“The real problem of life is never a lack of time.
The real problem of life—in my life—is lack of Thanksgiving.”
– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

My mother-in-law passes out paper leaves every Thanksgiving. We are to write down one thing we are grateful for, hang it on the “Thanksgiving tree,”and then—and only then—are we allowed to dive into our sweet potatoes, turkey, and stuffing.

Inevitably, my oldest turns to me, “Mommy, I can’t think of ANYTHING to be thankful for. And I’m soooooooo hungry.”

“Aren’t you thankful for your brothers? For your school? For all of your Legos? For your fabulous and incomparable mommy? Aren’t you grateful for Jesus? For your dad? For your awesome friends?”

“Fine. I’ll write that. I’m thankful for my friends. Now can I eat?”
Mommy-guilt sets in immediately. I haven’t taught my kids the discipline of gratefulness. I haven’t taught them to look on the bright-side, to find the silver lining, to shout praise instead of grumbles. And worst of all, I haven’t modeled it for them. I look at my leaf. It is still empty. I am hungry too.

A few months after my infant had spinal cord surgery, we were told that he might have some muscle development issues and a possible hormone imbalance. That same week, I tore a ligament in my ankle. We were also dealing with some family drama. Again.

On an especially draining afternoon, I was folding laundry with the hope of distracting myself and quieting the stress, but my negative thoughts only got louder. Ugh. I’m folding laundry again. I don’t have time to do the things I really want to be doing in life. I’ve had such a difficult week. I hate being a stay-at-home-mom. I can’t believe this is my life.

I crumbled onto the laundry room floor, warm stack of freshly-dried clothes in my lap, and bawled like a baby.

I cursed and I cried. I begged God to fill my mouth with a new song—a cleansing-fire song, a passion and praise song, a thanksgiving song. It wasn’t the stress that was making me so negative; my lack of gratitude was amplifying the stress.      

I looked around the laundry room and started to name the blessings I could see right in front of me. 1) I have hands that are capable of folding clothes; 2) I have three little wardrobes in the sizes that my children need; 3) I have a husband who works at a wonderful church, so that I can stay at home and take care of the laundry; 4) I have nothing to complain about. 

I might be faking it ’til I make it, but a few weeks ago I was driving down the road, whining about the traffic, and I felt God with me. Practice Gratefulness Aubrey. I am good to you. I AM is good to you.  

Yes. God is good. The trees on the side of the road are gorgeous with fall. My car works and I have enough gas to get where I need to go—and with gas prices these days, that’s a miracle. Oops, there I go complaining again. (I’m still working on it.) Okay, where was I?

I have my driver’s license. I was so thrilled about that joyous rite-of-passage as a teenager. That’s something to celebrate! I have seat-warmers, baby, and my buns are always cozy. I have three healthy children in the backseat, singing to the Muppets soundtrack as loudly as they can. I have friends who know me and help when I need it most. I have an infant son who does not have a hormone imbalance and hospital bills for which God has supplied his provision. 

I have the love and presence of a savior who answers even the ugliest of laundry-room prayers. 

Practice gratefulness? That almost sounds like an oxymoron. I should be a singing-dancing-making-a-fool-of-myself-naked-like-David-street-performer. God is SO GOOD! Hallelujah!

Now, at bedtime, my boys and I say one thing we are thankful for. Yes, it might be Lego Star Wars pajamas or granola bars. That’s okay. For now, I just want them to be in the habit of thanksgiving. I want to do gratefulness aloud with them. 

I want them to have a thousand leaves hanging on Gramma’s tree.

I praise God for just that—for teaching my family to be grateful. On my leaf this year, I will write The Practice of Thanksgiving.  

I will be full. 

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