This weekend Kel and I had the longest “just the two of us” getaway that we’ve had since our honeymoon. We were privileged to enjoy 48 hours away in Beaver’s Bend, OK, a small town in the Ouachita mountains. Our cabin was worthy of a overnight date from the TVshow The Bachelor, and let me tell you, guys love it when you compare real life to The Bachelor.
We kept it low key, I got up early and wrote and Kel went golfing while I rode in the cart and occasionally got out to steal river rocks or look for his ball. Our cabin was on the tippy top of either a very small mountain or a rather large hill and the most excitement we had was getting our car stuck in the muddy driveway and rubbing elbows with the local tow truck drivers.
Much to our delight there was a mountaintop hot tub, much to Kel’s likely disappointment I was in favor of using it to have some heart to hearts about God, family and purpose. There was a central theme to our weekend, other than loving and reconnecting, and that was gratitude. I wanted to use the time I had away from our home and the day to day of motherhood to figure out why, between Kel and I, one of us was always having a bad day. I couldn’t figure out why two people, who on paper claimed to be blessed by home, job and family were so often, in practice, so discontent.
As we chatted we realized that we were still hanging on to some pre-marriage and pre-kids senses of entitlement. I still felt like I should be able to use my daytime hours to pursue my own interests and Kel felt like he should be able to get 9+ hours of sleep and be able to relax and unwind in his free time. If we didn’t get what we thought we deserved, we got crabby and irritable. We weren’t living out of hearts of gratitude, but spirits of discontent and self centeredness. We were setting ourselves up for unhappiness.
One evening as we were sitting in the hot tub chatting I had a sort of epiphany. If we could live in an ongoing state of gratitude, we would find contentment, and in that contentment we could live lives full of joy. We were always seeking happiness and thought that if we adjusted our circumstances or routine that it would all click. There is truth to the value of routine and balance but the perfect system won’t bring contentment if you are doing it with an ungrateful and entitled spirit.
So the question we ended up with is how do we get from where we are now to lives lived, steeped in gratitude?
Well, we aren’t completely sure yet but we did give each other permission to call the other out when they were being pissy and didn’t see their blessings. Changing your mindset is not an overnight endeavor but it might go something like this.
1) Remind yourself of the truth. The best epiphany is lost unless you keep coming back to it. Put up post-its, needlepoint it on a pillow, do what you gotta do to remind your ever so human mind to live a life of gratitude.
2) Stop, Look, Listen- Slow down and stop focusing on everything that isn’t so you have eyes to see all that is.
3) Make it a point to always start your prayers with a long list of thankfulness. Before you ask, give thanks, the more you look for your gifts and seek to live in gratitude the easier this becomes. Maybe even keep a gift journal Ann Voskamp style.
4) Serve– Nothing takes your mind off yourself like focusing on the needs of others with needs far more pressing than your own. You can start small with baking cookies to make someone’s day better.
The older I get the more I feel God in everything I am given, he is the author of every atom and the giver of every granola bar. He is my air and I so sick and tired of being crabby in the midst of all that beauty. I’m completely done being so distracted that I miss out and stay hungry for depth that is all around me.
How about you? Do you feel it, the unsettling undercurrents of ingratitude? What can we do to live thankful, joy full lives?