How do you exercise thankfulness?
One way I exercise thankfulness is with each new blog post. Waking early and cheerful, a morning person—I am refreshed in the quiet house. The evening before I had slowly powered down—my ability to even talk to the family greatly diminished.
Like Jesus from the crowds…I withdrew…
Power down with the sun
If I am going to be grumpy, it is certainly going to be any minute past 10 o’clock at night. Ok…9:30… maybe 9:00…
Most of the family has entered their hyper, talkative, night-owl mode and I warn them off—keeping my distance from those alien creatures. As I barely manage to thank God for the day, I am already looking forward to His new-morning’s-mercies.
The family is quietly sleeping in the early morning, blessing #1, and I take the opportunity to count my other blessings.
Focus in on each blessing
I pray, read God’s Word and look at pictures before starting a blog post. All nighttime negativity is chased away by the morning light—and thankfulness.
Over and over, with each picture, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness—I remember how we persevered and were rewarded every time. My Man challenged us, but we came through stronger, wiser and with great adventure memories.
It is a vital activity, exercising thankfulness. But be cautious with the “looking back”! Luke 17:32:
Remember Lot’s wife!
With our oldest now a high school graduate, I can see how easy it is to wish for other days. I actually cried myself to sleep for the first time in ages—thinking of the slow, simple, sweet days I had with JH before life seemingly got away with us.
Life didn’t get away with us, it just opened up for us
We shouldn’t look back and long to go back, but look back in a way that gives hope for the future:
See how God was with us then? Walk forward in the knowledge that He is with you still.
1 Chronicles 16:12:
Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgements of His mouth.
Pictures are part of my thankfulness exercise plan; like memorial markers of God’s faithfulness—stones piled high in Joshua 4:
“God held back the waters”
Stones, pictures, reminders
When we don’t count our blessings, focus on God’s faithfulness and promises, or take the time to remember, it is easy to fall into grumbling patterns—especially when tired, hungry, annoyed, fearful, etc., etc.—
Or bumping for hours down a washboard road with small children.
We had hours of that bumpy travel years ago in one of our “Baja backstories”. My Man and El Jefe had schemed up an idea to take the motorhomes for a long loop in Baja—ending with building houses for the locals. I geared up…
It is never easy to keep up with high energy men like El Jefe and My Man; these men literally function at a higher gear than most of the population. With them you will suddenly find yourself in the middle of a cloud of dust wondering what just happened. I think back to my firefighting stint and nobody could out-hike those two. As their wives we scramble and do our best to at least keep them in our sights.
El Jefe’s wife neatly packed her motorhome for a family of five and I packed up for our four. We were so optimistic, or perhaps gullible…
I don’t think we wives quite understood the plan or maybe they didn’t tell us.
Highway 5 to San Felipe sounded reasonable, but then we heard talk of Gonzaga Bay—which is north of “Punta Final”. That had an ominous sound to it and we began to have our suspicions.
Reaching Gonzaga Bay involved bumping down hours of washboard road. For some reason, it took us NINE hours! Traveling any faster would have dismantled our motorhomes, piece by piece, jolt after jolt. We also had to take breaks to save our brains, and teeth, from rattling to pieces.
Nine hours of bumping feels like twenty; it felt like riding in a tin can that was being twisted and untwisted. Our motorhomes did not rattle apart, completely, but I doubt they were ever the same again.
At one point I went to investigate the clattering silverware drawer and found close to an inch of dust covering all of its contents!
I didn’t complain but I had to actively work on keeping my thoughts positive
My tendency is to get a little dramatic, fearful or negative in my thoughts. Would our nerves, or our marriage, survive this rutted journey? Would I have to entertain our bouncing boys in the bouncing motorhome for infinity? Thankfully the rattling had a hypnotic effect and there were long spells where we just stared, cross-eyed…
El Jefe’s wife and I joked about the idea of using dramamine as a calming aid—for the kids and ourselves!
Actually, my hymn book was a big part of my thankfulness exercise plan on that Baja trip and others. Singing praises chased away my negative thoughts and occupied the boys. The three songs we sang the most were: “Trust and Obey”, “Rock of Ages” and “Take My Life.”
The words of those hymns encourage me even now, and the thankful tears come with the memories of God’s faithfulness. Frances Havergal, the writer of “Take My Life”, suffered poor health her whole life, yet she practiced thankfulness by ministering to others, memorizing huge portions of scripture, singing and writing:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.
I want my life to echo those words…flowing in endless praise for what Jesus has done, is doing and will do.
The little homes, hearts and marriages made it, intact, to Gonzaga Bay
We had a private beach to ourselves and the adventure had been worth it. But with My Man and El Jefe you hold your breath, knowing there is always an adventure around the corner. The next adventure had to do with THE boat…
El Jefe had brought along the infamous, unsinkable boat. We know it is unsinkable because otherwise those two men would no longer be with us. They literally almost perished with a friend on a different Baja adventure with that boat. Thankfully I wasn’t there to witness it so I probably shouldn’t try to tell about it.
I did get to witness one boat saga and miracle, though. The saga started in the middle of a windy night in our little cove—we heard El Jefe yelling for My Man to wake up. The boats were moored just off-shore but the storm was threatening to take them out to sea. Well, in fact, they found that the storm had already taken El Jefe’s boat. They brought our boat closer but there wasn’t anything they could do that night about the other.
We woke to a calm morning in disbelief that his boat was nowhere to be found. El Jefe let the harbormaster know of the incident. Days ensued with the guys hoping and scheming about how they might get the boat back and the rest of us tried to enjoy our vacation.
Adventure led to more adventure. Soon the guys were riding around with the military in an old panga with no lifejackets, radios or even gas. Don’t worry, they had a gun!
I think there was a shrimp boat involved in their rescue from that situation. “Roshambo” was a means for the locals to decide their own fate with the panga and shrimp boat.
Back at camp our young families played, cooked great meals, slept—repeated. We tried to practice Philippians 4:6:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
It is easy to overlook the word “thanksgiving” in that verse, but that giving of thanks is essential. I believe it is a means to get our thoughts off the “anxious”.
The guys survived the boat rescue expedition, but with no boat. So imagine the surprise, after about a week, when we got word that the boat had been found! It washed ashore near Calamajue. Off the guys went to retrieve it and we were back in business!
There she is
We packed up and made our way around to the Pacific side of Baja with a memorable stop at Coco’s Corner.
Coco of Coco’s Corner
We made it to the little town where we would help build houses for the locals. During worship at a small church service, thankfulness rained down as we praised our faithful Father. I’ll never forget singing Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman. God is with us through abundance and lack, trials and victory—He even gives us the desires of our heart. Remember how I wanted to be a missionary family? Although short term, God was still giving us that opportunity.
We look back at all those memories with so much joy. I wonder, is it ok to “make light” of the hardships? We certainly don’t want to forget how God saw us through, keeping our sanity and marriages intact. That is exactly where we should put the “weight” of those memories—those memorial stones:
Put the weight on what God has done and make light of the rest.
2 Corinthians 4:17:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Don’t be paralyzed by the fear, negativity, the what-ifs—find a thankfulness exercise plan that works for you and roll with it. Often.