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Finer Things Friday- Gratitude

finerthings  I have been struggling with the issue of gratitude in out house for quite some time now. My kids just seem to be growing up without an appreciation for all they have. I could blame America, or our parenting, or a million things, but I fear it is my fault. Cause frankly, I struggle with being content with all God has blessed me with. And he has blessed my socks off. So, it hit me last night during a heartbreaking conversation with my daughter that I am not doing a good job teaching them that we are incredibly blessed. Despite the fact we don’t have a Wii.

Ever since I have returned from the Dominican Republic I have struggled with this. I want to be happy without being surrounded by material possessions. I want my face to glow like the faces of the women who had very little, but they had Jesus. But the fact is I am surrounded by people with “more” and the message that “more” will make me happy. And let me be quite clear. I am surrounded by many, many, many people with much less, but somehow my eyes stay fixated on those with bigger houses, better cares, more expensive purses. (seriously, that purse thing is just pure silliness)

What makes me sick inside is that Lily is reaching the age where she is noticing what other people have. The fact is, there are many people at her school that have a lot of money. We are talking “bowling alley in their houses” kind of money. Ok, so only one person has a bowling alley in her house (she is an heir to a very large company), but still, Lily knows it. And when you go to playdates at houses that are three times the size of our more than big enough house, you notice. And then I think, does she know that I am insecure when someone pulls up in their Cadillac Escalade after leaving their gated community to drop my daughter off from my playdate?

Please know, I am being brutally honest. I hesitate to share too much of my conversation with Lily last night because it was heartfelt and honest and difficult. But it was with a seven year old looking around at things other people have and wondering why she doesn’t have them. I wanted to be disgusted and upset with her, but instead I was convicted and ashamed of myself. Cause my statements might be more refined then “how come we’re poor?” but the sentiment is the same. Ugh.

So last night, we decided to start a gratitude journal. Yes, I got the idea from Oprah. Yes, she makes me want to barf, but Lily needed a crash course in understanding that her life is incredibly blessed. Let’s put aside the money thing for a moment. She has two parents who love each other and love her. She has two siblings who are healthy and happy and adore her. We have a roof over our head and food on our table. As I am typing this post I just got an email about an acquaintance who is in the midst of end stages of cancer, leaving behind two girls not much older than my own. We are ridiculously blessed.

So we are focusing on our blessings. I was thrilled to see her list from last night. Thanking God for a daddy who works so hard to provide for her. Thankful for her school, which is Christian and private, and requires some sacrifices so our children can attend. Thankful for her cool mom (who can argue with that?). But tonight, after a rough day at school and a rough night at home, gratitude was harder to come by. But I told her she needed to come up with three things because gratitude is important when we feel gracious and when we don’t. I am not sure who this is benefitting more. Her or me……

This post is linked up to Finer Things Friday at Amy’s Finer Things.

Comments

  1. I have the same struggle. It doesn’t help that a former classmate of mine now owns a major league baseball team (I wish I were kidding); meanwhile, we’re going into credit card debt to keep both our kids in speech therapy. I should get back in the habit of my gratitude journal, thanks for the reminder!
    Eos Mom recently posted…Young Adult Tales 3-JobsMy Profile

  2. This has been heavy on my heart, too … My daughter is only 2.5, and I sometimes find her looking at the toy catalogues that come in the mail. When I sit beside her, she starts pointing out things saying, “This is cool.” (cool! Really? She’s 2.5!) or “Maybe we can get this one.” And each time, it is like a dagger in my conscience…and breaks my heart. We’ve really been trying to model giving thanks all throughout the day, include her in our ministries and outreach, and have been praying about how to “do” gratitude at her level, but so often I just feel like I’m dropping the ball. I had thought about working on a post or link up or something where people can share about how they’re practicing gratitude and giving as a family … blessing others out of what we’ve been blessed with … putting the focus on what we can give not what we can get or want … but you have at least ten times the audience I do! … maybe you could fearlessly lead us!! ;-) (because I’m sure you have SO much time on your hands! wink, wink)

    Thanks for your honesty in this post. It meant a lot to me.
    Erika recently posted…Throwing ScrapsMy Profile

  3. What a beautiful post! I love the idea of the journal. We often do this with our prayers. I don’t think at 6 my son is here yet, but I’m struggling with shoe envy. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  4. I love your honesty – and I also love the idea of a gratitude journal. Although, I’ll pretend it’s not an Oprah idea… It can be tough to be grateful when we are surrounded by people who will never have enough, even when the reality is that we all have more than enough in Christ. Have you seen the movie “The Ultimate Gift”? It is kind of lame acting, but it has a great message. Let me know if you’d like to borrow it, I can bring it to WMIBloggers in November.
    Jen recently posted…Lunchables are evil and other lies I was toldMy Profile

  5. Wow, what incredible honesty. Thank you for sharing that. Don’t sell yourself short, just by struggling with this you are showing that you are a great mom to your kids. The gratitude journal is a great idea. How easy it is to get wrapped up in what others have, it is something I deal with every day. Being that your kids are young, it can be hard to strike the balance of teaching with showing them something they are not ready to see, as in the homeless shelter. Two things came to mind when I read this. First, take one meal a week and have a “third world meal”, rice and broth, something like that and help them to see that this is a meal that many get once a week with nothing else, and take the money saved at that meal and send it to World Vision or another relief organization. The second is every once in a while take some routes that put you going by people who have nothing and pray that the kids see them and ask questions so you can begin to teach into the reality of the poverty that is all around us.

    Keep up the incredible job you are doing Mom! God will honor your seeking Him and teaching the little ones.

    God Bless

    D

  6. Great post. If you haven’t read, “Crazy Love” – come borrow mine. It will reinforce this idea of letting go of “stuff”. And I love the gratitude journal idea. We had a blessings jar once upon a time … where’d that thing go?
    Laurie recently posted…A Few of my Favorite ThingsMy Profile

    • scared to read anything that will convict me more. Seriously, God has been doing a work on me in this area for so long you would think I would get it at some point.

  7. First, I didn’t know that you still had an out house!! Second, your mother still struggles with this issue and I am touched by what my children and grandchildren teach me. Struggle is good though because we grow through it–evaluating, confessing, desiring change and taking steps to change. If we weren’t bumping up against those who have more than us ( and there will always be someone with more no matter how mush we acquire) we wouldn’t be convicted by our struggle. I love you.

  8. Totally struggling here too. My1st grader walks in the door every day and says “what are we doing that’s special today?” nothing ever seems good enough for him and it is very disheartening to me. I don’t know where this attitude came from! Ugh.
    Jenny from Mommin’ It Up recently posted…I am all for year-round schoolMy Profile

  9. This really touched my heart…I have been working on this as well with my sons, who are 7, 5, and almost 4.

    It is a difficult subject to deal with–we have almost the same situation. We live in an affluent village (though we ourselves are NOT–we bought a junk fixer upper and have made it really nice now, but it’s taken patience and work. We could not have been here in this town had we tried to buy a ‘normal’ home!) and my oldest in in first grade surrounded by friends with ‘everything a kid could ever want’. He came home asking for a golf cart for his birthday, simply because he sees that his best friend has one. (What?) It is really, really hard to make them understand that they can not have everything that they see their friends getting, simply because we do not have the resources–and then on the flip side, teaching them to be thankful for that very fact. Teaching them thankfulness, even when we are in ‘want’ sometimes. (And that is exactly what it is–want–not need.)

    But, you know what? Frankly, most times I am really, really glad that God has limited our funds….I fear sometimes that we WOULD give them most of what they ask for if we had the means–and that does not help a child in the effort of teaching them to be thankful for what we do have! In this town, I hear things constantly like, ” That kid has everything, and isn’t grateful for ANY of it.” It is very true that the more they have, the more they want and the less thankful they are.

    I really appreciated your honesty, as well–it IS sometimes embarrassing to me to be driving the old minivan in a town filled with Suburbans and Escalades and Hummers….but I am so, so very grateful for what we DO have, and the hundreds of ways that God blesses US every single day. The idea of the thankfulness journal is awesome–we are so starting that TODAY!

    Great, great post. I could write more, but I’ve already written a book and I have three babes that are desperate to get to the park :).
    Devin recently posted…Fall favorites – applesMy Profile

    • I love your comment. And I agree. I fear part of the problem is our need to constantly give them things. It may not be expensive things, but it is things just the same. I think we need to say no to stuff more often….

      • The difficulty with that is that we have been ‘trained’ by our culture to believe that getting ‘things’ is equal to receiving love or being loved. We want to show them that we love them, so we equate that with buying them more stuff. Happy Birthday! Here’s some stuff. Merry Christmas! Here’s some more, better stuff, to outdo the birthday stuff. Happy graduation/Valentine’s Day/Easter/and on and on and on….

        And it IS hard not doing it. I want to buy my kids things all of the time (because of the reason stated above–trying to ‘show’ them that I love them….) “You were so good today at the grocery store! Let’s get you a sucker.” “Great job on the test! Here’s a treat for you!” Or whatever. Even in my kids’ Wednesday night church group class, they get a prize for saying their verse for the week. We are constantly rewarding with stuff. It is very easy to fall into that trap.

        We need to get back to the place in our society where love is shown in other ways–and that is going to be hard seeing as how far we have gone in the other direction.
        Devin recently posted…Fall favorites – applesMy Profile

  10. Becky says:

    Just yesterday I was looking at the latest post on a favorite blog and the topic was some type of book where she has pulled pictures of ideal rooms for her dream house. I typed out a response and then deleted it, because it wasn’t really on topic. But it is here.

    I live in a small brick home. But it is my own (and the mortgage company’s). I feel so grateful and blessed for what I have. It has 960 sq. ft. upstairs and a 720 sq. ft. finished basement complete with bathroom and shower. It is in a working-class neighborhood. But the neighborhood is nice, the houses are kept up and the Code Enforcement in my city is on the ball. (No abandon cars in yards or anything).

    Ever since I was a young apartment dweller I wanted a house more than anything. I was realistic and even driving by small places, I had house envy. I live by myself and love my house. It was built in 1949, so it has some neat quirks that newer houses don’t have.

    Whenever I drive by a mobile home park or through a neighborhood that is not as nice, I offer up a “Thank you, God” because I feel truly blessed. Sure, I drive by homes that I think are really neat, but I don’t wish for them. I think of the big utility bills they must have and things like that. :-)

    I feel blessed and am so grateful for what I have. Thanks for the opportunity to let me express that. And good for you for realizing it too. Ambition is a great thing, but so is gratitude.

  11. Beautiful and honest. This is such a struggle in our world of materialism. My girl struggles more than my boy. I don’t know that’s cultural or just personality.

    We may have to start a similar gratitude journal at our house too. I think it’s been long overdue.
    Eyvonne recently posted…Prayer- Asking the wrong questionMy Profile

  12. I can so relate to this post!! Seems like we’re in sort of the same situation as you guys. We live in a fairly affluent area, but our little pocket – not so much. Don’t get me wrong we live in a great neighborhood (and I LOVE where we live)- we’re just surrounded by “better” ones.
    Your idea is brilliant and I want to do this with my kids too. I think that we could all take a few minutes to think about how truly blessed we are!

  13. Jill,
    Yes, yes, yes!

    Our family nightly prayers are always “thank you God for…” and someday I know it will all sink in. In high school and college I used to write down 5 things I was thankful for every night. Not only did it become a pretty good diary in brief, but I noticed that on the worst days, I found the most to be thankful for.

    And I love that your mother commented on your blog. :)

    Katie

  14. I’m not an Oprah fan, but I love the gratitude journal idea. I started one a while back but only kept it up for three days. This has inspired me. I’m going to write in mine every day in November. Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do. Thanks for the inspiration! (day one: thankful for inspirational blog friends…) :)
    Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect recently posted…Weekend Links- 103010My Profile

  15. So hard! My kiddos… 7, and 5 year old especially, are starting to notice what others have and we do NOT have. Hoping to “reel them in” a bit when we all participate in the 30 day giving challenge this month. We shall see!
    Amy @ Finer Things recently posted…October Clutter UpdateMy Profile

  16. My husband focuses A LOT on thankfulness with our family. Most days he asks us (me and our 2.5 yr old) what we are thankful for. It helps keep things in perspective.

    Also, something I realized is that when I go shopping with my kids for non essential items (fun clothes, toys, etc) they get crazy for a while after. Only being 2.5 and 1.5 they start acting like they need EVERYTHING they seem. And one day I realized that’s how I act. I NEED that new sweater. I NEED that new necklace. I NEED that purse. Last month I decided I wasn’t buying anything we didn’t NEED. So I didn’t. I only bought food and gas. And surprisingly, my girls didn’t go all crazy about stuff like they usually do. And today we went to the mall for the first time in a long time and they didn’t even bat an eye at things they usually thought they needed. Not saying it will always be like this, but seeing that when I change my attitude about stuff they do too.

  17. oh amanda says:

    Beautiful, Jill. Sadly, I think this will be a constant struggle. Just look around us–MORE is everywhere. I love this idea. {IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT GUEST POST FOR IMPRESS YOUR KIDS.}
    oh amanda recently posted…Alma MaterMy Profile

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