Everybody was in a bad mood. Five hangry children milled in and around my kitchen, bumping into each other occasionally, sparking fireworks of tears and bickering. We had been quarantined in the house for the past few days with a mild stomach bug that had been oh-so-slowly moving through our family. So, add “stir-crazy” and “bored” to “hangry” and you’ll get a good picture of the toxic atmosphere of the morning.
I decided it was time to get creative in how I would bring order to the chaos (my #1 activity each day, it feels like!)
So I gathered everybody up and told them that it was Big Breakfast Outside Morning, and I was going to cook a big breakfast with pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon (a treat!) and we’d all get to eat outside on our new picnic table for breakfast.
So, I cooked that big breakfast and more or less (chaotically) the babies were dressed and the picnic table was set and we all sat down together outside. To top off the meal, I brought out a very special treat: a little cup of orange juice for each child. I almost never buy orange juice, but I had some hidden in the back of the fridge to go in a recipe I was making that week.
The kids were excited to have that OJ and the special breakfast outside! We had a nice little time out there, listening to a little podcast and chatting and getting syrup everywhere. I was patting myself on the back and thanking God simultaneously that the Big Breakfast Outside idea had successfully redirected the summer morning.
That’s when one of the kids came back outside with the OJ carton and tried to refill a cup. I immediately said, “Oh no, sweetie–actually I was saving the rest of that for Dad and for a dinner recipe. I don’t have enough for everyone to have more. Sorry.”
And wouldn’t you know I got the biggest eye roll and angry frown ever at that point. Then a whole lot of arguing and backtalk.
It broke my heart a little, ya’ll.
I had chosen to respond with patience and love to a bunch of irritable children, gone through the effort (and extra dishes!) to make a lovely breakfast, and I’d even thought to surprise them with that OJ.
It also made me mad. My gift was rejected and the nice morning tarnished by this big scene of ungratefulness everybody had to watch.
After I went through the motions of correcting the child who was being ugly about not getting to have more orange juice, it hit me like a ton of bricks: that’s me, sometimes. With God.
How often does he have His angels working overtime to make something run more smoothly for me, and instead of noticing all that’s going well, I gripe about how many times I had to clean up a potty accident that day instead? What about when He makes it so that I get home safely from a tiring activity (as a bonus with no babies falling asleep in the van so that they won’t nap when they get home!), but I’m disappointed that He didn’t send me the budget for a drive-thru latte to boost my spirits?
You know, I think I often put God’s gifting to me into boxes labeled with things like “unlimited budget for drive-thrus when I don’t feel like cooking” or “kids never bicker” or “I get more than enough alone time each and every day” or “potty training improves from here on out and never regresses.”
It really hit me this morning that I don’t have the regular habit of looking for His deep presence in each of my days. There are a thousand little situations each and every day where God is working invisibly to weave together, to protect, to correct, to clean up my messes, to make smooth a path. What a beautiful thought. And it’s not just a nice thought…it’s the truth. I feel like I’ve “known” this in my head, heard it before now. But I’m really struck by the desire to make a habit of thankfulness a really intentional part of each day, both for what I can see Him doing and for what I may never know He’s working on in the background.
I wonder if my little heart-brokenness over the orange juice that day is how my Father feels when I am ungrateful for a gift He has prepared for me with such love. But then again…He knows we’ll be ungrateful some of the time, and He sends us so many gifts anyway…Love without expecting anything in return. And while He deeply and completely understands my own human, natural anger when a gift I give is tarnished and rejected…He doesn’t get angry with me like I get angry with my kids. I think He teaches more with mercy.
Thankfulness, contentment, mercy. There’s so much to pray about there as a parent trying to teach and live out those things. And there’s so much to let God speak to us in silence there in our relationship to Him.
A few years ago, I kept a “Gifts List” posted on my fridge. I got the idea from the book, One Thousand Gifts. I had everything from “Faith slept through the night for the first time!” to “Michael loved the new recipe I tried” to “got an encouraging text from Kate.”
Might be time to get a “Gifts List” back up on my fridge.:)