Monday, November 14, 2011

the thankful tree

it began at first light.  

creeping in with the dawn and rising fast with the sun.

surely it wasn't there the night before. not at bedtime prayers or goodnight kisses.  it wasn't around in the tucking in of tired children and the whispered i love you's of my exit. i didn't see even a trace ...

but when morning arrived, the grumbling came with it.  

full force. all engines firing.  complaint after complaint, coming from child after child. it was that kind of morning... you know the kind where you can't get your kids out of the car fast enough.  where the school bell can't ring soon enough. a morning where the milk tastes odd and the shower runs cold and the shoes feel tight. every one of them had something not right. something go wrong.  something to complain about, argue over, pout upon. and, for some crazy reason, they all felt i was the perfect person with which they might share their morning misery.  

i was the woman just waiting to hear their sad wednesday saga --  or so they thought. by the time they were all buckled into my backseat, i was over it.  i mean it -- D O N E.  and at 8:00 am, i was already lacking the energy to muster one more lousy lecture about gratitude. i just wanted to stop the car roadside and let them out the doors. shoo them forward into their day. fake smile,  weak wave, and mutter under my breath, sayonara kiddos!

driving back home, i felt tired in the air of their lingering words. children had exited, but their gripes still hung close. i just knew the evil one was feeling pretty triumphant about this morning's mayhem on buttercup trace. score one for the dark side. he had managed to stir us all into a spirit of complaint.  ingratitude.  thanklessness.  here we were just days into november -- the very month of thankFULLness -- and we were officially, thank-empty.  it was only november 2nd and it was only 8:30 am and i was feeling only exhausted by it all.

the morning outside my car window was looking to be perfectly beautiful. a blue and gold fall day, crisp and cool, except the ugliness  of our ingratitude had my heart in the grip of gray. and as i continued to drive home toward my morning dishes and our morning mess, my thoughts began to stir. what could i do? what could one woman, one mother, possibly do to fix her kids' grumbling?  to grab their attention ... to capture their hearts? what could i possibly do to shift us from thankless to thankful?  i was thinking immediate intervention. boot camp. shock therapy. something drastic.

but as i drove through the morning's crisp beauty, the answer became clear:  we had to start naming again. begin counting again. pick up the pen and write down the blessings. it was simple. it is simple. and yet, we forget. at least in my house, we forget. i have continued with my blue journal,  still filling it with blessings. gifts. gratitude. but oh, i am anything but faithful to it.  some days it goes neglected in the bottom of my bag or wedged between the seats in my car. some days it gets buried under school papers or pushed to the far edges of my desk -- to the far corners of my mind.  and in my carelessness and forgetfulness, i neglect the necessity of naming the grace gifts. i forget to name what's been given.

by the time i parked in our driveway, a plan was already taking shape.  it wasn't anything elaborate.  there would be no need to shop or plan for it.  no hours spent in creation.  without entering the house, bella and i headed for the backyard.  we grabbed branches from the ground.   she cheerfully tagged along. happy to be with mama and happy to pick up branches.  with arms full and toddler in tow, i entered the kitchen.  branches, vase, burlap, jute and paper collected.  now, i didn't for one minute, believe that these craft items were going to solve our issues or save our family.  they weren't the answer.  there was going to be no quick fix for us all.  but something had to be done.  even something small.  and so our thankful tree was formed.  you can see from the picture, it is a project as simple as they come.  but simple was what we needed.  just a simple reminder:  be thankful.  be grateful.  look.  list.  scratch the words on paper and scratch the gratitude in our hearts.

the afternoon arrived, bringing kids home from school and wary looks at the tree.   when i explained how we were going to spend the remainder of november hanging cards of thanksgiving on these branches, i was pleased to see their response - even the teenagers. i mean, there were a couple of sideways looks...some raised eyebrows...maybe an eye roll or two, but absolutely no argument.  no awkwardness.  i guess they know their mother well enough.  i guess the grumbling gremlins of this morning had (thankfully) departed.  

so now, each day, we (try to) take time and write down something -- just one thing -- for which we are grateful. one item. one gift.  one grace.  sometimes they write silly things -- including the husband -- and get reprimanded. "this is not a joke," i say, remembering all too well that november 2nd morning. sometimes friends come over and they write things down too.  the kids know by now, anyone crossing our thresh hold is fair game for their mother.   while the trees outside our window are quickly disrobing themselves of color, our thankful tree is adding foliage each day.  it looks different then the other trees.  and it should.

isn't this how we as christians should look -- different.  in a world that demands its fair a culture that says, me a time which tells us, we deserve more!...we should look different.  when the world is grey and bare and bleak in its spirit of thanklessness and discontent ... i would like to strive for the color of thanksgiving. i'd like us to be rich in our praise, aware of our gifts and lavish in our gratitude. is it possible? i am not asking if it is easy, but is it possible? my silly tree isn't going to grow grateful children, but it is a reminder to all of us... we must be deliberate. intentional.  mindful.  it is not going to just happen.  we aren't exactly bent to be thankful. we don't inherit the gene. we don't come by it naturally.  we must work at it.  we must speak it.  write it.  breathe it.  and then...maybe then...just maybe then...we can live it.

i would maintain that thanks is the greatest form of thought 
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
gk chesterton

"be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you."
  ~ 1 thessalonians 5:18


Aus said...

Brilliant - aboslutly brilliant!

There will be one in our home before the kids get home from school today!!

hugs - wow -

aus and co.

jodymcnatt said...

thanks aus! love your enthusiasm. i have had several people write to tell me, they too, are making thankful trees...makes my heart smile.