Gratitude is described as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I like Dr Seuss's words on gratitude...
“You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not.” (a little sarcasm from Dr. S.)
"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one."
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."
Recently we celebrated Mother's Day, where we acknowledge our moms, showing gratitude for them on this single momentous day. You get one day moms... sounds silly right? Even the woman who fought to make Mother's Day a holiday, changed her mind a few years later when it became commercialized. She began preaching not to give gifts to your mom on that day, which is just so funny to me. I love the passion that fuels people... I'm thinking, Let it go, mama.
You can't force gratitude and it's a recipe for disaster when we say, "Okay, today's the day! Be grateful for all the mamas do!" It's hard to keep intentions pure when we do this and quickly we find we are acting out of guilt.
Pure gratitude can't be forced or given a date to show up. Real gratitude is being aware, checking our motives and deciding what we believe. It's a choice.
Gratitude in our kids begins with gratitude in us. Do we recognize it, feel it, exhibit it? If we don't, they won't.
Most mornings I wake grateful. It's been a practice for the last 26 years, since my daughter was born.
Some mornings before I get out of bed, I whisper these words up, "Lord, Bless me indeed today and may Your face shine upon me. Increase my territories and may Your hand be upon me. Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain." The Prayer Of Jabez is included and the reason I whisper it up is to remind me of what is before me, call on God to increase me and accomplish His desires in me.
I'm grateful for a ridiculous amount of things... my life, faith, husband, family. The birds that sing me songs in the early morning. The sun I watch rise, the people I love right here in my community. So many amazing women. Many I've met through our Known Gatherings. The joy I feel watching community and discipleship grow organically as we carry each others burdens and partner on this journey. The opportunities to learn someone's story and encourage them in their faith.
To recognize that today God has prepared opportunities for me. But I will easily miss them if I am not aware that He is working all around me and He invites me to join Him.
Gratitude shifted for me when I first became a mom. But my journey was not as I had hoped.
My introduction into motherhood was my 29 yr old husband diagnoses of terminal cancer as I was entering my second trimester of my first pregnancy. The nausea was just ending, and then it felt I had been kicked to the gut. That lasted the next ten months.
Our baby girl was 3 months old when Mark died. I was 28, a widow, a single mom.
Not what I had planned. But how about you? I'm sure there are some painful stories in this room. I imagine some of you are living a completely different life than you had planned. But you are here, you are walking, you are finding hope.
I've come to believe, that life is made up of glimpses of joy, tucked among the tragedies. Handle with care, celebrate the joys, but hold loosely.
We mamas have a huge responsibility and opportunity to raise world changer, kingdom builder humans. I have found that growing kids is the best opportunity to grow myself. We see our reflection in our children as they mimic our behavior. It's humbling, terrifying and creates a permanent reminder to get up every morning and fight.
Through Mark's illness and dying I learned gratitude. It was a wake up call to check myself and my motives. What did I base my gratitude on? Was it conditional on my circumstances or was it based on the grace and love shared liberally over me, by the living God? I had much to be grateful for. Supportive parents and siblings, a strong community of friends. I had my daughter, my husband was with God. Not with me... but still. Real love says, "I'll take the pain, the loss, allowing relief to your love." You take the grief and rest in it awhile.
Gratitude doesn't mean there is not grief, it means that when you come through the grief, the gratitude is magnified.
Gratitude, our kids learn through watching us. Ben Franklin said, "A person wrapped up in themself makes a very small bundle." We live in a world wrapped up in it's self, so we must be very intentional.
The reality mamas, is that we live in the land of plenty with a healthy dose of instant gratification thrown in.
- Mike Lupica from the NY Daily News wrote Sunday, "You may have missed this story, just because the tennis player involved — Bernard Tomic — is such a nobody in the great grand scheme of things, even if he is the second-best male player in Australia.
But the other day at the Madrid Open, in a match against Fabio Fognini, down 6-2, and 5-4, Tomic gave up on match point and attempted to return Fognini’s serve with the butt end of his racket.
When asked about it afterward, here is what Tomic said: “I don’t care about that match point — would you care if you were 23 and worth over $10 million.”
It used to be that bad boys in tennis, if they wanted to get rich, had to be great. Apparently, there’s a new generation of tennis punks who do not."
I would suggest this gifted athlete does not have a respect for the gifts he has been given. Instead of showing gratitude, he shows an indifference to the sport and bases his behavior on the amount of money in his bank account. If he was my son, I would wonder where I went wrong. In truth, he should know better, no matter what his mama did or did not teach him.
Two years after my first husband died, I married again a man that was clearly meant for me. I love and admire him. He's generous, kind, funny and smart. We have two children, 22 and 26, very different, yet they have similar hearts. Tender hearts.
Dan is a thrill seeker, mountain climber, sky diver who picks up copper heads, gets bitten and lives to tell about it. He is a fan of the underdog, a solid friend. Alexandria is a quiet leader, never one to draw attention to herself, devotes herself to building up the next generation of youth. She looks out for the underdog, and fights for others. A solid friend, who will defend you till the end.
They both have a steadfast faith in Christ, choosing to live where God is a conscious part of their daily lives.
They are gifted, responsible, caring people, mostly in spite of their parents. I want you to hear me, that while my husband and I were intentional about our parenting, we were also ill prepared rookies, that were blessed with amazing kids and a solid rock God who lavishes His grace on us. My belief if is that God is faithful, and when you don't know what you are doing, He knows what needs doing. He covers us. He smoothes out the rough spots. He stands in the gap... because Jesus loves the little children, and we are all little.
Years ago when our kids were still very young, my husband and I were laying in bed one night and I said, "How do we know we are doing this right?" He calmly said, as usual, "We won't know till later. When they are adults and make their own decisions. Then we will know. "
He was right. As you know this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's a daily battle for our children.
Our first goal in raising kids was that they would find Jesus and fall in love and trust with Him. We trusted Him, but this was a new day. We had an opportunity to really show Him off in our daily lives and as we became more intentional with God, our faith grew deeper.
Marriage and/or having a family is a challenging way to teach children gratitude.
First, we are intentional in our relationship. We got married, or if you are single, I chose you, my child. I'm committed. We committed.
Second, That intent cost us something. I no longer live my life only thinking of myself. I put my husband before me. I put my child before me.
Third, the benefit. A positive, respectful parent child relationship. A healthy marriage and home life.
The end result is hopefully gratitude, because the other person is aware of your sacrifice. If we learn gratitude early, it will benefit us all of our days.
We teach through our actions. A practical tool for our children is a gratitude journal, or incorporate it into a prayer journal. If you have one, share it with them. Remind them of all you are grateful for.
Remember, the enemy comes to kill and destroy and no matter what you have right now, he will remind you of what you don't have! Write down the things you are grateful for, alongside your children. These are the memories that will become part of their character, if they see it lived out. Work out this faith we are called to.
Our daughter became a social worker and I asked her one day, "Why did you choose social work?" She replied, "It's what I watched you do mom." I was surprised and then grateful. Grateful that God had put on my heart to choose the things I did when our kids were growing up.
I joined boards that raised money for snacks and lunch for children in public schools. The amount of children who go hungry on a weekend and over vacation is disturbing and sad.
I mentored three elementary girls each week. We talked life, their trips to Chicago to see family, and the struggles they were facing. Their housing was always in jeopardy as their moms were the only providers in the home. Life was not easy. There were nights they went to bed hungry, confused, scared.
Keiyani, became close to our family, spending time with us. Ice cream runs, walks with our dog, she loved Ali right away. It was Ali's first trip into the housing projects, little did I know it would become a place she visited often in Nashville.
A couple years into mentoring I received a phone call from the school Keiyani attended. The women was in tears as she told me Keiyani had died in her sleep the night before, undiagnosed diabetes. Health care for the poor, pretty much non existent for keiyani and her family. What are the chances that one of our kids would die from this, let alone go undiagnosed? The loss of this bright, vibrant, beautiful child left me shaken... Her mom devastated.
I volunteered and later worked at a Pregnancy Resource Center where I learned what grace looked like. I met young women who were walking roads I could not imagine. Rejection, shame, doubt, fear, zero self worth.
I mentored high school girls who now invite me to their weddings. Life is rich because of the people I have met on this journey. From N.Y. to Illinois to KS. to Nashville. When we say yes to God, he throws open the doors to growth. These experiences make me grateful because they mold me into a more compassionate person.
A few things happened semi-consciously that I believe were invaluable in growing gratitude in our kids hearts.
1) We partnered with a few others to raise our children. We were picky.
One of our youth pastors and his wife became mentors to Ali. This couple was extremely influential in her life. They were game changers for our kids. We continue to love them and walk together as they now minister in Louisville. My heart is grateful for them.
Later Dan had a mentor, whose wife is a solid encourager of women. Now a young mama, living in The motherland of Texas, working at a large church, changing the live of littles who enter the doors. They had an impact on Dan. I am grateful for this family and look forward to spending time with both of these women in the future.
Ask God to bring and build community around you. You will learn and grow and be changed in the best ways. This life is not meant to be lived alone. One thing Mrs Clinton was right about was, it takes a village to raise kids. It does, but pick your village carefully.
We all need community, make it diverse, in culture, age, socioeconomically. Don't limit yourself to people your age, your color, your twin. Gratitude is learned in stages, from a variety of personalities. It's a social skill that evolves over our lives. We must practice it at every age and stage, but if not learned in youth, it is sometimes lost.
2) Be flexible with your desires. Example for us, was church.
We changed churches when our daughter entered 9th grade. We still loved our church and community. We didn't leave on bad terms, we simply needed something different for our kids at this age. It was the best decision we made and I believe God honored that as we went on to grow healthy community there, many of whom we consider family. My husband and I put our desires aside, recognizing we had a few short years to pour in to our children.
3) Invest in other children. Recognize that raising children is not only about your children. Friends kids or the child you meet, recognizing a need, a word of encouragement and sometimes a helping hand. There are many lonely, broken, sad, hungry kids who need people to step into the gap for them. Don't turn your head away. Be the gap. Be that person, not just for them, but so that your kids will catch a spirit of generosity.
Don't be afraid to make your kids uncomfortable. When I was a young mom I had this idea that my role was to make everything comfortable and nice for my family. Peaceful and pleasant. Then I got involved in real life and reality is, if you are going to care about others who do not share your blood, life is going to get messy and uncomfortable, but that is what we are called to. There will be detours, late bedtimes, cold dinners, phone calls and disruptions to your peaceful life... but that is where we find God at work and it is exactly where He wants us.
This creates a generous spirit and your children will see this. This might be one of the most effective ways of teaching gratitude to our children. Giving of ourselves, giving back, getting uncomfortable. They will learn what they see.
I walked beside moms who lived this life and others who fixed every problem and righted every wrong perceived done to their child... you don't want that. Let them learn to get uncomfortable. They will learn empathy.
We are by nature, the sin nature, a self centered lot. A toddler is proof.
If we want our children to have gratitude we must exhibit it. In our words and our walk.
As far as our words. What are our habits of speak? From how we talk about our bodies and the miracles they are... to our talk of others. You've heard the saying, Before you speak, ask yourself... "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?"
Let these words be your guide.
If we gossip, whether in private or public, those words and thoughts will mold our minds, and I guarantee you, when your daughter is in high school and she gets passed up for something you knew she deserved, you will spew venom, if you have not practiced gratitude. Or you will be gracious and help her be happy for the winner. I know it may seem like the end of the world in that moment but you will grow a woman of strength and dignity if you show her how to be gracious.
As we go about our day, let's practice gratitude, keeping a running list in our mind. When evening comes and we find ourselves together, share our lists and in doing so we add to our own list. Who of us is not grateful when we hear of a loved one's blessings, especially our child?
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
William Arthur Ward
He also said, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”
So thank you for allowing me to share my imperfect words with you this morning. I hope you will be encouraged in this marathon. It's not for the faint of heart and I am so glad you have an army of women to travel it together. Soldier on mamas.