"Dear Jesus, thank you for trees and stuffed animals!"
Lately we have been teaching our daughter to name two things during our meal-time prayer that she is thankful for. I don't know if she really grasps the meaning of being "thankful" yet, since she is only two and a half, but her answers always delight me. Today she said, "Thank you for a family, and for cold, warm, and hot food!" Sometimes she mentions things she was playing with that day--"thank you for puzzles, books, and toys"--but most of the time it is just random things--"thank you for frogs and bunnies" or "thank you for trees and stuffed animals!" A couple times she has melted my heart by saying "thank you for mommy and daddy!" Oh, the joy and excitment in a child when they think about all the things they like, enjoy, and are thankful for. They don't seem to have the capacity to dwell on the negative for very long, only the positive! I think this is one of those times where my daughter is teaching me something when I thought I was teaching her something. Maybe I should do this as well--name several things every day, throughout the day, that I am thankful for to keep focused on my blessings!
I've discovered that bright and early in the morning is when a battle for the mind seems to take place, and the thoughts that start to form in my head early on are the ones that can form a day for good or bad. For some reason, it is much too easy to start a day with negative thoughts and feelings, and from there they become a tidal wave that can completely consume you. Yesterday, for instance, was not a good day. Looking back, there was nothing huge or life-shattering that happened to make it a bad day. It was just a bunch of little everyday things that added up. I didn't sleep well, had too much to do all day, had a cranky 2-year old, the weather was hot and uncomfortable, had lots of messes to clean up, dinner took way too long, and by 8 pm when I was ready to crash (since I'd been going non-stop since 6 am) I realized I needed to work in my garden for the last bit of daylight I had. So I begrudgingly weeded my garden and checked my plants, all the while getting eaten up by bugs. By the end of the day I felt like I missed out on enjoying my family, and I didn't get to stop and rest. I also knew, however, that my thoughts weren't centered on praise, but rather complaining. When that happens there is no doubt it is going to be a bad day!
Just like there is "power in prayer," there is also power in praise and thanksgiving--in remembering the Lord and all He's given--and focusing on that each day. When you wake up first thing in the morning, think about what you are thankful for. Be genuine, be specific, and be random and silly like a 2-year old if need be! When something comes along to challenge your day and potentially ruin it, focus on praise. This isn't just a "power of positive thinking" type of excercise. This is genuinely taking the time to refocus your thoughts on the Lord, and then giving Him the thanks and praise He is always worthy of! When you do that in all sincerity, you start to see what you have rather than what you are lacking. I've known people whose lives lack joy because they never have positive things to say about anything. Their lives are full of blessings, but they can't see it because they are always focused on what they don't have rather than what they do have, or on what is going wrong rather than what is going right. On the other hand, I recently read a story where a man's life was changed for the better when he started making a conscious effort to recognize his blessings, and then go out of his way to thank people through letters, emails, gifts, or anything else.
So what are you thankful for? Recognize what you have and say thanks for it! Start and end your day with remembering the Lord and praising Him for all He has done for you!
Taking my own advice, I sat in that garden last night, exhausted and hot, bug bites covering my legs, and I thanked the Lord for the space and resources to even have a garden. I thanked Jesus for the miracle of the seed, and how a huge harvest of food can grow from one tiny little seed! I thanked Him for my zucchini and tomatoes that are starting to grow, and for the satisfaction that comes from growing my own food--even if it means late night weeding sessions in the garden with all my bug friends. He just reminded me to use bug spray next time.
"Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23).