Giving Thanks with a Grumbling and Grateful Heart

Back in college, my roomie/best bud had a cool idea to write down one thing we were thankful for each day. Keep in mind, this was in the dark ages of the mid-90s, so there were no online articles touting the health benefits of gratitude or gratitude apps (I randomly did a Google search and actually found one!) to inspire her. Nope, she thought of it all on her own. 🙂

I wish I had kept the journal I used for the exercise so I could remember what I had recorded, but I’m guessing it was pretty ordinary stuff.

Monday – Good friends

Tuesday – Passed a test/finished a paper

Wednesday – Good church

Thursday – Food (even dorm food)

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – repeat, repeat, repeat

As a college kid I had a pretty easy life; my parents paid for all my expenses and my only “job” was to study and pass my classes (and have some fun in between). I don’t remember it being too hard for me to be thankful on a daily basis.

Now enter real life (AKA adulthood). My life two decades later is pretty different from my college days. There are a lot more responsibilities to handle, more challenges to face, and let’s be honest, more complaints to list. Those days of jotting down a reason to be thankful every day are long gone, along with my youthful optimism and energy. Instead, I often find myself giving thanks out of guilt and through gritted teeth, like when I saw this image on Facebook this week:

Grateful

Now I’m sure the mom who put this list together truly is grateful for her life. When I read the list, I was even encouraged to be thankful for all those things. But I’ll admit, I groaned a little, too (okay, a lot). 😉

It’s not that I’m not thankful. I’m constantly in awe of how gracious God is to me and my family. But maybe once in a while, I want to acknowledge the struggles of life, even – and especially – the small ones, instead of glossing over them. I want to admit I have a hard time keeping the house clean. I don’t like doing the mundane tasks of changing the sheets or vacuuming or cooking. I struggle every day with being patient and loving toward the kids. I feel and look tired when I go to bed and often times when I wake up in the morning. And I suspect life only gets busier and more challenging the older I get.

Groan, groan, groan. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

Ahh… okay, now that I’m done acknowledging all the hard stuff, I feel more authentic and a lot less like I’m lying to myself. 😉 Ironically enough, I can understand the image above better. When I first saw the equal signs in the phrases, I read them as “but …” in an effort to keep a glass half-full mentality, however, now I see them as “and …” in an effort to be real. And I suppose that’s what the mom who wrote them meant, too.

I’m learning it’s a matter of embracing that life is full of hard stuff and good stuff … all at the same time. It’s not an either/or thing; it’s all-inclusive. It’s about doing the hard work of being responsible and patient, and knowing that your heart and character are being shaped and molded during the process. It’s about persevering through the hard moments, and believing that the more you do, the more mature you’ll become and the fewer complaints you’ll have. Because sometimes a lot of the time, the hard stuff makes us appreciate the good stuff even more than if we only had the good stuff by itself.

So here’s to celebrating Thanksgiving with a grumbling and grateful heart, and thanking God for all the hard and the good stuff.

Here is a beautiful song by Pam Thum, “Life is Hard (God is Good)”. I love the truth of these lyrics: “Sometimes living takes the life out of you, and sometimes living is all you can do.” May this song bring encouragement and comfort to your heart through whatever hard stuff you’re facing today.

What hard stuff do you give thanks for, or hope to give thanks for one day?