Building Block #2: Gratitude

{Welcome! I’m in the midst of a series of posts about contentment. It all started here, and I wrote about the first building block here.}

IMG_4161

Have you ever watched a toddler build with wooden blocks?  Left to her own devices, a toddler will probably start by grabbing a couple of blocks, licking them, and banging them together.  When a big person gets involved, he demonstrates this magical property blocks have: stackability! The toddler is amazed! She watches as her sibling or daddy or babysitter stacks one after another, that tower rising further and further into the air… and then she gleefully knocks it over, and starts trying to build her own tower.

Hopefully, friends, this series will work that ‘magic’ for you. Maybe you have one or two of these building blocks laying around already, and you’ve begun to see how they feel in your life. Maybe you haven’t tried stacking them up the way I did. Since you’re not a toddler, I don’t expect that you’re going to come try to kick down MY tower of blocks; but perhaps you’ll consider building your own!

Not long after those lessons in submission, God started showing me how ungrateful I could be sometimes. This wasn’t anything new in my life, I suppose I should admit. As far back as I can remember, say 10 or 11 years old, my daddy used to jokingly call me a Serpent-Toothed Child:

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth
it is to have a thankless child!”
~Shakespeare, King Lear

(You know, for years and years, I thought that was in the Bible? Turns out it’s from the Bard instead.) Nevertheless, when my lack of gratitude reared its ugly head from time to time, showing up as entitlement here and disrespect there, Dad would let me know I was being an “STC.”

Years later, when I was a sophomore in college, my mother sent me a VHS tape of “Madame Blueberry: A Lesson in Thankfulness.” If you haven’t seen it, you can watch a clip at the link, but in short: it’s the tale of a blue (sad) blueberry who is dismayed when she sees all the STUFF she doesn’t have. When she meets a child who is thankful for the simple things in life, Madame B realizes how wrong her priorities were.

My mom knew that, even at 18, I loved those singing vegetables. And she was concerned that I wasn’t always grateful for the life I led. I certainly did have so much for which to be thankful. Her care package was a gentle reminder to take my focus off my {real or imagined} “have-nots” and put my focus back where it belonged.

Gratitude is life-changing. Focus-shifting. Re-centering.

Gratitude Contentment

If you are in the midst of the hardest circumstance of your life, I know that this sounds bonkers. Giving thanks isn’t always easy and sometimes it’s downright counter-intuitive. Trust me, I know. I’ve been given lots of chances to put this one into practice. Cancer battles. Miscarriages. Scary job decisions. Relocations. Losing everything in a fire. Marital trouble. Death of a beloved family member.

So don’t imagine that I’m telling you to “find your gratitude” from inside a pink fairy bubble that floats above the rabble. I’m telling you that it’s possible to find your gratitude – from right here, beside you, with my voice  in the mess.

I’m telling you that if you take the ridiculous, crazy, leap of faith to DECLARE YOUR GRATITUDE in spite of the hubbub around you, then you will discover the deepest, most real, most concrete thankfulness you have ever experienced.

Have you ever experienced a sense of gratitude and contentment that transcended the everyday and felt positively holy?

The birth of a child.
The first declaration of love from your spouse.
The sight of an awe-inspiring view of the creation.

As breath-taking and inspiring as that can be, I’m here to bear witness to you that gratitude borne of sorrow or hardship is even more impactful.

But perhaps you’re reading this from a relatively pain-free place. No illnesses or grief stand in the way, and yet, something about this post resonates with you. Gratefulness, yes. This is what I need. My friend, I hear that too. Your challenge is to find thankfulness in the midst of the mundane.

Your average house and your average car.
Your normal children with their constant needs.
Your tedious jobs and good ol’ familiar spouse.

The temptation in front of so many of us is to allow the daily grind to rub away our sensitivity to the gift and beauty all around us. Not every moment has the grandeur of an ocean sunrise or your child’s first breath, and it’s an easy thing to fall into a trap of lacking in thanks until the Big Things Come Along. We ought to celebrate the big things, certainly – but we also ought to search for gratitude for the little moments – interactions – people – that work together to create our everyday existence.

There are so many resources to help you develop a habit of gratitude. There are books and there are pins; you could write yourself a note on your mirror or stick a Post-It on your coffeepot. You could be mindful of the ACTS acronym during your prayer time (to remember elements of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication when you talk to God). You could institute a time of Thankful Things over the dinner table, or challenge yourself to post things for which you are thankful on Facebook.

And as your gratitude habit grows, so will your sense of contentment.

This one is easier to understand, isn’t it? I know that my thoughts on submission might have sounded crazy in relation to contentment, but I have a feeling we can all agree on this one. It is HARD to feel disgruntled and discontent when you are telling your family members, every contact in your digital universe, and the King of all Creation how much you are already thankful for.

Think of gratitude as a daily vitamin. Thankfulness works as a natural prevention treatment for discontentment.  It’s like an antioxidant – but instead of blocking the oxidation & breakdown of your molecules, it inhibits the decay of your “contentment molecules.” The more you protect them with daily doses of gratitude, the larger and stronger they will grow.

Or to put it another way – the taller you’ll be able to stack that tower of blocks.

Click here for the next block in this series!

Share with a friend...

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

subscribe

Categories

Categories

Archives

Archives

Latest tweets

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

subscribe via email

Connect on instagram!

Categories

Categories

Archives

Archives

© 2019 Michelle Nebel. All Rights Reserved.