Meet my moms. The one on the left has been my mom for 47 years, the other for 25. They’re both very easy to love.
Reason #1: My moms bake the best pies.
But their methods are not the same. One rolls a butter crust that might just mix with whole wheat flour. The other uses Crisco and uses a single shell for a perfect, flaky, double-shell crust. One bakes by feel, the other, by the book. A dollop of real whipped cream tops the pumpkin pie and crumbles of extra sharp cheddar top the apple pie. Both offer it à la mode.
They both bake the best pies. The pies make it easy to love my moms.
Reason #2: My moms work with all their might.
Their tasks are different, but what their hands find to do, they both do with all their might. With the fruit of her hands one mom plants a garden and provides food not only for her household but for her children’s households and for two farmer’s markets. My other mom holds the needle and scissors and her foot deftly pumps the sewing machine pedal. With the fruit of her hands she makes quilts and runners and patches the knees in her grandsons’ pants.
What their hands find to do both moms do it with all their might.
Reason #3: My moms love the hard to love.
Both moms have different difficult people in their lives. I don’t know all of them, but I know one well. Both moms have seen me at my ornery worst. I’d like to think that came 30 years ago when I was a moody teenager, but last month I was too mad and sad to give one mom a proper hug and good-bye after a three-hour drive together. Last week the other mom walked in on pity-party.
Can you guess what both moms said then, last week and last month? They both said, “I love you.”
Reason #4: My moms speak with kindness.
Both moms use their tongues to heal and give life. Their tone is different. One is more subdued and the other effusive. But both design their words to encourage and build up. Kindness, I shared before, has a firm core of truth and soft edges of grace. Both moms have told me no and asked me hard questions. But always the questions and no‘s are grace-laced. Plus, they are free with their thanks.
Both of these women infuse their words with kindness.
What Will Your Kids Say?
You are going to be what you’re becoming now, Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators noted.
I bring it up because as I wrote these four reasons it’s so easy to love my mom and my mother-in-law, I kept asking myself, “What would my sons, or future daughter-in-laws, say about me?” My pies will never compete with grandmas’, but am I living today so that one day they might echo one of the other three?
Fully one half their number was dead. Of the 102 who crossed on the Mayflower, only 50 remained. Of eighteen married couples who embarked together, just three remained intact. In fifteen marriages, one or both partners had died.
This was the group who paused to thank God. This was the thanks giving group.
But as Tracy McKenzie points out in this insightful The Real First Thanksgiving podcast, those 50 wouldn’t have dubbed that autumn week a first anything. The feasting was simply God’s children being the grateful people he had made them to be.
God gave them eyes to see his grace. Then they gave thanks.
Which reminds me of a story.
A Giving Thanks Story
After the Second World War, two seriously ill woman were placed in the same London hospital room.
Marie was blind, and Ginny was assigned the bed next to the room’s only window. The days flew by. Despite her sickness, Ginny’s words were full of good cheer. She inquired about Marie’s friends and family and prayed for those they knew. And always Ginny thanked God for the day.
But there was this other thing she’d do. It started their third afternoon together, when a discouraged Marie needed hope.
“What’s outside the window?” she’d ask.
Ginny by the window described the squirrels and trees, and the park with the little lake just beyond. She’d tell about the kids and their kites, the rowers and long-necked swans. And Ginny could paint a sunset. The sunsets were Marie’s favorite. Her face would glow as Ginny spoke.
Ginny Could See
In fact, Marie began to live for those “paintings” of the world outside the window. They inspired hope and healing even though her eyes could not see. But while Marie’s health improved, Ginny’s rapidly declined.
Shortly after Ginny died, Marie’s new roommate settled in.
“Would you tell me what’s outside the window today? Who’s at the park? Are the swans on the lake? If the sunset is pretty tonight, would you describe it to me, too?”
Silence filled the room.
“The park? A lake? Our window faces a brick wall. And there’ll be no sunsets tonight or any other, for even if the wall weren’t there, this window faces east.”
Now Marie knew. How Ginny could see.
Seeing Grace in All the Things
Ever since I first heard a version of that story decades ago, I wanted to be Ginny. I still want to be Ginny.
But my honest friends and family will tell you I’m a far cry from her. I dwell on my hurt and others’ wrongs and don’t always see through to the sunsets and swans. This bird gets quiet in winter.
But giving thanks is a miracle drug for our souls. It is a silver bullet for spiritual disease. It trumps every ugly that messes with our souls. You can’t sing as you sneeze and you can’t whistle while you yell. You can’t grumble as you give thanks. My friend Shari says: you can’t ride two horses with one heinie.
But you also can’t conjure up a thankful heart. Seeing grace is a gift. Author Sam Crabtree defines thankfulness asa divinely given spiritual ability to see grace. Giving thanks, then, is the corresponding desire to affirm that grace and the Giver of that grace as good.
This ability to see grace is a God-given gift. And affirming the grace and the Giver is called giving thanks. Crabtree explains, “I can ask God to help me look at my circumstances through a different lens or from a different angle. And He wants to do it, He wants me to be thankful.”
Give us what you command, Augustine prayed. We can echo him and say, You command us to give thanks, so give us eyes to see your grace.
Giving thanks does not depend on our circumstances. A difficult husband, problem child, poor health, unjust boss or a nasty neighbor might make it hard. But we can ask God to give us thankful hearts.
I’m here to tell you, that whenever I pray that prayer, he answers yes.
Singing Birds In Winter
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…Always and for everything is what Paul wrote (Ephesians 5:20). Not just in everything, which is God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but for everything. Everything. All. The. Things.
I want people to see Christ as all that. Giving thanks for everything does that. My Uncle Steve did that.
Uncle Steve has had a year. He was hospitalized, near death and discharged, then came bedsores, hospitalized, and G-tube. His breathing is still not right. A specialist next week may tell him there’s something big wrong. But more than once today Uncle Steve said, “God is good.” He sees grace and he gives thanks.
I want to be like that. Like Ginny and Uncle Steve. Because that kind of thanks giving is supernatural. In fact, the call to give thanks in Ephesians 5 verse 20 is an expression Paul’s main command to be “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18:
Be filled with the Spirit….giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Spirit is supernatural—he’s God. And I’m supernatural and you’re supernatural if we’re in Christ and his Spirit lives in us.
Giving thanks when you’re healthy and all speak well of you, when your kid is a starter and your business thrives is natural. Most every bird can sing can sing in the spring.
But when we give thanks for illness and hurtful words, for kids who don’t make the team and fails at work—this is supernatural. These are birds singing in the dead of winter.
Which is what happened in 1621.
The 1621 And 2021 Project: Give Thanks
There are only two primary sources detailing the Pilgrim’s 1621 harvest feast. William Bradford’s is less detailed than this one by Edward Winslow.
[O]ur harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors…we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation…And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation
That’s it. Yet by the goodness of God…The harvest feast of 1621 was a decimated, threadbare group who gathered to rejoice together and to celebrate the goodness of God.
That’s my 2021 project. Heading into a cold winter, I want to celebrate the goodness of God as he gives me eyes to see.
I want to be like the Pilgrims in 1621 and like Ginny and Uncle Steve. I want grace to sing in the dead of winter.
We should give thanks for all things; not only for spiritual blessings enjoyed, and eternal ones expected, but for temporal mercies too; not only for our comforts, but also for our sanctified afflictions…
It is our duty in every thing to give thanks unto God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in him…
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
Because I know- not just in my head but in my heart- that giving thanks is as close to a silver bullet to joy as there possibly could be. While we cannot force thankfulness, the feeling; we can coerce the action.Even if we don’t feel thankful, we can give thanks.
And if we do, if we force ourselves to be thanks-givers, I say this from experience, the thankful, joyful feeling follows. It works like this: I wake up and feel the discontent not gratitude oozing out of me. But if I make myself thank God for five things before I roll out of bed, I hit the ground happier, and more thankful. Because I forced the issue. I talked to myself instead of listening to myself. I grabbed the reins and took myself in hand.
It works. Every. Single. Time. When I feel discontent because of what my husband didn’t do, I can thank him for what he did do. When I feel envious about a girlfriend’s gift, I can thank God that she is my friend. And when I’m grumpy about a sink full of dirty dishes, I can thank God for mouths to feed. One or the other: grumble or give thanks.
Because you can’t ride two horses with one heinie.
You Can’t Ride Two Horses
You simply can’t feel thankful and entitled at once. You can’t ride the I-Deserve and the All-Grace thoroughbreds together. You just can’t. I can’t. And believe me, I’ve tried.
I’ve tried to ride the Thankful bay and the Self-pitying painttogether and it never works. But sometimes I still try to saddle up the Envy pony right alongside the Gratitude gray and climb up.
But no matter how hard I try I cannot ride both. Because I’ve only got one heinie.
Ride The Thankful Horse
How it went down yesterday: I started saddling up my Envy pony after hearing opportunities for friendship and ministry that some friends of mine have because they don’t work outside the home. I had one foot in the stirrup before I came to my senses and climbed on Gratitude Gray. God’s got me at this job for his good reasons and I’m thankful- YES THANKFUL!- for the ways He’s using it to grow and shape me.
That was yesterday. Today when I was tempted to mount the Comparison mare and let it gallop off again with my old dreams for a quiver full of kids- the Spirit counseled me off her back and onto the strong Thankful stallion. The Father promised He’d provide all your needs. So if you don’t have it, you don’t need it. No good thing does he withhold.
Those were Spirit-wrought victories. Other days I ride too long on the wrong horse’s saddle. I climbed on the I-Didn’t-Choose-This chestnut and let him get the best of me. He charged off to You-Deserve-Better Land. And if I spend any time at all there, I return quarrelsome and harsh with my family.
All because I got on the wrong horse and let it take me for a ride.
Defeat The Dark Horse: Give Thanks
The best way to drive out my self-focused, self-pitying, envious grumps is to be a thanks-giver. Gratitude, John Piper explains, is the song that defeats the enemy. Suppose, he says, that you discover that there is a song which the enemy and their sympathizers cannot tolerate or approach. Whenever they hear it, they pull back and run the other direction.
Isn’t it certain that you would want to learn this song? And after you learned it, you would sing it when you went to bed at night and when you got up in the morning. You would sing it on the way to work, and among strangers… Others would see and hear and learn the song from you. And in the end you would conquer the enemy.
The enemy rides a dark horse. He steals our joy and deceives us with lies. We play right into his hand when we compare and complain. One of his most convincing, joy stealing lies starts like this, But you deserve.
And the song that drives the dark horse and his lying rider away is thanksgiving.
Sing the Song of Thanks
You can give thanks or you can grumble. One will drive out the other.
An unthankful person is like a container with a hole in it and all the blessings that are in it just leak out. The grateful person has unlimited capacity to truly enjoy God’s blessings, while the ungrateful person can’t enjoy the blessings he does have.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, The Attitude to Gratitude
Do you leak?
Not- Does your thanks spill out and overflow? I mean leak– as in accidentally lose the contents. As in, God’s gifts are lost on you.
A little grumbling here and there might not seem so bad, but it says a lot- about us and about what we believe about God.
Reason #1: Our grumbling proclaims that our God is not good.
We might call it venting, or keeping it real, but take a minute and ask yourself: About what or about whom do I grumble?
I’ll start with me. Sadly, the question is easy: I grumble when my time feels “wasted” and if others’ poor choices caused the “waste,” I might even complain about them.
There- I said it.
But how, you wonder, can I draw such a straight line from my grumbling against the people and circumstances down here straight up to God?
Well, when the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert, God heard it. Then he told Moses to tell them, Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD (Exodus 16:8, Numbers 14:26-27). Our Father in heaven heard their grumbling, and hears ours.
When we whine like deprived children, we don’tadorn. We don’t make our loving Lord look good. We slander his loving care to watching eyes and listening ears.
Grumbling, John Piper explains, only adds to the darkness because it obscures the light of God’s gracious, all-controlling providence.
But there’s more.
Reason #2:Our grumbling demands that God submit to our wishes.
We don’t put it like that, but at the end of the day, isn’t that what our complaints say? That we wish God would do it our way, would submit to our wishes. When we grumble, we’re rebel children, pots second-guessing the potter.
For has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? (Romans 11:34-35). A complaining spirit, therefore, reveals a problem in our relationship with God.
But there is a difference between grumbling and groaning. Groaning, for the record, can actually be a sign of our faith and hope in God’s promises (See Romans 8:22-24).
Groaning and disappointment, criticism and disagreement need not be the same as grumbling and complaining.
[T]he Bible is full of examples of godly people who say, “I’m upset. I wish this were different. Lord, would you do something? I don’t like this.” […] Grumbling, however, is not a humble cry for help, but saying to God, “I know how to run the universe a bit better than you do.” Instead of saying, “This really hurts, but I’m ready to receive whatever I must receive from God’s hand,” grumbling says, “This stinks, and I’m ready to rebel against God’s heart.” That’s the difference…
We’re talking about rebellion against God. Not that the situation is hard, but that God is hard.
God has promised to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) and that he will withhold no good thing from him whose walk is upright (Psalm 84:11) and that all things work for good to those who love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Not to mention that his mercies are there for the picking, new every morning.
But grumbling says we don’t believe those. Or, at least, for the moment, we’re choosing to ignore them. Grumbling says we don’t trust God.
More from DeYoung,
Though you might direct it toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or someone in authority, you’re saying to God, “You’re not taking care of me…” Grumbling dishonors God.
The problem with complainers is that they don’t really trust that God is big enough to help and good enough to care. That’s what you think when you complain. “This God?! I may say that I believe him, sing songs about him, and read a Bible about him, but I don’t really believe that he’s big enough to do anything about it or good enough to care about me.
Who knew a little complaining about the rain and work and delays and aches and pains could betray so much?
That grumbling could be such a hard habit to break?
Fill the house with gratitude.
Habit is overcome by habit. It’s called replacement. Breaking bad habits means we fill the void with something good.
Just stopping up the leak isn’t enough. In other words, Quit yer grumbling, is not the goal. That’s just the empty house. And Jesus warned that if the house stays empty, the final plight might be worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45). We need to fill the house.
We need to do something hard: replace grumbling with thanks and turn that frown upside-down and, by God’s grace, choose gratitude.