tempt them with toys they did not have and almost no friends to play with daily.

Working, sharing, and patiently waiting their turn were some of the ways God built thankfulness into my children's hearts. 

We learned through this season to be thankful for sunrises and sunsets, for long wanders in the grassy fields near our home where I lived with my ever present mother-in-law. I was not smart enough to choose this for my family, but God in His wisdom, knew just what my children needed to build character, to teach them to be grateful for a simple life. He used our circumstances to train them!

Enabling children’s discontent and giving them idols of our own making by over-indulging them is common in our contemporary culture, but being spoiled and over-indulged creates a person who complains, whines and is weak in times of adversity.

Thankfulness is a habit of choosing to look for the blessings abundant in every day life.

Thankfulness requires us engaging in looking for ways we might worship God and then verbalizing our gratefulness.

Thankfulness comes from a heart that is willing to look for the fingerprints of God in simple moments. “I am not alone, thank you God. You are with me every day. I am thankful for the seasons, for being alive in your world, for knowing hope that takes me through this dark world, that I know truth that guides my every thought and decision every day.

Practice thankfulness outloud with your own children ever day. Don’t be a whiner. Give them the gift of looking for what matters. Don’t develop idols for yourself that will not fulfill, but be grateful for the life you have been given and your heart and your life will suddenly seem more full than you ever imagined.

This week, every day, notice the things that God has provided. Practice thanking Him for each way He has worked and blessed in your life. Have your children write thank you cards to friends of family for whom they are grateful. Breathing thankfulness into all the minutes of the days, creates a great pattern for life and helps you and your children to become more satisfied with what God has given.