The Gratitude Attitude

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The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers.

I wish I could take credit for it, but that nugget of profound divine wisdom came from the brain (and no doubt the heart) of Ann Voskamp. She, along with Lysa Teurkeurst and Mother Theresa are my heroes. Women who have known great heartache and yet continue to dig deeper into their faith and over and over cling to God’s promises like a life raft. Truth be told, I want to have a sleepover with them in which we braid each other’s hair and eat Bluebell Bride’s Cake ice cream (maybe drink wine?) and if I’m being totally honest… Max Lucado and David Jeremiah will deliver chips and guacamole. Yes, I am aware that Mother Theresa is no longer with us. It’s my fantasy. And maybe it involves time travel. But I digress….

The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers. 

My girl Ann (I feel like we’re at the point in my obsession that I can call her Ann) wrote a book in 2011 called One Thousand Gifts. Her first book. I read it circa November 2013ish. At the time she was a mother of six children that she homeschooled on their family farm. In a season of humdrum day in and day out laundry, long division, supper and chaos she wrote about being grateful for everything, in everything. It was a game changer for me in my humdrum season of diapers, dancing routes and dishes. I don’t think my gratitude journal got quite to 1000 but it did flip the script on me. I saw everything as something for which to be grateful. Okay, checked the box. Learned about gratitude. I’m all fixed, right? Until the next thing.

Through her gratitude journey she had an epiphany. She discovered and rediscovered throughout the Bible that the miracle, any miracle, was always preceded by thanks. She wrote about “eucharisteo” relentlessly. Which I learned is a Greek word meaning to be thankful. Psalm 50:23 tells us that if we offer thankful offerings, He will show us salvation. Thanks then the miracle. In Daniel 6:10 he prayed and gave thanks three times a day then when thrown into the lion’s den God sent an angel who shut the mouth of the lions. Thanks then the miracle. In Luke 17 Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back and thanked Him. What did Jesus respond? “Your faith has saved you.” Thanks then the miracle. Jesus realized in Matthew 11 that cities where He had performed miracles and healings did not repent. In the face of apparent failure, He still gave thanks to the Father. In John and Matthew, we hear of the feeding of the multitudes. Jesus took five loaves and two fish, gave thanks and fed 5000 people and ended up with leftovers. There was not enough–then thanks was given–then there was more than enough. Thanks then the miracle. In John 11 Lazarus was dead and stinking for 4 days. Jesus thanked God for hearing him AND THEN told Lazarus to get up. Thanks then the miracle. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, on the night before He died (a death He knew was coming), Jesus gave thanks, broke bread and gave it to his friends. Hours later He willingly suffered things beyond our human comprehension and yet before He did, He gave thanks. And we all know how that story ends. Thanks then the miracle of miracles.

Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “…pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” Not sometimes. Not in good times. In all times. Across Christian churches, we all break bread. We all, in some fashion, remember the sacrifice of the Last Supper. The priest, deacon, pastor, brother, minister, padre, man of the cloth, preacher, reverend, or old Parson Brown repeats the words of the gospels “…. he took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them…” Sunday after Sunday we as Christians start our weeks off in this way. Ann says, “Doesn’t the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving?” Mic drop.

So here we are in November again and even though Hallmark and Target want us to believe it’s time to shop and falala, God expects us to slow our roll. Which is why He placed Thanksgiving right before Christmas. Yes, I am aware that Thanksgiving is an American holiday brought about by the Indians and Pilgrims…sorry, Native Americans and Persons Who Journey. But somebody had to light the spark of peace for them to break bread (sorry, maize) and God chose the fourth Thursday of November to do so…. roughly four weeks before the birth of His son. Hence, God placed Thanksgiving right before Christmas. Duh. Is there a greater miracle than Christmas? A baby born to a virgin; an event prophesied for thousands of years in great detail. And so, before that miracle, we are to give thanks.

I think we all try. We thank Him for our health, our job, our family, our freedom. Okay we checked the right boxes so can we eat turkey now? Can we shop yet? Where’s the damn elf? But when we sit in the aggravation of our schedules, the tedium of our chores and the debilitating noise of our donkeys (sorry, our children) can we still give thanks?

The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers.

Many years ago, one Black Friday evening I sat at a table in a sushi restaurant with dear friends. Through tears, I told them all I wanted was a “wrapping paper hanging from the ceiling fan kind of Christmas morning.” They all had those kinds of Christmas mornings. At the time it was still just Jacob, Abby and me. Lane had gone on home to Jesus and the two littles hadn’t come along yet. We had several years of calm and quiet mornings of very orderly gift opening. Then I would dress my one child in her smocked best and we’d set out to do Christmas. The first year that there was another child to tuck in on Christmas Eve, I remember hitting my knees that night so utterly grateful for childREN to tuck in. And now there are three. And I can tell you that the wrapping paper doesn’t just hang from the ceiling fan on Christmas morning. I find scraps of it well into June. God answered that Black Friday evening sushi prayer in abundance. And every Christmas Eve night I hit my knees in gut wrenching gratitude that there are childREN tucked in under my roof. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is recognizing that the wrapping paper doesn’t just hit the ceiling fan on December 25 by chance. Those kids train for that ALL—YEAR—LONG. The hard part is being grateful for the other 364 mornings. And afternoons. And evenings.

Like the cinnamon toast war. They got punished from cinnamon toast for two weeks. Apparently my complete worth is wrapped up in my ability to make two equally “juicy” cinnamon toasts each morning. I have tried. I have stood over the toaster. I have tested the settings. I have kept the butter both covered and uncovered on the counter. I have tried spreading it with both spoon and a knife, both plastic and metal. They are never both equally juicy. And each morning I am reminded of my failure and I promise them I’ll try harder tomorrow. But the morning that Middle Donkey snatched the juicier toast from her sister’s plate, I knew that mornings in our house would never be the same. I watched Middle Donkey cower on her barstool scarfing it down while Baby Donkey beat her over the head with her dirty and torn Bunny Bear. The ante had been upped and I had to intervene. I declared a two week moratorium on cinnamon toast until cooler heads could prevail.

Or the night of four grilled cheeses. Baby Donkey finally settled on grilled cheese for supper. Attempt #1 had too much cheese. The horror. Attempt #2 had some crusted cheese on the outside of the bread which had re-melted from Attempt #1. How could I be so careless? Attempt #3 I knew would be THE ONE. I was going to eliminate the cheese all together. In the words of my dearly missed Maw-Maw, I’d fix her little tee-nah nah. Until halfway through my effort, my almost an engineer husband said, “Hey smartass, how are you going to get the bread to stick together without the cheese?” Attempt #4 she ate. I can’t duplicate it though because I had already thrown the spatula across the house and the pan in the sink and my almost an engineer husband, the hero that he is, *eye roll*, made an apparently perfect grilled cheese.

Hard to imagine battles fought over Evangeline Maid bread are miraculous answers to any prayer I’ve ever prayed. But to give thanks in all things, means all the things. So Lord, I thank you for ornery, grouchy, finicky eaters. I think???

The easiest thanksgiving prayer ever prayed is the Thanksgiving Day prayer. Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Box checked. But can we pray thanksgiving prayers every other day? Can we thank Him for today’s ordinary?

The ordinary moments of today are miraculous answers to long ago prayers.

 

 

 

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