The warm sun shines down on me and I smile as I walk along, my children laughing and playing nearby, and I am thankful. Today is not this day. Today I wake up with a severe sinus infection and a throbbing headache which has been my constant companion these past 36 hours and which simply refuses to go away. I reach across the bed and pick up my phone, quickly checking my email and then sighing to myself when I see that my plea for someone to cover my shift in the Preschool co-op Sequoia attends has been unsuccessful and I will have to throw together a snack of some sort for nine hungry preschoolers and face a day I'd rather just ignore.
As I contemplate all this I hear a pained cry coming from down the hall where Stirling wakes from a restless sleep, where he too is fighting this discomforting cold. I glance at my watch, 5:45 and with a slight groan turn on the light and fling my feet to the floor in one swift movement, simultaneously saying goodbye to the warmth of my sheets and turning to greet the day in what fashion I have yet to decide.
My head throbs as I heat a bottle of milk and change my sons diaper, hoping he'll go back to sleep and I can have a few moments of peace. I hand him the bottle and breath a sigh of relief as he settles back into his bed, asleep almost instantly. I scuffle down the hallway, say goodbye to Seth as he heads out the door on his way to work and fill a mug with some hot coffee. Turning on the pellet stove and just enough lights to be able to read I sit down in a cozy arm chair and try to make sense of the day before me. My constant sniffling does little to stem the continuous dripping of my nose and a small pile of tissues stacks up next to my coffee cup and bible as I make a decision. A most important decision it is, though almost as important is the fact that I recognized this choice in the first place - usually I don't even get that far. The deicision is this: to either embrace the miserableness of this day, to curl up in the comfortable and smelly blanket that is self pity, a thing so cozy I hardly even notice how sick it's making me and wallow in my sad circumstances. This is my default. But at the corner of my mind another option begs to be heard. It makes its way known as the Tylenol I took begins to take effect and my pounding headache moves to the back of my head, and I am thankful. Its name is gratitude. Gratitude, as defined by google is "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness."
I take a bite of raisin bran and glance at the book lying on the stool next to me "One thousand gifts" by Ann Voskamp a book about thankfulness, and I consider. I consider the fact that my children (usually awake by now) are still sleeping, and that my coffee is still hot. My house is warm and though I have much to do, and don't feel like doing it, there is perhaps more to be grateful for in this moment than there is to be frustrated by.
My children wake up and we rush through the morning, getting ready for school and the rest of the day, and though I have now become nauseated as well as congested (this caused more by my 18 week pregnancy than anything else) I notice the clearness of the day and the fresh fall smell in the air, and I smile.
As the day goes on I have moments of absolute misery, where I give in to the frustrating circumstances and focus on how uncomfortable I am, but mostly I make a point of noticing the beauty around me and all the things I have to be thankful for. Even as I write this my child cries and as I go to help him I notice three baskets of laundry waiting to be folded. Uggh. Then I pause. Three baskets of clean, dry laundry, and I am grateful, and my day continues. I keep writing this blog and then my computer goes glitchy and it gets deleted. All of it. And I write it again. The battery drains, but we have electricity and a plug to charge it. Much to be grateful for.
The funny thing about gratitude is that it is virtually impossible to express sincere thankfulness and gratitude while wallowing in self pity. You must choose to abandon the latter and focus on all the blessings in life instead of the irritations in it. Maybe that's the real trick, that with one you cannot have the other. As I choose this less obvious, more intentional choice I noticed a change, not in my circumstances exactly, but in my attitude. I was more patient, despite feeling sick, and less given to agitation. In short, choosing to be thankful changed my entire attitude, which ended up turning around my entire day. I even think that as I chose not to focus so much on my afflictions I began to physically feel a little better as well.
Everyday we are faced with all kinds of situations and choices, but we can always choose to look around for the blessings in our lives and choose to be grateful. In doing so we might even inspire those around us to remember the things in their own lives they are grateful for. We serve a good God who is faithful and deserving of our thanks. Let us remember to do so.