As I was heading to my OB appointment the other day to check on our newest little guy, I glanced down at my cup holder to spot a couple of little Hot Wheels cars taking up one of the holders. I sat in my car and just chuckled to myself. My coffee in one cup holder, Hot Wheels cars in the other. I had to thank God in that moment for this phase of life. During the day I constantly feel like I am trying to keep up with my toddler… especially being 8 months pregnant. Some days I prop my feet up at 8 when he goes to sleep and drift off myself. I ice my painful abdomen and feel like I ran a marathon most days. But I remind myself to be thankful.
In that moment as I looked down at my cup holders, I thought about how much life has changed. In high school, concert tickets and a fake poppy flower from our Wizard of Oz musical graced my cup holders. Reminders of the lightheartedness and fun I got to experience during those four years. In college, Starbucks gift cards and lip gloss remained there. Reminders of study sessions and my active social life. But now? Now I have a cup full of coffee and Hot Wheels cars. These are reminders of the exhaustion I feel but also the sheer delight I get from being my boys’ mommy. Just the thought of how rapidly life has changed within even 10 years blows me away!
With all the changes we face in this life, how are we supposed to handle it? I am a huge fan of knowing what is coming my way. I like predictability, a schedule, and a nice little routine. Change gives me a sense of anxiety I never desire to feel so I’ve been thinking through how to remain thankful during each stage of life we find ourselves in. Here’s a short list I came up with:
- Keep a gratitude journal. This was something I start several months ago. I try to write down three different things I am thankful for at the end of each day. This is where you find extraordinary in your ordinary circumstances. This will help you establish a theme of gratefulness in each day.
- Recall God’s goodness in each season. The Lord is faithful… always. As we recall how He’s been good to us in past seasons, we can expect goodness in our current one.
- Begin watching your speech. How do you talk about your day and circumstances? Are you the person everyone dreads because you are a “Negative Nancy?” Try to speak about things positively and shed some light in dark situations.
- Do not allow negative thoughts about yourself to consume your mind. I don’t know about you ladies, but I have had seasons where nothing but negative self-talk happens in my head. I’m too dumb to do that, no one thinks I’m funny, I’m extremely fat, etc. When thoughts like these rule my mind, my negativity is out the roof, and there is not any room left for an attitude of gratefulness.
- Develop a healthy lifestyle. This is not always easy for me! Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, getting exercise daily. These aren’t always easy to incorporate but they are important! I always feel more thankful and like I have a better quality of life when I take care of myself.
- Serve other people. When your life is consumed with you and you alone, you tend to think your problems are bigger than everyone else’s and the world should revolve around you. But when you look for the needs of others, just as Jesus did, you begin to live with more of an attitude of gratefulness. There are so many hurting people in our world, and getting outside of ourselves to actually serve them is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. If we aren’t the hands and feet of Jesus, who will be?
- Spend time in the Word and prayer. This is essential for being thankful in each stage of life. When we are far from Jesus, we will not be able to see our circumstances through His eyes… in light of eternity. As we walk more closely with our God, the way we see things changes.
- Remember there will be bad days, but also remember there is good in those days. Each stage has good and bad days. When you have a bad one, continue to remind yourself of the good you can find in the day. Some days I look at Liam with nothing but frustration…his fits and moodiness can get the best of me! But I try to look for the good during those hard days. Lord, you gave us both another day of life, and for that I am grateful.
Some of these are practical changes, some of them requiring training of the mind. Whatever changes you need to make, do it! As I look at my life so far, I see the times when I’m most grateful as the best times, no matter the circumstances. Through all the changes, it is good to know that we have a relationship with God who remains constant and unchanging. His fullness, goodness, and steadfast love remain constant… if nothing else, we can be grateful for His constant presence in our lives.
What about you? How do you remain grateful during our ever-changing stages of life?