It’s no secret around here what school day is their favorite. I squeak the bedroom door open and the big boy rolls over and cracks out, “Is it Thursday?”. I say good morning and yes, it’s Thursday and I can hear him in the dark. Hear him stretch full length and tighten muscles for the shift to standing. Thursday’s seem to be the only school day he’s actually WILLING to get up for without a wayward groan. “Oh good. We have thankful journals today.”
I never knew that when we started these Thankful Thursday’s over five years ago, that it would stick. How does one come up with that many things to be thankful for? Seems like the basics would have been met by now. The first year was easy. They were little and I allowed colored drawings to go along with what they were thankful for. I treasure those first journals like only a Mama can. Stick figures and wiggly, misspelled letters. They’re enduring for all the innocence they represent.
But the second year came and after the first 6 weeks of school, I knew they were going to be a lifeline for us. Our unexpected baby was born so tiny he was not given more than a one percent chance to live and suddenly every breath was being counted. We packed the kids and their school things up and moved into the hospital three and a half hours from home. And I tucked those thankful journals and shortened colored pencils into their backpacks. It became intentional not to miss a Thursday. A weekly habit of being thankful.
There’s all kinds of data out there for how long it takes a person to form or break a habit. I don’t know numbers. I only know that when your very life depends on habit, you form a new routine, and I know that those around you begin to notice it. Two little kids living in a hospital with a plastic isolate for a baby brother was their reality, and they learned all the ways to be grateful in those moments. I noticed. I cannot tell you the number of days I listened and watched them and was awed by their resolve. Not a Thursday got missed, and those thankful journals kept filling. That habit became something we really did wear.
More people began to notice it. Nurses, respiratory therapists, interns, physical therapists, nutritionists, social workers, family life specialists, pulmonologists, the entire Neonatal ICU Physician team. They all noticed. Several chaplains came in to lift us in prayer and more than one photographer asked our permission to capture these kids managing a difficult situation. And tiny Judah, I am convinced, was part of that gratitude habit. He had his own numbers all over that hospital room, and when we lifted his tiny body out of that isolate to tuck him into our very skin, he slowed those numbers. His body would still and his heart would even out and his oxygen needs were dialed right down and his dad and I witnessed the birth of his own gratitude journey.
Dorothy Thompson, who was an American journalist and radio broadcaster in the 1920’s and 30’s is most known for her interview with Adolph Hitler in Germany, and wrote a book about her experience entitled, “I Saw Hitler”. She was kicked out of Germany for her remarks about him. Through her experience she says this, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live in every experience, painful or joyous, to live in gratitude for every moment, to live abundantly.” Her words were a small key to unlocking a prison of gloom and fear I may have once been in.
If you haven’t yet been in a painful experience, you will. This is for sure. But just like the joyous times, when it’s easy to write down all those things we so love, I encourage you to write down the good even when the good looks and feels really hard. Because it’s the habits in life that bestow the good blessings. Even in the rocks, the wildflowers grow, but you’ll miss them if you don’t note them. And your world around you will notice. Gratitude doesn’t hide well. Joy bubbles out of that, and where there is joy, true worship forms.
“Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.” Psalms 95:1-2 (NLT).
I also want to take this moment and thank each of you for allowing me into your space. I don’t take this lightly. We are a busy planet and I know your mailbox, inbox, invoices, and voicemails are all pretty full. So I appreciate your listening ear and your precious time. Thank you!
In pure gratitude,