We are in the midst of a series discussing our family’s attitudes. They are the guide posts we want to put in our lives and in our kid’s lives as they navigate the different seasons and stages they go through.
We wrote on the importance of perseverance last time. Next is gratitude.
There are two reasons why Gratitude is important enough to be a core family attitude:
One reason is because an attitude of gratitude is the foundation for a life that is humble, generous and compassionate. Gratitude requires an honest assessment of where we are and how we got there; that much of it was not personal choice but providential blessing (humility). It’s an attitude that leads to being a giver (more on that soon). And it also creates room for us to think of other’s needs and stop thinking of our own (compassion).
The second reason is this: Gratitude builds the bridge to trust.
Gratitude builds the bridge to trust.
This bridge is built time and time again between God and his people in the pages of the Bible, but one of the most powerful stories is Habakkuk. Habakkuk is writing about the struggle to believe in the goodness of God while everything around him was evil. His world is falling apart, and he couldn’t see how God’s goodness was still going to prevail.
Habakkuk is writing a lament, much like the laments you read in the Psalms. But after listing out his woes and after hearing God speak, Habakkuk ends with hopeful praise despite knowing the season to come was going to be incredible hard:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
He chose gratitude. And gratitude led him to choose trust. A trust that believed God beyond the current circumstances.
The problem is that being grateful doesn’t always come naturally.
I read a quote from Mark Batterson that said, “Reactions are conditioned reflexes, and they must be reconditioned by the grace of God.”
To have an attitude of gratitude it must be conditioned. It’s an attitude you have to choose over and over.
“Reactions are conditioned reflexes, and they must be reconditioned by the grace of God.”- Mark Batterson
And sometimes, you have to start simple. This is especially true when your story is similar to the despair and brokenness of Habakkuk. But maybe starting simple will allow your heart to grow and to change. Maybe it will create the space for gratitude to be a conditioned reflex.
For me, gratitude began with me thanking God for a cup of coffee one day. I had been so caught up in my frustrations, being grateful towards anything seemed inconceivable. Life felt like doors were constantly closing. Any dreams that were “Hannah’s dreams” seemed like they were put on the shelf, only collecting dust. And if truth be told, I didn’t want to change my heart. I was angry and felt quite justified.
Nonetheless, I started by saying thanks for a cup of coffee, which led to saying thanks for the cream too. And then for the smell of coffee as it’s brewing, and that my coffee maker works. Simple “thank you’s” opened my heart and gratitude began to trickle towards the things I wasn’t sure I was grateful for.
It’s ok to be angry.
It’s ok to be hurt.
But even in those moments, when you choose gratitude, it pulls your heart to God and builds a bridge for trust.
A trust during your season.
A trust during the pain.
It wasn’t easy for me. But a bridge of trust began to be built. Gratitude opened the door and allowed me to see that choosing one dream meant the other dreams were on hold. And that sometimes while we are waiting, God is working in us to prepare us for what is next. Having an attitude of gratitude made it easier for me to trust God even when I didn’t understand everything that was going on.
And since then, we have learned that when gratitude is a conditioned reflex in our everyday, it creates a greater trust in God for the everyday. And fear and anxiety have to work a lot harder to overcome our hearts and minds.
This is the reflex we want our kids to have to their everyday, and here are some of the ways we encourage an attitude of gratitude in our family:
1. Thank You Prayers
As soon as our kids were able to talk, we taught them to say Thank You Prayers. “Thank you, God, for Mommy, Daddy, Jodie, Reagan and Shepherd.”
And as they grew older, their prayers grew too. Some days they only thank God for things like their dresser or their bed, but our hope is one day, it will help them to trust and say thank you even when the harder things happen in life. We want them to know there is a God who listens to them and who cares for them, and to know they can trust Him.
2. Thank You Songs
We are a singing family. Like we have said in other posts, songs have a powerful ability to imbed words into our hearts and souls that otherwise would not stick. So, when I was having a hard time being grateful in life and Brandon and I started saying “Thank you” prayers, we also started singing Give Thanks.
Since then, our family has made up motions, that get changed constantly, but this song helps to remind us that we have so much to be thankful for. That when we are having a hard time seeing beyond our own circumstances, we have a God that loves and cares for us.
3. The “Favorites” Question
Every night at the dinner table we go around and share our favorite part of the day. The idea is that no matter what kind of day we have had, we have the opportunity to search for the good and give thanks. We want to teach our kids this reflex and to learn not to let the bad be the loudest part of our life.
Some days, the response is literally, “Right now eating dinner with my family.” But most days, we get a little piece of our kid’s days that we might have not heard about otherwise. As parents, it helps us see beyond the busyness of our season and savor what God is doing in our lives now. It helps us give thanks.
These are just some of the ways we are trying to have gratitude as a conditioned reflex in our hearts. We share these with you as reference point that you can to use in your life.
So where do you need to start?
What are some steps you could do to respond with a heart of gratitude? What are some of the ways you can create the space for gratitude to be an attitude for you? Maybe you are like me, you might need to start simple. Maybe you need to read a Psalms a day and allow your heart to grow from there.
Whatever you decide, allow gratitude to grow, to trickle and to build a bridge to greater trust.
Photo by Rebecca Nuddleman.