I’ve been excavating this week. When you have your second or subsequent baby, you have to unearth all of the baby paraphernalia that you’d hidden under the bed/on top of the wardrobe/at your mum’s house. It’s quite heartwarming in a way, because it takes you back to those early days with your older child(ren) which seem so long ago. But in other ways, it’s a tiny bit disheartening. What I mean is, I find it really satisfying to get rid of stuff I don’t need anymore because I’ve moved on to a new stage. So going back to the earlier stages and starting all over again can bruise my organisational ego. I’ve realised that I often look forward to the day when I won’t need an entire kitchen cupboard dedicated to plastic crockery, sippy cups, bottles and baby food. Or when I won’t need to buy kiddie snacks or dairylea slices, because the kids will eat what we eat (this may never happen but shhhh don’t tell me). But even as I long for this I do have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not a very godly way to think.
Growing up I was always told, ‘Don’t wish your life away.’ I think that was because I always wanted to be about three to five years older than I was (those days are gone, I can assure you). Although this isn’t a phrase from the Bible, it is wise advice. Always pining for the next thing is really a recipe for discontentment. While I’m longing for the days when I can have a serious conversation with my son, I’m missing the blessings of the here and now. While I’m pining for the time when I won’t have to cadunk my buggy up the steps because my buggy will be long gone, I’m ignoring the beauty of cute babes in a pushchair.
I’m reading a really interesting book which has encouraged me massively – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Today I read this, as Ann recollects holding her sleeping daughter, the youngest of six children:
‘My baby is five… She is leaving me, she’s growing up and moving away from me, and she stirs and I sweep back the crop of golden ringlets. Stay, Little One, stay. Love’s a deep wound and what is a mother without a child and why can’t I hold on to now forever and her here and me here and why does time snatch away a heart I don’t think mine can beat without?’ (p. 160)
I felt so rebuked by this. My eldest isn’t five yet, and I often wish she were just a bit older. But I’m sure one day (maybe soon) I’ll turn around and mourn the loss of their early years. That will also be discontentment of course! So what’s the solution? How do I enjoy the here and now; savour the moment? Well, Voskamp’s book is all about thankfulness. I know I should be thankful for today, but how?
One wonderful thing about being a parent of young children is that you have someone showing you how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now, every single day. Here are a few things my tots were excited about today (and these are just the ones they shouted about):
– steam from a chimney
– an aeroplane (many, many times, we live under the Heathrow flight path)
– a blue van
– ‘Sparkles’ (Actually the sunlight reflected in raindrops on a grey, dirty pavement)
I want to be more like that. I want to be enchanted by the mundane and thankful for the ordinary. If I can learn to do that, then I’ll start to focus on the beautiful things in my life, great and small, and to sideline the hard things that I can’t change.
At the end of a wearying day, I want to tell my husband every detail of the battles I’ve endured. I don’t want to focus on the lovely things, because… hmmm, if I’m honest I don’t want him thinking I’ve had an easy day. Then he might not sympathise with me. If I tell him all the blessings, then who gets the glory? Not me, of course, but the Lord, the giver. I want this, and I don’t want it. My new, spirit-filled heart wants to praise the Lord; it’s my sinful, self-centred self who wants to wallow in self-pity, ingratitude and dissatisfaction.
I’ve heard many times before that being thankful is a way to find joy and to be content. But it seems so hard to do. It is hard, but I’m realising that it’s a lesson to learn, and a lesson that takes time. We can train ourselves to be thankful. Ann Voskamp trained herself by writing one thousand things she loves, or in other words one thousand gifts she is thankful for. I’ve started trying to do this myself. I’m making quite slow progress, partly because I’m out of practice (I’ve never been in practice), and partly because I don’t have my notebook lying around all day (for fear of it being splattered/snatched/accidentally recycled), so I have to remember things and write them down later. But even so, I can tell that God is gently changing me as I discipline myself to find the beauty in my life.
So may I encourage you now to try this – you don’t have to write it down or set yourself a target of course, but if you would like to find more joy, try learning to be thankful for the ‘now’ you’re in. Maybe you live in a beautiful location, in which case your list will probably be full of natural beauty. However, may I refer you to the title of this blog, and remind you that I live far away from wildlife (unless you count pigeons and the odd urban fox, which I absolutely do not!) or sweeping landscapes. But there is still beauty in my life, and I’m learning to find it. Here are ten items from my list so far, just to encourage you to give it a go:
7. Help up the stairs
10. Soft slippers on aching feet
16. My children stopping at the road
20. Double glazing
23. A cup of tea by the bed
26. The listening ear of a friend
44. The kitchen bin, empty
60. The radio
62. The generosity of friends
Nothing spectacular I know, but they’re God’s gifts to me and it’s right that I thank him for them. You can probably think of something more joy-filling than an empty kitchen bin, and I encourage you right now to thank God for whatever that is!
So I’m hoping, by God’s grace, that by cultivating a thankful heart, I will bring glory to God with my attitude, I’ll find joy, and I won’t get to the end of my life and realise I’ve spent it wishing I were somewhere else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.