Just earlier today I announced to our youngest that the time has come for him to enter the chore rotation. He was exasperated. What?! I have to…SWEEP?! EVERY day?!! I’m too YOUNG! He really says things like this. Sometimes we can’t tell if he is kidding or serious because he has the humor of a standup comedian, but I’m afraid today wasn’t a comedy routine. Having him join the chore rotation was not me being a proactive mom. It actually may or may not have to do with me accidently buying the world’s shortest broom. I swept with it yesterday and had a hard time standing up straight again. After hearing the news and despairing of life, he continued to explain to me how it would ruin his life, take up all his time and would cause irrepairable harm to him. None of his friends have to sweep. If he sweeps, what in the world will be left for the other kids to do? He does many other chores, but has never been part of ‘the chores’ that the older kids have rotated through. His first response was to complain and think about how unfair it was for him to have to help with the chore rotation. I mean, why should he, as the youngest, have to do anything? His role is to play and be funny.
I looked at his furrowed brows and scrunchy face. It wasn’t exactly endearing. I sat down next to him and reminded him of the pictures of the refugee children we looked at earlier this week. The pictures that brought him near tears. He’s a sensitive type, although you don’t have to be sensitive for the pictures to move you. We looked at each little face and read their stories. Personal, painful and real. He was particularly touched by a little boy who is seven like him. This small boy was laying on the hard asphalt, using his backpack as a pillow. You may have seen this series of pictures. (here they are if you haven’t seen them) I looked at the scrunched up face of my little, privileged seven year old and asked him, “Do you remember those pictures we looked at earlier in the week and that little boy that you chose to pray for? Why doesn’t he have any chores right now?” His little face lost some scrunchiness and he replied, “He doesn’t have a house or a floor to sweep.” “Drew, do you think that maybe instead of falling apart and complaining about having to help, you could be thankful that you have a floor to sweep?” I asked. “Yep!” he said cheerily, and off he went. His attitude changed quickly with a little perspective.
I would love to tell you that Drew or my kids are the only ones in the family that have ever had attitudes like this, but I remember distinctly in my earlier days of motherhood detesting laundry. Sometimes it would be piled above my head and there were thousands and thousands of microscopic socks to be matched, enough shirts to outfit a small daycare, blankets, spit up rags and sleepers. It felt never ending. One day as I sat with a scrunched up face, folding the laundry, the Lord spoke to my heart. “If you didn’t have clothes, you wouldn’t have laundry.” That simple statement transformed my feelings about laundry and many other household chores. When I remember. If I didn’t have food, I wouldn’t have to cook. Many mothers are spending their entire day looking for SOMETHING to feed their children and it is never enough. If I didn’t have children, my house would be picked up and peaceful all the time (probably not really-I’m messy and a neat freak so I annoy myself in this area). Many women would give anything to have kid clutter all over and noise constantly. So many times the things that we complain about are actually the very things that come with the blessings that God has given us. Our jobs, homes and food are His provision, our children are His blessing, families are a blessing, our spouses are His gift – What if we began to give thanks?
Clearly, I am talking about really trivial things, but I think so often that is where we lose the battle for gratefulness. The big things sometimes cause us to remember. Those are the times when we can’t help but be grateful and where trivial things look trivial. What matters comes into sharp focus. When we had our stillborn baby girl, our world stopped for a bit and about two weeks after, I remember seeing a parent agitated that their little baby wouldn’t quiet down when out in public. Everything in me wanted to scream, “You are so lucky to have yours! I would give anything to have mine crying.” Had I ever been agitated with my older three when they were fussy? Absolutely! That makes sense. It can be overwhelming for sure. With Drew, our youngest, I found I was so extremely grateful (he almost didn’t make it through the birth) that my patience level was high. I was just so thankful. Thankful to have a baby that wasn’t silent. It took loss for me to realize what I had. Everyone has these kinds of stories. We take SO MUCH for granted. I take SO MUCH for granted.
I know I have been thinking about all that I tend to take for granted and how often I am drawn toward complaining rather than thankfulness. I know many people who have lost family this year, some of them multiple members – they would give anything to have one more moment with them. Sometimes, while preparing for the holidays, I start to feel stressed. We go here, there and everywhere. I love it, but it can be challenging to do all that needs to get done to get where we need to be. I can get a little demanding and complainy about how people aren’t doing what they need to do when they need to do it while getting ready. When I feel my face scrunching, I need to remember that my people are all here this year. That is something to be very grateful for. I need to remember the man who checked out in the grocery store I worked in Pensacola with a Hungry Man’s frozen turkey dinner because he had no one to celebrate with. The reason I have so much preparation is because I have many to celebrate with.
I want to choose not to complain when making dinner no matter how much I don’t feel like cooking – we have food to eat. I want to choose not to complain when cleaning the house – we have a home to clean. I want to choose not to complain when doing laundry – we have clothes to wear. I want to choose not to complain when I’m tired of homeschooling – our kids have the ability to learn. I want gratefulness to be my normal response – not complaining and thanklessness.
I want to cultivate gratefulness in my life. Even if all is lost and as far as others can see, I have nothing to be grateful for, I want to be grateful. If God really is enough for me as I claim Him to be and He is when I have the proper perspective, I will NEVER have a reason to be ungrateful. I have a Father who filters all things in my life. He is and will always be actively involved in my life. That’s Who He is. He can’t do anything that is not loving or done from a place of love. He IS love. That is something to be VERY grateful for! That fact will not change no matter what life holds.
When I was young and heard about how much the Israelites complained, I used to think that they were horrible and if I had lived back then, that certainly wouldn’t have been me. I am afraid to say, I think it would have. They ate manna every.single.day. They were wandering in a DESERT. They were with people ALL the time. They really didn’t have homes – they had tents. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that since I live in a house, choose dinner every night, live in a climate controlled house and venture out at around 72 degrees, have a clean shower everyday and have alone time sometimes and still complain – I would have been a complainer. They kept losing perspective and so do I. They complained when they forgot. That’s why God instructed them to talk about Him to their children. He knows that a forgetful people are a complaining people. They remembered the food in Egypt, but forgot the slavery. We all do that. You see, we will complain unless we have God’s perspective on our lives. We gain that by remembering. Remembering Who He is, what He’s done, what He says and what He has promised to those that love Him. Thankfulness is a choice. It’s not something that happens to us – it’s the way we choose to look at life. Sometimes we need Him to sit us down when we’re being all scrunchy faced and remind us of what we have to be grateful for. God please help me to keep the proper perspective. Help me to remember. I choose to be thankful and keep my eyes on You.
I Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.