It was one of those days where things kept falling apart. I had a baby who was stuffed up with a cold and couldn’t sleep. My three-year-old didn’t understand why I wasn’t engaged in what he was doing and was throwing fit after fit. My anger rose so quickly that I was crying, literally, over spilled milk at lunchtime.
I found myself saying, “Ok, day. I’m done with you. Tomorrow, we can give this thing a go again. But, today, we’re through.” I was counting down the seconds until the boys’ bedtime. This day felt like a failure. I camped out in my frustrated mindset most of the day, trudging along and snapping at my kids.
These moments could overwhelm me. I could let the annoyance of this day be the end and wait until tomorrow to start fresh. Or, I could make a different choice. I could hammer the final nail into the coffin that was this day and crash in front of Netflix, or I could win the day back. I took a deep breath and prayed, asking God to help me win back the joy of the day.
As bedtime approached, jammies were put on, teeth brushed and stories finished, I asked Ian what he was thankful for today.
“Today I’m thankful for a nice warm house, cozy blankets, good food for my belly, you and daddy and Elliot and all my friends. That’s my five things. Was that five things?” He answered immediately, as if he hadn’t even needed to think about it at all. It was as if a heart of gratitude naturally bubbled up.
We’d lived the same moments together, but our experiences of the day were completely different. In my day, I saw inconvenience, messes, dirty dishes and piles of laundry. Ian saw the people and things that matter to him. My heart softened. I wasn’t angry anymore. His words were like a soothing suave to my calloused heart.
I’m more and more convinced that what actually makes us better—what leads us towards hope—isn’t out list of faults and weaknesses and coffin days; it’s the good things other people can see that we ourselves can’t see on our own.
That night started something new in our family. Since then, we finish each day by each sharing the five things we’re thankful for. Each day, I’m searching for my five things. In the big and little moments, I’ve found it’s pretty simple to find five ways to be thankful.
Believe me, there are days I struggle to find the good. But listening to the simple lists my boys share—of friends and family and food and cozy blankets and pictures and a nice, warm house and cars that drive—help me remember there really is so much to be thankful for. When I complain, when I want a re-do, when I’m ready for eight o’clock at night so I don’t have to parent anymore for the day—I try to catch myself and recognize how I’ve lost sight of gratitude.
Maintaining gratitude is shifting the way I see the world. Instead of focusing on what I lack, I’m choosing to see all the ways I’m filled up. Try to find five things you’re thankful for today. I bet those things will make you smile.