It is impossible to experience joy without gratitude. This thought popped into my head a few weeks ago.
Blame it on the late spring or our busy schedules, but there was an excessive amount of complaining going on in our home. Things that don't go right, chores that have to be done, places we have to go that we don't feel like going, low patience with each other...and that's just the things that have been bothering me. I haven't even started with my kids complaints...food, toys, school, homework...each other....
It is so easy to focus on what went wrong, despite all that goes right. I was reminded of this when I overhead my youngest telling his brothers about how, "Mommy yelled." Honest to goodness. He didn't mention my incredible patience with them as one of my school age boys couldn't find his baggy book and we had to search the whole house before we could leave for school. He didn't talk about how I helped one of my son's mop up his spilled drink. Or how calm I was when I carried my youngest son, who was throwing a huge tantrum because he couldn't get a toy, out of Target. (My husband said he could hear our youngest screaming all the way from the back of the store.) Or how I sat patiently with my older boys as I did their homework. He didn't mention how I had read them books far too late into the night, cutting in to the very small moment of alone time I get every day. Nope...my son talked about when I lost my patience and raised my voice.
But, I do the same thing. I will stew over something that went wrong and ignore the vast amount of blessing God showers on us.
The more we complained, the more the joy seemed to slip between our fingers.
We needed a family time out. We needed to do something that would shake up our home and redirect our hearts to the massive amounts of blessings that God showers on us every day...blessings that we often take for granite.
I knew our situation was bad when after the kids complained about food, my husband proposed spending a few days eating only rice and beans for dinner and talking about what we are grateful for. My husband hates beans.
My husband's suggestion got my head spinning with of ideas of how to make this gratitude lesson amazing and pinterest worthy. I thought of creating a cute big paper where we write everything we are thankful for. My head told me we would really make this point effectively if we only ate rice and beans and nothing else. But, in reality, I have to do what works for our family and still effectively teaches the lesson. So, we ate rice and beans and the fruits and vegetables in our fridge that would have otherwise gone to waste. I never spent the time making the big sheet of paper to write what we are thankful for, instead we went around the table and told three things that we were grateful for that day. And of course, I originally thought bigger was better and we should try this for a week, but I knew we wouldn't stick with it that long and found that three days was enough.
We didn't completely solve our problems of ingratitude, but we had some sweet family moments that steered our heart towards thankfulness.
One of my favorite things about parenting is as I teach my children lessons, I learn from them too. I had a really frustrating parenting moment today and I thought about this blog post I had been working on and mentally listed the things to be grateful for about the situation. The good outweighed the bad...my frustration fizzled and I felt better about things. I felt more joyful.