And what if I don’t feel grateful? Then what?
It is some kind of cosmic joke that I’m supposed to write about gratitude, peace, and contentment this month. Seriously, it’s times like these when I know for absolute certain that God has a fantastic sense of humor. When I agreed to write a post about this precisely one bajillion years ago, I had no idea I’d be smack in the middle of a season of the exact opposite when I finally had to sit down at my laptop.
The one thing I know for certain is I don’t know jack about these things.
I’m a reluctant gratituder. I love complaining and consider my ability to gripe about life’s trials a bit of an art form, and I get a little annoyed that as a Christian I have to find some kind of high road of peace and contentment in life’s most difficult situations. It’s exhausting.
I secretly wish that complaining was a spiritual gift, because I am amazing at it and would be so honored to serve the body of Christ in this way.
It’s not. I looked it up.
We probably aren’t supposed to go around whining and complaining to one another, but we can complain to God. It’s in the Bible. In Psalm 142 David says,
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.”
Yessss. David did it, and I’m gonna take that as an all-play. I know, I’m supposed to be writing about contentment and I’m still talking about complaining. But listen, complaining to God has become my road to contentment.
We have been walking a hard road these last few months, with diagnoses flying at us from all directions and so many meetings with doctors and therapists that I began to fantasize about moving to a tiny island by myself. My high needs kids have, well, needs, and I needed to figure out how to find peace in the midst of this parenting hairball. I haven’t felt very grateful. I wanted to get my whine on.
So lately I’ve been crying aloud to the Lord. I’ve been pouring out my complaint, and telling him my troubles. God, this sucks. We don’t have it the hardest by a long shot, but it’s hard enough and I can’t adult anymore. All my adulting is used up.
And after I get that out, after I get out all the panic and all the anger and all the complaining, pour it all out before God, I wipe my eyes, look around at my life, and start to notice other stuff, too.
I see moments of peace. I realize my kids are sometimes quite hilarious. One of them asks me to cuddle and I feel all gooshy inside and marvel at these little relationships, these highly dysfunctional, weird, little messy relationships that somehow seem to produce joy in spite of themselves.
Dr. Leo Marvin: I want some peace and quiet!
Bob Wiley: Well, I’ll be quiet.
Siggy: I’ll be peace!
–What About Bob?
Because gratitude doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to approach it like a discipline. Even if I don’t have tender loving feelings about it, I’m going to practice it and hopefully something will stick and take hold in my heart.
So every morning as I return to consciousness and reach for my phone to turn off the chiming alarm, I take a moment to inhale, exhale, open my hands palms up, and say, “Thank you, God, for another day. I invite you into it.” He’s already in and doesn’t need my invitation, but you get the idea. I start the day off with thanks and openness not because I can conjure up the feelings but more like how some people roll out of bed and do sit-ups. (Not me. Please. The thought of sit-ups in the morning would keep me glued to my bed for hours. Coffee compels me.)
Then throughout the day, I start counting. I count the wins. They’re all around me, these moments to celebrate. Every day, some more than others, I find wins to count. We’re big fat winners. I open my mouth to rant at my kid, but instead I say positive things like, “You’re so gifted at honesty!”
Child: I wish you weren’t my mom.
Me: Good using your words!
And then I get some therapy. You know it’s bad when your child’s therapist says, “Mom, I see that you’re anxious. You need to go see your own therapist.” Um, gee, I wonder why I could possibly be feeling anxious? Could it be because my child is in therapy?
I took her advice and have been enjoying some me time in the form of my counselor’s couch. She’s helping me discover what triggers my lack-of-peace. I mean, besides parenting in general.
I’m on a quest for contentment, and it’s taking small steps and making simple choices every day, to choose positive over negative, to ask for help, to put in the work. It’s better than sit-ups. And slowly I see the light filter in. I am grumbling, begrudgingly, grateful.
Courtney interjecting here at the end because I can – it’s my blog and Melanie is my friend. Isn’t she the BEST?!!! If you LOVED that – you will LOVE her last book, Women Are Scary, and her newest book coming soon… It’s Not Fair. She’s so very real and funny and doesn’t sugar coat struggle. Yet, there is hope. You can hear her funniness and realness over at her new podcast.
Thank you! I relate to ALL of this. I’ve been having a hard time getting my head and heart past my grumbling, complaining, and anxiousness lately. And I wonder what my problem is because my life is good all in all. Thanks for the reminder that we can take it all to God. And for making me feel like less of a weirdo.
I’m a weirdo, too, Jeannie! I think weirdos are the best.
Well done artclie that. I’ll make sure to use it wisely.
Count the wins. I like that and definitely needed this read today. I would say that you just have no idea….but you do. YOU do. ☺
Thanks for being so honest. I had this blog open a few days after listening to Focus and had just been searching today for some encouragement when I came back to this site and read this. Boy… life is sure heavy sometimes. :/
Your post reminded me about that good ole gratitude journal I should probably open today.
Prayers and hugs to you from another weirdo mom!