Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Please Pass the Gourditude

We sat around the table, gabbing rather mindlessly about nothing in particular. There were occasional lapses in etiquette, selfish tendencies cropped up unexpectedly from time to time, and eventually a general spirit of unrest had me squirming with dissatisfaction and frustration.

My kids aren't so little anymore. I used to enjoy the quaint November projects that reminded us to be thankful, projects such as writing notes on colorful sticky notes, rubbing leaf patterns onto cards, or adding verses of gratitude to construction paper artwork.

But they've outgrown the turkey hand-tracing phase. No longer would it be appropriate to invite my teen to stand on a chair and quote, "How Doth the Little Busy Bee." (Although if he did volunteer, it would probably be pretty entertaining. I'll have to keep that one in mind . . . . )

Still, no matter our age, our hearts must practice gratitude in order to grow, in order to truly live. With or without construction paper and marking pens, we must continue to train our hearts to "praise God from whom all blessings flow." (If you have ten minutes, I strongly encourage you to listen to Ann Voskamp's talk on the subject of gratitude.)

Elisabeth Elliot, whose radio program "Gateway to Joy" I've been listening to quite a bit lately, said:

When we learn to give thanks, we are being obedient to God, we are delivered from a mean and complaining spirit, and we maintain unbroken fellowship with the Lord. 

This is what I want for my family: unbroken fellowship with the Lord. So as we sat there around the table, I suddenly grabbed an especially odd-shaped gourd from the centerpiece. I figured it was worth a try. Clearing my throat I sat up straight and announced in sonorous tones, "This is the gourd of gratitude."

Jamie was quick to catch on. "The gourditude."

"Yes, the gourditude. We will now pass the gourditude around the table (you must hold it by the handle, like so) and share something kind about the person on your right."

The giggling and snickering commenced. We passed the gourd (holding the handle like so), and the tension was lifted. Kind words began to come from our lips, words that gave birth to more words of generosity and appreciation.

The passing of "gourditude" continued the next time we gathered, and I silently praised God for such a simple act that spoke to the teen and pre-teen hearts in our home.

This action reminded me once again of how crucial it is to be developing gratitude in my own heart. I'd allowed certain disciplines to slip -- disciplines such as Scripture memory and gratitude journaling -- that were instrumental in keeping my heart and mind focused on that which is "right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy." And my family suffered as a result.

A wise woman in my church once shared a key to motherhood that was both succinct and convicting: "It's my life or theirs." So simple, yet so difficult. My life . . . or my child's life?

Photo by Peter Bartausky

Yet in order to be able to sacrifice, in order to be able to give and give to my family again and again (and with joy, no less!) I must be filled. I cannot fill my life in my own strength, but I can ask the Lord to fill me. And He delights to do so.

The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure 
and sense in which he has attained liberation from self.

And so up went the Scripture passage above the kitchen sink (I'm working on a section of John 15) and out came the gratitude journal. And you know what? A funny thing happened. The atmosphere in our home shifted. My daughter, who has been prompting me on my memory cards, decided to write out some verses that she now wants to memorize. The words in our home are more inclined toward kindness, and a general feeling of peace and calm is not so out of the ordinary.

It's my life or theirs. Jesus was faced with the same decision . . . and He chose us. He chose me, He chose you. Such love prompts my heart to choose Him, to choose my husband, to choose my children . . . above myself.

Christ's love compels us.
(2 Cor. 5:14)

Sometimes it takes a little push to remind us, and sometimes it takes an oddly-shaped gourd. How thankful I am that my Lord has both a generous, patient heart . . . and a great sense of humor. 

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