‘Tis more blessed…

If “‘Tis more blessed to give than to receive” is true–and I believe it is–then on Saturday night I was doubly blessed.

It seemed unfair to use the Christmas gift I gave him before he had a chance to even try it out…

But I did.

Up early and gone all day for one child’s wrestling meet, driving to and from the girls’ soccer practice in the late afternoon, I lost daylight time for my run with the dog.

So I strapped on the headlamp I’d given Dave so he could run in the early-morning dark…

and drove myself and Chai to the dog park so I could try it out in the late.

Snow glittered before me. I ran on fairy dust. In the light of the headlamp, the dog’s eyes glowed weirdly–orange from the side, green head-on, and red when she was close. Pleased with her first off-leash run since before Christmas day, Chai sprinted past me. For a moment, as snow fell in front of me, spotlit in the lamp’s circle, I thought the forecaster’s prediction of next-day flurries had come early and sudden. But when it stopped just as quickly and then happened again when Chai did another fly by, I realized she was kicking it up with her paws.

A siren wailed in the distance, and deep in the woods, the coyotes echoed. Ahead of me, Chai paused to listen. Then–they must have been too far away to awaken either concern or longing–she bent her head and chomped up some packed snow, the canine version of shaved ice, flavored with who-knows-what.

The trees’ tops were lost to the night, but in my peripheral vision, their trunks floated like gray stripes on a dark suit. Hit with the direct light of the headlamp, though, they appeared almost white, bleached of color.

I felt no fear, except that my rule-keeping mind expected a policeman any moment to remind me that the dog park closed at dusk, and it was well past.

When Dave got home from cleaning up after the wrestling meet, I told him I tried out his present. “Thank you,” I said.

“How did it work?” he asked.

“Great!” I told him how beautiful the run had been. “It worked wonderfully. You’ll love using it.”

“Well, then, thank you,” he told me.

‘Tis better to give than to receive.


But perhaps giving and receiving, when done wholeheartedly, are more connected than I’d realized.


Morning Glory

Friday morning, before the getting-ready-for-the-last-day-of-school rush, I biked, Chai dog by my side, to the dog park, where I tromped around, fast, trying to avoid the mosquitos. I reviewed the Scripture passage I’m memorizing, but not a whole lot of thinking was going on. As I swung back on my bike, ready to pedal home, I thought, “Oh, I should pray.”

That’s not a bad thing. But there was a hint to it of “I have to do the right thing. I have to go about this the right way. This is what will please the Lord.”

My mind immediately went to confession and prayer for others—because that’s more “godly prayer,” right? That’s what pleases God most—my attempts at being humble and others-centered.


God was having none of it.

But rather than a thunderbolt from the sky, He got my attention with JOY.

The trees waved their branches at me—hey,

Em likes to make--and then photograph--food creations! Yummy smoothie.

Em likes to make–and then photograph–food creations! Yummy smoothie.

look over here!—and the wind flowed over my collarbone like it was trying to tickle my neck. Happy dog on a leash at my side, green grass on left and right, hum of bike tires, and when I pulled up to my house, two ducks—a mama and a daddy!—perched on our chimney!

The bubble of joy burst and showered me with droplets, and I shut down confession/supplication and let myself BE in God.

Gratitude welled up to meet the joy raining down, and an old hymn rose.

Morning has broken, like the first morning.

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.

Praise for the singing, praise for the morning

Praise for the springing fresh from the Word.

Yes! Be in God. Let Him guide heart prayer into His glad fullness, His sheer joyful goodness, His eagerness to share Himself with me.

Romp in the revelation of right righteousness revealed. (Couldn’t resist the alliteration!)

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning,

Born of the one light Eden saw play.

Praise with elation, praise every morning;

God’s recreation of the new day.


“Morning Has Broken,” words by Eleanor Farjeon, 1931


suburban gratitude

Dave bought me this sign for Christmas and I hung it in our family room. I think (I hope) it describes us well.

Dave bought me this sign for Christmas and I hung it in our family room. I think (I hope) it describes us well.

I’m working on chapters three and four of our adoption story, so I spent a couple hours this morning sorting through emails I sent out during 2008 and 2009. Some of those were specifically about adoption matters: court dates and home studies and official documents, but many others were simply newsletters about our family.

Em was seven and Jake and Maddie about three and a half in the earliest updates (January 2008); the last one I read was written six months after Patrick and I came home from Uganda (September 2009). I wrote about funny things they said (like when Maddie was pretending to be Jake’s mommy until Jake, fed up with bottles and blankets, ran away from her, crying, “I all growed up now, Maddie. I not a baby any more”). I wrote about daily routines that I’d forgotten, like Patrick coming home on the preschool bus in Kansas. He would bring his backpack inside, tell me to “Close eyes, Mommy,” and then show me each paper he’d worked on that morning, one by one. Then we read his new library book—they went every day—TWICE. And all this before lunchtime. I wrote about life lessons they were learning, like when Em got the teacher she did NOT want and her words three weeks into the school year: “Mom and Dad, you were right. I think God did want me to have Mrs. Farney. I really like her.”
The emails made me a little sad. Those times are gone, and life with my kids isn’t so simple anymore. It’s not full of long Saturdays spent at home or morning playtimes at the park. They’re growing up and away—just as they should be—but I was suddenly a little nostalgic.
And I was also grateful—for something I don’t think I’ve ever before been grateful for. I was thankful for all the driving, the times in the car, the back and forth to this activity and that practice that consumes so much of my life these days.
Usually this is one of the things I hate most about life in suburbia. Twenty-minute drive here, thirty there, another fifteen…
But my kids are captive in the car—right there with me, right there with each other. And we talk about our days and we listen to good books (yay for audio books), and we sing, and we spend time together, and they can’t escape, and I can’t get all busy with housework or writing projects. And when it’s me and just one of the kids, we get quiet, let’s-really-find-out-what’s-going-on time.
Hmm. Maybe there are other things on my “hate” list that I can learn to be thankful for.

Consider Him

I consider weekends my heaviest work days. With all the kids home, there’s extra cooking, extra driving…


Sunday afternoon, in the middle of cleaning for our church small group that we host on Sunday nights, with dinner prep still to do while one kid needed homework help and another needed nagging to get working on homework…

I got grumpy.


Full of an inner rant about—

I’m not going to go into it. I’m assuming everyone pulls the martyr card sometimes, so you know what I mean.

And in my kitchen, bent over with a dustpan, God stopped me.

Look at the verse for the day.

It wasn’t audible, but I knew for certain that I was supposed to put down the dustpan, cross to the microwave, and flip the verse calendar that sits on it to that day’s verse.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 (NIV ’84).

Seriously. That WAS the verse for that day.

Wow! You’re right, I prayed. How could I ever begin to compare my enduring to Christ’s? Help me to press on.

I did press on, but I still struggled with thoughts of self-pity, and this has continued off and on since Sunday (it would be better described as “on and off”). It’s been a recurring battle that I’ve either chosen to fight (with plenty of cries for help) or given into (yuck!).

On Sunday night, one of the women in our small group shared about a guilt battle that she has had to fight, over and over, in her head. It just won’t go away.

I’ve thought about her struggle as I’ve fought my own battle these last couple days. Why do some sin issues become recurring themes in our lives? Why aren’t they dealt with and done? Why do our cries for help for these sins grant release for only a short period before we have to do battle again?

But all my musings about the “why’s” haven’t helped me, either, even though I “know” some of the answers.

This morning I had to replace a burnt-out strand of lights on the Christmas tree. Even as I did this, my spirit continued to find all kinds of small things to gripe about. Tired of fighting the battle, I tried to shut my mind off. “Just stare at the lights,” I told myself. “They’re bright and beautiful.”

Look at the lights.

Somehow the phrase turned to Consider Him.

Consider Him, I thought. Consider Him.

“Oh, God!” I said in sudden realization, “Consider YOU!”

Not Your sufferings apart from You—like I’m trying to stack them up against my own petty “sufferings” and guilt myself into gratitude.

Consider YOU.

Because You are great and glorious and good. Because You are beautiful, bright light, and You long to shine into my darkness. And when I look at You, my darkness gets swallowed up.

When I look at You, I gain perspective. I see that, just as Your struggles had purpose, so do mine, even if I can’t see far enough to know what the purpose is. Just as You kept your eyes on the Joy of being reunited with Your Father Yourself and the Joy of reconciling many to Him, I can know there is an eternity ahead when I will know You in ways I can’t even imagine now.

When I consider Him, the rest of the Hebrews 12 passage gets worked out in my life.

I put up the lights, I wrote the above, and then I had to go to a dental appointment. The radio came on when I started the car, and the program was about women who are married to spouses who don’t follow Jesus. “Oh, that would be so hard,” I thought as I listened to the women’s stories of persistence and grace. “I’m so grateful for my marriage.”

Gratitude! For fellow believers—witnesses (Heb. 12:1)—who provide examples to me of turning to the Father again and again in their needs, and for the Father Himself, Who gives me exactly the right gifts—and exactly the right trials and discipline—to draw me closer to Him.

I’ve been far from gratitude these past few days. Most of my cheerfulness has been forced and false.

But considering Christ—Him alone—brought a real and genuine gratitude back and gave me sympathy for others.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.*

Consider HIM.


*Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel, copyright 1922

That's Maddie under the paper-sack mask!

That’s Maddie under the paper-sack mask!

Practicing contentment


Here are the WA football players standing in front of the “hedge” they “built” in front of our house with all the tree debris they gathered from our yard on Tuesday. They were SUCH a blessing and encouragement to us.

After nearly five days without power, our street’s electricity was restored Thursday evening, so we moved out of the home of our very generous friends and back into our own. When we got there, the kids walked around and examined the house. Finally Jake said, “Well, it doesn’t look THAT different.”

Em and Maddie were shocked. “Jake, look at the yard. Half the trees are gone. There’s a hole where the pear tree used to be.”

“Yeah,” said Jake. “But look at the house without all the trees on it. It’s not that different. It’s good.”

What a great reminder. Because on the first day of this “experience,” it was pretty easy to realize that it could be a lot worse and not too difficult to focus on and pray for others’ needs and difficulties—but in the following days, when the power lines stayed down in the yard and the 6 ft. “hedge” of cleared brush grew brown and the insurance guy still hadn’t come out to give a quote so we could finally get the tree cleared off the back porch and I couldn’t get anything done…

I began to get a little grumpy.

Paul said he had to “learn” contentment. Well, it certainly doesn’t come naturally for me either!

I tried urging myself to “just be content,” but that didn’t work very well, and then I remembered Ann Voskamp’s words in One Thousand Gifts about voids. Paraphrase: You can’t replace sin with NOTHING. You can’t just try NOT to sin. Instead you have to “put off-put on,” a Biblical pattern (Voskamp does a beautiful job with this—and goes far deeper; I highly recommend her book.) My frustration/lack of contentment cannot be countered or replaced with nothing. Instead I have to fight it and replace it with its opposite (more accurately, I have to cry out for help to do this).

So what is the opposite of “discontent”? Voskamp suggests that “gratitude” is.

Ah, that evasive friend, gratitude!

When I practice gratitude, in all situations, I learn contentment.

I’ve prayed a lot about this (I’ve written about it a lot, too. “Looking for poop” is an earlier blog entry about this same topic), and I’ve discovered that the practice of consistent gratitude is linked to my focus. Contentment doesn’t happen when I go through life primarily noticing the negative. Contentment actually happens when I practice looking at all things, “good” and “bad,” as blessings from God.

THEN, my gratitude builds and my contentment grows.

This past week I had to practice a lot. I’d had plans to finish getting the house settled after we got back from vacation in Montana this past Sunday. I wanted to go through all my e-mails and lesson plans before heading off to teach at a month-long international student camp on July 7. But my to-do list had to be set aside. And I don’t handle that very well.

But God kept reminding me to practice this different way of looking that transforms frustrations into blessings.

I tried to see “days getting ‘nothing’ accomplished” as “unhurried hours building relationship with my children and my friend.” And when we moved back into our house on Thursday night, I refused to look at the box of still-packed “stuff” in Em’s room or the unhung pictures leaned up against walls—or even at the things completely out of my control, like the green tarp covering the empty dining room window frame.

Instead I focused on the organized kitchen and the naturally cool basement. I enjoyed turning lights ON and listening to the steady hum of the window air conditioners.

I read to my children before bedtime and then watched their peaceful sleep.

I had to practice again the next day, and I will have to tomorrow as well. And then again the day after.

Perhaps, someday, I will be able to say, with Paul, that “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Based on my track record, though, that probably won’t happen till I’m 95.

And here are our kids standing on the street side of “the hedge” on Thursday night. Kudos to the town of West Chicago and all the people who worked (and are still working) on the clean-up. Our hedge is gone now, and everyone has power restored.

a cycle of gratitude

No! Not ours! Em and Maddie oohing and aahing over baby Silas, son of Aaron and Jody. He’s very adorable.

Last week my kids attended a Backyard Bible Club. On the last day, as we parents came early to listen to the kids sing the songs they had learned during the week, I overheard a young mom behind me say to another mom, “Oh, yes, I have four children, ages 5, 4, 2, and 7 months. And we’re trying for a fifth. I just want another one, you know. They’re so precious.”

My shoulders slumped. That’s not my sentiment at the best of times, and it certainly wasn’t last week, as I was focused on unpacking my house. At one point in the week, I told Dave, “You know, it’s real easy to forget that one of the major reasons I’m getting this house organized is to make a home for our kids.  It’s ironic that much of the time I just want them out of the way so I can get it done.”

In church yesterday, as I took notes on the sermon, I also wrote this in my journal: “Help! I don’t want to be a mom right now. I want to be a child, YOUR child, Lord. I’m tired of the responsibility, the constant need to do so much and be so much to these four children. I can’t do it. Please, Lord, hold me like a little child, pull me close to your chest and help me to rest. To do this job of being a mom, I need to be Your little child.”

The sermon yesterday was on the first part of Colossians 4, in which Paul tells the church at Colosse (and us) to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Our pastor had a lot to say about this and the verses that followed (check out his blog at craigsturm.wordpress.com), but he said this about the “thankful” part of that verse: we should be thankful for the very privilege of prayer itself.

I connected that to the prayer I was writing in my journal. What an amazing thing that I can cry out to the almighty God of the Universe with a prayer like that! I have His attention. He bends His ear to my helpless, self-centered appeals.

Today I read the hymn “All for Jesus, All for Jesus,” in which the hymnwriter Mary D. James (1810-1883) takes this idea a step further. Here’s the last stanza:

Oh, what wonder! How amazing!

Jesus, glorious King of kings,

Deigns to call me His beloved,

Lets me rest beneath His wings.

All for Jesus! All for Jesus!

Resting now beneath His wings;

All for Jesus! All for Jesus!

Resting now beneath His wings.

I love that line: “(He) deigns to call me His beloved(.)” I can be thankful that, as His beloved, I can pray to Him about everything.

And I can be thankful that my prayers for help are answered, that in being His helpless, needy child, I can parent more and more in the way He wants me to.

Gratitude for the privilege of prayer itself. Gratitude for the deeper relationship it draws me into.

Prayer: a cycle of gratitude.

Ugandan girl

NOTE: This piece fits with my continued focus on gratitude–and this week being Thanksgiving. It’s a possible chapter in my book on Patrick’s adoption.  The muzungu in the piece is me. The young Ugandan man is Philip, one of the pastors at Light the World church, currently a student at Moody Bible Institute. 

Here's my little Ugandan cowboy.

In the shade, the air settles on skin like hot, damp cloth. In the open the sun blasts like a blowtorch. Women passing carry umbrellas, open them to block the heat rays. Men wet handkerchiefs to spread over their heads or tuck inside their collars. As matatus swerve into bus stops, the scent of sweat drifts toward those waiting to board. Women holding chickens in small wire cages or bundles of bananas argue with the conductor to hold them on their laps. “No, you cannot tie them to the roof today.” They are afraid they will find cooked meat and shriveled fruit at the end of their journeys.

People sit under awnings, seek out the cool of open-front bars. Those who have to walk the sides of the road scurry from the shelter of one scrawny tree to the next or stride with purpose, the sooner to get out of the sun. They skirt around the girl sitting listless on this busy corner. They edge away from her hopelessness. A square of cardboard lies next to her. She lifts it to shield her head from the heat, but her arm grows tired, and she lets it drop. It takes up no more space than she does on the small ragged cloth she sits on. One leg, skinny like a chicken’s, is tucked beneath her. She pulls the other to her chest, tucking the skirt of her worn, color-faded dress around her leg so she is not exposed. One outstretched arm rests on the top of her lifted knee. She turns her palm up, fingers curved to catch the coins that no one drops.

Eleven? Nine? It is hard to tell. Her face has lost any impish qualities of childhood, any softness. It is angles and planes, and the dark eyes in the face have no light to them. She stares at the ground, uninterested in what passes, but when people come near, she lifts her face so they see her, so, perhaps, they notice her. It is an appeal the “guardians” teach their street children, one the children, in turn, teach each other. “Hold up your face, look sad, some kind uncle or auntie may take pity and give you a coin. Maybe a muzungu. Sometimes they give more.”

But no one pauses to drop coins into her cupped palm. Though she follows the rule, turns her face up, she does not give the right face, the face that draws pity, sympathy. She is past “sad.” She is blank. If she is on her own, she will not eat today unless she steals or finds some scrap unwanted by anyone else. If she has a guardian, she will be beaten. She will be told to sell her body if her begging does not bring coins.

The wind swirls grit from the packed dirt walkway, and she closes her eyes, brings her other hand, bony, long-fingered, up to shield them. Her knees and elbows are dusty,  with wrinkles like the joints of an elephant. The skin of her legs and arms is chapped; gray shadows hover on her dull brown skin.

She lifts her face again. No passerby this time, but the spicy scent of pilau, floating out of the restaurant behind her. Her face still does not change, but she breathes in deep the onion, the chicken, the rice. Her chest rises high and falls. Repeats.

Inside the restaurant, tucked beyond the awning, near the coolness of the concrete walls, a muzungu woman and a Ugandan man wait. The waitress brings out food. She slides a tray of meat and potatoes in front of the young man, then adds a bowl of broth, a small side of vegetables. He smooths his spotless white buttoned shirt and rubs his hands together. The pilau is placed in front of the woman, a missionary or aid worker by the looks of her, with her long, dark split skirt and wrinkled t-shirt. Short dark hair sprinkled with gray frizzes around large-lensed glasses. Her nose shows pink from the sun. She leans toward the young Ugandan, asking a question. His eyes glint and he smiles, showing strong white teeth. He talks between mouthfuls of meat, leaning down to pull strips from the bones, gesturing gracefully with his long, slender fingers. The woman finishes her pilau and sits back, listening to the man talk. She motions to the waitress, who brings another plate of meat to the man and swings her hips as she walks away, hoping the handsome young friend of muzungus will notice her, but his close-cropped head doesn’t turn her direction.

It does tilt, though, toward the front of the restaurant, at the girl sitting on the ragged cloth. He looks back at the muzungu, keeps talking, but he is distracted, and she notices, turns in her seat to look behind her, sees the street child. They stop talking, stare at the girl. She does not notice, her head still tucked to her chest, her neck bent level with its weight.

The muzungu turns back to the man, asks him something again, her eyebrows pulled together, a deep line separating them. The man shakes his head, his shoulders slump, but then he speaks again, his arms waving, his food forgotten. His voice rises, phrases puff up into the damp, hot air. “Thousands of them.” “Government has no plan.” “Police round them up, put them out of the city whenever an official visits.” “Eventually drift back.”

“More every year.” “Girls pregnant.” “First sexual encounters as children.”

“Some find guardians, more like pimps.” “Beaten if they don’t bring home money.” “Prostitution.” “Not enough homes.”

The muzungu puts her elbows on the table, her chin in her hands.

The man winds down, sits back in his chair. They are quiet together. They sit like the girl, still, slumped, their words finished.

The woman pushes up from the table, goes to the counter and talks with the waitress. She returns, and the man looks up. She speaks. He nods.

They go to the counter together. The waitress hands the muzungu a platter piled high with food. She passes it to the man, and he carries it out into the sunlight, the blazing rays making his brown skin glow like polished wood. He sets the food down and kneels beside the girl, puts a hand on her shoulder, speaks, his Lugandan words a gentle murmur.

The muzungu hitches her bag higher on her shoulder, tucks it tight against her side, and moves a little way down the street to wait for her Ugandan friend.

Gratitude Attitude

Lots of joy! Yes, Jake IS wearing a bike helmet.

I’ve been grousing lately. Ironically, some of it has been on the subject of cultural ingratitude. “We move from the ‘gimme’ of Halloween to the ‘gimme’ of Christmas, with Thanksgiving squashed to nothing in between,” I told Emily when we walked past the clearance Halloween candy at the entrance of Target and saw the Christmas decorations already up just beyond. It’s easy to comment on general ingratitude, but God keeps reminding me of the personal component. I’ve listened to Colossians 1 probably 10+ times in the past month, and verse 11b-12a, “May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father” (NLV) jumps out at me. (There’s a bigger context going on in those verses, but I think the link of joy with gratitude is still a valid interpretation.) Joy doesn’t always characterize my life nor the lives of many other Western believers. That’s not good in terms of quality of life nor of sharing our faith. Who wants a dour faith? a dour life? I don’t. So this morning I took a few minutes to see what other people have said about gratitude. I’m sharing some of the quotes I found.

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.
— Meister Eckhart (1260-1329)

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
— Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC-43 BC), Pro Plancio (54 BC)

Prayer is the fruit of joy and thankfulness.
— Evagrios the Solitary (345-399 AD), On Prayer: 153 Texts, 15

Thou has given so much to me… Give me one thing more— a grateful heart.
— George Herbert (1593-1633)

From David learn to give thanks for everything. Every furrow
in the book of Psalms is sown with the seeds of thanksgiving.
— Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

Thanksgiving is good but thanks-living is better.
— Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

“THANKS-LIVING is better!” That’s awesome!

I choose gratitude. I choose joy. (And I ask God for help with both of them!)

I Choose Gratitude

I'm using an iPad for work and recently the kids and I took a picture of the rain on the sunroof of the car with it. It turned out very cool! So I'm sharing!

We had two meltdowns this morning—before 7:30! I was getting PJ out of bed when I heard Jake wailing from directly below in the kitchen.

NOTE: The boys’ room is a converted attic above the kitchen. It has no heat source, so whoever converted it simply cut a hole in the floor and stuck vent covers on the top and bottom of the hole so warm air from the kitchen can rise through the floor. It works well, especially when I need one of the boys to come downstairs or I want to fuss at them without climbing the stairs. When they are wrestling or having a jam session, it’s not so helpful.

So now you understand that when I knelt down by the vent, I was able to yell directly into the kitchen. “Jake, what are you crying about? Is everything ok?”

“I canneatsheerios cause thereall gone!”

Not a clue.


More of the same.

“Jake, come under the vent, stop crying,” (he obviously wasn’t hurt) “and tell me what is wrong.”

Finally I deciphered. “The honey-nut Cheerios” (okay, really “honey nut scooters” or some kind of off brand) “are all gone.”

This is serious in Jake’s world.

I did what I always tend toward in these situations.

I lectured. I did go downstairs first, put my hands on Jake’s skinny little shoulders, and kneel in front of him. Then I laid out the spiel: There are children whose mothers cannot feed them breakfast today. I have met some of them. That is heartbreaking. There are children who are only getting one meal today—or none at all. Do you really think that having to eat some off brand of Corn Chex rather than your beloved Honey Nut whatevers is a big deal?

He shook his head no, and I sent him off to my office to talk to God about it. When he was ready to eat Corn Squares (I just looked at the box for the right name) with a grateful spirit, he could come back.

It didn’t take too long.

Next was Maddie’s meltdown. Clothes. It’s always clothes with Maddie, has been since she was barely walking. “They’re too tight.” “They pull on me here.” (She points to her bottom.) “You HAVE to stretch them out.” The girl would prefer to wear footy pajamas all day in the winter (who wouldn’t?) and a tent dress in the summer. She didn’t wear socks for two whole years (including Chicago winters) because she didn’t like the way the seam rubbed along the top of her toes.

This morning the jeans that felt just fine yesterday no longer fit. “Seriously, Maddie? You did NOT grow a size bigger during the night.” (I tell myself all the time that talking logic with a seven-year-old is about like getting Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee to agree, but I keep doing it anyway.)

She got another variation of the same message I delivered to Jake.

And, as always, God spoke it to me as well. “Are you grateful for this morning? Are you glad for the opportunity to feed your children, to share this part of the day with them? Are you rejoicing that this is a brand new day, planned and designed by Me—and you get to be involved in it? Are you thankful that I have given your entire family health today? Aren’t you privileged to have a job that you love? Have you remembered today that, no matter how stressful your life seems to be, your standard of living is above 98% of the world’s population? Have you reminded yourself that there are infertile women—or women who have lost children—who would LOVE to be in your situation?”

Am I thankful? In everything?

I’m convinced that a spirit of gratitude primes my heart to accept the bigness of God, opens my eyes to see His goodness, and settles my spirit to trust in Him no matter the circumstances I find myself in.

I’m convinced that it’s really, really important.

But I allow discontent to fester. I pretend it’s something other than it really is. (“I’m just venting.” “You wouldn’t believe how frustrating today was!“ “I think the kids said, ‘Mom!’ about a million times today.”)

Because of Christ, though, I have a choice. I CAN choose to be grateful. Over and over I MUST choose to be grateful. The alternative is not a pretty option..

“May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.” (Col. 1:11b, 12a). There’s a link, isn’t there?