I had just merged onto the busy freeway, my new baby girl in tow, when a pungent odor began circulating throughout my van. As a mother of four, my finely tuned sense of smell told me this was the real deal. There was no time to pull off the freeway for a diaper change; I was already running late for a Christian educators' convention where it was my turn to work an exhibitors' booth I shared with a couple of friends. Just my luck, I muttered to myself.
Once we arrived at the convention center, out came the car seat, the stroller, the diaper bag, the baby, and a partridge in a pear tree. I plopped Charli in her stroller and we raced through the entryway just as 9,000 people flooded the exhibit hall, forcing me to undertake some pretty daring stroller maneuvers against the flow of traffic. Fortunately, the crowds parted like the Red Sea to escape the fumes that announced our presence, and soon we pulled into our assigned spot.
I sat down and commenced decontamination procedures on my daughter's hind side, frantically searching for wet wipes with one hand and holding Charli on the makeshift folding chair/changing table with the other. By this time droves of people were passing the booth, and I was flashing my best I've-got-everything-under-control smile.
I stuffed all my baby paraphernalia back into the diaper bag and tried to get organized in the booth. But a tiny cry reminded me that it was time for brunch, and I was about to become known as the nursing mom exhibit. "What possessed me to think I could do this alone? Could this day get any more complicated?" I grumbled.
But as the day passed, something unexpected happened. A steady stream of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas strolled by the booth, stopping one by one to stare at the little angel in my arms. Clad in a pink dress, her big brown eyes peeking out from beneath a crocheted bonnet, Charli commanded the attention of all who passed.
The knowing gleam in their eyes seemed to say, "It just doesn't get any better than that." With each comment of, "Enjoy this time, honey. It goes so fast," I held Charli a little closer, examined each little dimple of her tiny fingers more carefully. I became so enchanted by this cooing miracle sitting on my lap that I forgot I was there for any other purpose than to be filled with the joy of her presence. I felt God's soothing touch calm the edginess that had crept into my soul. "Isn't she amazing?" he seemed to whisper. A thousand prayers of thanksgiving welled up in my heart, and I forgot all about my frazzled nerves.
It takes no effort to find things to gripe about. In fact, some of us seem to have a knack for it! It's not quite as easy to live a life that reflects the exhortation of Ephesians 5:20: "Always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything."
To cultivate a heart of thankfulness requires intentional effort and new eyes to see all that God has done for us. Yes, we have piles of laundry, but thank God we have clothes to keep us warm. Yes, we spend our days shuttling kids from soccer to swimming lessons, but thank God they are able to run and play.
The reward for this effort is a life in which small pleasures are savored, people we love are treasured, and nothing is taken for granted. When we choose to see the blessings in our lives each day, our grumbling is transformed into gratitude.
A note from Elisa Morgan: Dear Mom, are you stuck in a place of seeming impossibilities? Even in such stuckness, God waits to hear our gratitude. Paul says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It seems God knows that when we find ways to be thankful, even in the darkest times, our hearts are lifted, our hopes are increased, and for a few seconds, we can pick up one foot and take another baby step through the day.
Lisa Johnson is a writer, speaker, and recording artist from Southern California. Learn more about her at www.candykissesmuddyhugs.com.
Elisa Morgan is president of MOPS International. Call (800) 929-1287 for information about a MOPS group in your area.
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