Hot Chocolate at Christmas

Proverbs 28:14 (the message)
A tenderhearted person lives a blessed life;
     a hardhearted person lives a hard life.

The girls and I have a daily routine of a short time of prayer on the way to school.  Rivers, my oldest at 6, always goes first.  It’s just a brief time to start out her school day asking God to help her learn and behave and expressing her thanks for whatever comes to her mind and heart.  Leah, my newly turned 4-year-old, participates in random ways.  Sometimes she says no when I ask her if she wants to pray.  She has even told me before that it was boring!  I smile because that’s my Leah.  Calling it like she sees it.  So, sometimes she says no and I let it go because I want her to know she can talk to God because she wants to, not because someone forces her to.  Many times, however, she will make up a song for her prayer.  These are some of my favorites!  They always start out…”Jesus, Jesus thank you for…” and she will thank Jesus for everything from the school bus that we pass to being able to suck her thumb.

Today, one of her thank-you’s to Jesus touched my heart even more so than normal.  It wasn’t a song but spoken with her sweet little girl words.  She thanked Jesus for hot chocolate at Christmas. 

As I considered the prayer Leah prayed this morning, how I don’t make her pray but offer her the chance, I was struck by the tender heart of a child who can go on and on thanking Jesus for the good things in her life.  Because my husband and I are careful not to force our children against their will or shame them for honestly expressing boredom with prayer at times, I find such joy in hearing them express their little hearts to Jesus.  We pray along with them, believing they can learn more about how to talk with God by hearing us do it rather than telling them how.  Yet, today I am reminded of a lesson I need to re-learn.

Perspective.  The state of my heart will always determine my perspective on life and what I see about me.  My little girls have tender hearts so they see the blessings of their life most days.  Blessings that include hot chocolate at Christmas for Leah or for Rivers building a bird house with her dad.  The kicker here is they recognize the blessings and I hear that as they thank Jesus for them.

How about me?  What kind of prayers have I been praying lately?  Am I praying a whole lot of whiney prayers or am I full of thanksgiving because I see the hot chocolate in my life?  Oh, the hot chocolate and bird house building is there!  But that doesn’t mean I see it.  Doesn’t mean I’m thankful for it.  Doesn’t mean I have the tender-hearted perspective to recognize and be caught up in it.  No, my prayers sometimes are full of self-pity and doubt.  My perspective is easily marred by a hardened heart…one focused on self-comfort and what I think I need and all I need to do and give to everyone else. 

The verse above is telling us, I believe, that it’s  the state our heart that determines the kind of life we live.  I think we often have it backward.  We think those with a blessed life are more easily able to keep a tender heart.  We think, well if I was blessed I would be singing songs and full of thanksgiving, too!  We think the hard circumstances of life make us hard-hearted, and to a degree I know that can be true, but I hear this verse telling me the hard heart can’t see the blessings surrounding it…it only perceives the hardness of life. 

I was encouraged and my heart pricked this morning listening to my little girls talk to Jesus.  The kind of prayers we pray may just tell us the state of our hearts sometimes.  See, I am abundantly blessed with everything I need and yet how easily I slip into a hardened perception that can only see what I believe is “hard” about my life. 

Jesus, thank you so much for the unique and wonderful ways you find to speak to my heart.  Thank you for beautiful and tender-hearted children who would rather love life than despise it.  Thank you for family and friendships that enrich my life in immeasurable ways.  Thank you for a come-back marriage and a man who will glue shells on home-made birdhouses and bring home plenty of paint choices for our budding artists to choose from.  Thank you for the humbling opportunity to be used in ways that are completely out of my depth and above my head.  Thank you for the lush, green trees that fill the view through my kitchen windows.  Thank you, Jesus, for the new life we will meet in October and all of the joy he or she will bring to the chaos of living.  Thank you for strawberry-picking with my preschooler.  Thank you for the simple pleasure and great excitement sugar-sweetened strawberries bring to the face of my blue-eyed first grader.  Everything in my life is beautiful if I only have the heart to see it before me.  Thank you, Jesus, for the hot chocolate…

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