These wise words of Ann have been whispering to me whenever I’m willing to sit still and listen: Thankfulness precedes the miracle. And I might just be starting to believe it.
The boys were in the wagon, arguing over a tiny monster truck I didn’t realize was joining us for our walk until long after we left the house. Two boys. One toy.
We were halfway down the first road of our walk when I was thinking about turning around.
Don’t lean out of the wagon with the truck! Your brother will do it, too and hurt his hand on the wheel!
Why are you spitting? Don’t spit!
I turned around at the end of the second spit to talk about why my first instruction hadn’t been listened to. I finished speaking to the culprit in question and just before I turned to continue the walk noticed that the spit was collecting in his brother’s hair.
He wasn’t even spitting at the ground. He was spitting at the back of his brother’s head.
And there’s the proof.
I was hot under the collar, even though my shirt didn’t have a collar. And maybe it all happened because you’re a parent too and you need to know that other parents sometimes want to jump out of a nonexistent window or strangle somebody because Today. the Listening. Is Just. Not. Happening.
The whisper came to me again — Ann telling a story about how she decided to just turn her eyes to heaven and start being thankful — out loud — when her two (nearly men) boys were in the middle of a heated spat. I wrote it down, the idea that seemed so new to me — verbally insert thankfulness into stressful situations. Here is wisdom for the taking. But can I practice it?
I remembered a story I heard about Martin Luther’s mother — and was it Luther who said he learned more about faith from her than anyone else? Maybe that was Wesley. But in the middle of the mess of kids in her kitchen, somebody’s Mama would pull her apron over her head and pray.
I wear aprons a lot.
I could do that.
I looked up. Lord, thank you for these tall trees. Sigh. Thank you for these boys.Â They are a gift — I am thankful for them.
I pushed my soul to try. Before I could get out another thought, there was another distraction — the little one chucked the monster truck out of the wagon, the big one complained that it was his turn. Can interrupted thankfulness still precede a miracle?
I pressed on to the graveyard — this might seem strange, but it’s a very nice place to go for walks in our little town and lots of folks do. Carefully crossing the street, hurrying up a small hill, headed for the big one.
Are we going up the hill, Mama?
I wasn’t sure if I could still make it up that hill right now, tugging the boys in the wagon — both of them a month and a half heavier and me, several weeks of pregnancy heavier, since the last time we managed to get out together in the wagon, which was before we left for South Africa. I knew I needed to keep going — a small accomplishment would mean a heap right now.
As I started at the bottom of the hill I noticed a couple of people watching from a nearby basketball court, standing by their cars. Were they watching me? Were they concerned that I was about to pull this wagon with these boys up this hill looking like this? I don’t think I look that pregnant yet.
That upward journey was where the magic happened. Though I started off nervous, I was sure-footed, because really it’s not that big of a hill. And they couldn’t have gained that much weight eating all that red meat in South Africa. And hopefully I didn’t either…
Then my cheerleading squad of one started up:
You’re doing it, Mama! You’re strong!
You’re going up the hill, Mama, you’re doing it!
Yeah, Mama, you’re almost there! he kept on.
You did it, Mama! You’re so strong! We made it up the hill!
And joy met my grumpy heart. And considering the state of this heart of mine that morning, it was a miracle.
It took a little thankfulness for me to recognize that miracle for what it was. But for my three-year-old to turn from antagonist to the captain of my cheerleading squad — it did something in my soul. Like a sword being hammered out until it becomes a tool for farming.
So I’d like to extend the invitation for you to join me. (And Ann.) When the going gets tough, when the kids get rough, when you’re already late and the tire is flat or the dish falls on the floor and now what, let that be your cue: it’s time to turn to thankful.
Look up at the ceiling if it helps, but take a moment to change your gaze. Out loud, or in your own heart, find a reason to give thanks, and give it.
Could we try it for a while together, and just see how it goes?
I’m expecting to see more miracles.