gratitude is not a feeling

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to post this week. I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment, and I know you guys are busy too.

But I had a vague idea of wanting to do a thankfulness post of some sort. I just didn’t want it to be the usual thing. I mean, yes, I am ridiculously thankful for my family, my friends, my house, our health, my physical possessions…and on and on the list goes.

But if I weren’t, I’d kind of be a jerk. After all, I have zero real complaints in any of those departments, so anything but the requisite attitude of gratitude would be, well, downright ungracious.

So, without any new revelations on thanksgiving, I was planning to announce my intention to take the week off and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Then, last night happened.

And now I have all kinds of, um, unique things to be thankful for:

1) I am grateful that my house has not burned down.

2) I am grateful my children do remarkably well in grocery stores, even when they’re hungry, the grocery list is longer than Mama’s arm, and it’s very cold and wet outside.

3) I am grateful my husband works from home.

4) I’m also grateful my husband is still speaking to me.

5) I’m grateful for Subway.

6) I’m very very grateful for Febreeze.

There are more, but let’s just get to the story behind all of these oddly specific points of gratitude.

I posted this on our Facebook page after “the incident,” and I thought it was worthy of blogging too (especially considering its length).

“Oh, y’all. It’s been quite the night.

The bad stuff: I left a burner on on the stove when I put dinner in the oven, and then we left for the gym.
My husband took the casserole out when he was supposed to, and then put it on the stove top, not realizing, of course, that I’d left the burner on.
He didn’t know that dinner had burnt to a crisp and then exploded all over the kitchen and filled the house with billows of black, acrid smoke until they finally made it all the way to his office which is at the farthest, second story corner of the house from the kitchen.

The everyday stuff: while all of this was happening, the kids and I went to Wal-mart in 35 degree nasty, awful, no good wet weather after 2 hours of taking/teaching classes at the gym. We were at the store for an hour and 1/2. An entire box of angel hair pasta ended up on the ground. My heel got rammed by a grocery cart at least 3 times. A wipes box burst open and spilled its contents on the ground as I was getting it out for the checker to scan (sensing a theme?). There were only 3 regular lines open, and with two entire baskets full of groceries (and children), something tells me we couldn’t have faked our way through the 20 items or less line. And by the time we finally finished checking out and dragged ourselves through the inside-Walmart-Subway to get sandwiches to replace the aforementioned exploded dinner, the twins were practically hiccuping (screechily) with exhaustion and even the Craisins I was shoveling in their mouths weren’t doing the trick. And, then, by the time I got all the kids and all $277 worth of groceries (I had been putting this trip off for a looooooong time) in the back, my hands were shaking uncontrollably with the cold. (Because 35 degrees of wetness feels waaaaay colder than 18 degrees of dryness).

And I’m not gonna lie: I was pretty tempted to mope. Like, really? I spent TIME out of a very busy day on that stinkin’ casserole. I kind of can’t stand grocery shopping already, much less when there’s borderline freezing water in my shoes, and there are people clogging the aisles doing their Thanksgiving shopping, making it very hard for my easily distracted 7-year-old to not mow somebody down (usually me). Plus, there are no open lines. Plus, I’ve been assured that when I get home, every inch of my house will smell like a charred casserole exploded and ate my kitchen whole because, oh wait, it pretty much did.

But then, darn it, if God didn’t remind me that, while my whiny little self with my chattery teeth leaned in close to my van’s heater vents as I drove my five healthy, sweet children home with a back hatch brimming with grocery bags, there were most certainly people not 10 miles away with no groceries, no heaters, and no husband at home to clean up the mess and open the windows and light candles and basically make himself so sick trying to get rid of the awful smell that he had to lie down to avoid vomiting. Those people would give anything to have a big kitchen like mine to explode a casserole in. Those people would give anything to have $277 to spend on food, and then some leftover to buy stock in Febreeze.

I know this is long and windy and maybe more than a little affected by smoke-inhalation and the fact that it’s entirely too late right now. But seriously. Even if my house had burned down (and praise JESUS it didn’t because of my stupidity), I would still be better off than most of the world’s population.
And it’s realizations like that that bring forth real thanksgiving. Real praise. Real gratitude.

May I not soon forget it.”

kids at walmart

What I didn’t mention in that novel  status update was that my husband never said one word about my mistake. In fact, I was the one struggling with mild snippiness when I got home, not because I thought it was his fault (it wasn’t!) but because I was worn out and wanted something, anything, to be upset at. I got over it pretty quickly, and I never lost it at either the store or at home (that’s God, y’all). But as I huddled in my van, letting the seat warmers restore much-appreciated heat to my stiff legs, all I could think about were persecuted believers around the world who spend every night of the winter in their cells, with nothing but a thin blanket—if they’re lucky—to combat the cold. I hate being cold, y’all. It makes me cranky. It does not inspire an attitude of gratitude in my soul. And yet I’ve read story after story about how these wrongfully imprisoned folks spend their time focusing on Bible memory and prayer (for their captors!) to take their minds away from their physical and emotional misery.

And it hit me—a simple truth that I already know but need a reminder of pretty much every single day.

Gratitude is not a feeling. It’s a choice.

Because if I’m only grateful when things are going my way, then I’m not very grateful at all. Just relieved and pleased that my life is easy.

But if I choose to see the good when the bad is more obvious—to give thanks in all circumstances—then I can finally begin to grasp the true meaning of the word “grateful.”

Do I do this well? Nope. In fact, I kind of stink at it most of the time. But I’m so so grateful (there’s that word again) for those moments when I feel like God has really hammered it into my heart. (Especially when he leaves behind a lingering stench as a reminder).

I am very grateful for the opportunity to practice real gratitude.

P.S. In case you’re curious about the stories I mentioned, then check out Voice of the Martyrs. It is such an inspiring, encouraging, and convicting resource that will surely bring a heaping helping of perspective. At least that’s what it does for me.

P.P.S. If you’re interested in helping out a specific wrongly imprisoned man, you can read about Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen who is being wrongfully imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith, and even sign a petition requesting his release.


  1. I’m so glad that your disaster didn’t turn out much worse, and thanks so much for this post! This year has been HARD for me because a lot of things have gone wrong – big wrong, and more wrong than I really could have imagined – but in the middle of it all I so, so grateful to God for the basics and for the big things: home, food, clothes, supportive family, and my ever-increasing faith in God that is a gift from him in itself. In a way this year has been the biggest blessing I could have asked for, not only because I believe it is leading to better things in my life but also because it has taught me like never before that I can and must rely on God, that my only comfort and strength is in God, and that there is great joy and peace in giving up control and hanging on for the ride. Also, even as seeming disaster after disaster hits, I find I am able to simply laugh, wait to see how God is going to fix this problem this time, and be SO GRATEFUL that it wasn’t worse. I thank God every day for my health, I thank God every time I trip on the stairs and all I end up with is a stubbed toe instead of a broken bone, I thank God every time I have an hour to relax and watch a TV episode and every time I squirt dish soap in the sink (because the dishwasher is broken dang it) and I am grateful to have dish soap and to have dishes to wash from food I have eaten.

    It’s the hardships (whether it’s a smoky house or ongoing trials) that really bring us perspective. Thanks for this reminder!

  2. Amen! When my son was diagnosed with leukemia at age 11, he talked a lot (after he got better enough TO talk!) about how much happier we would be if this had never happened. It got me thinking (and has KEPT me thinking for the last 2 years) about being grateful for how good God is in the things He DOESN’T put me through! : ) That might sound negative, but really, God is good for what He keeps us from as well as what He gives. : )

  3. Life can definitely be rough, be it with annoying everyday things or with bigger problems. But I have come to see that there is always SOMETHING we can and should be thankful for.

  4. Thank you so much for mentioning Pastor Saaed! His wife is a friend of our pastors wife and she spoke at our church! The more prayers lifted up for him and his family the better! Happy thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family!

  5. Thank you, and bless you! That was so raw, honest, and profound. I am as guilty as you on a daily basis. We DO need the occasional hammer.

I love hearing from you guys!