Last night I found myself in Walmart at 12:30 am. My oldest daughter, Rivers, has declared her candidacy in the third grade race for School Treasurer. I was out to dinner and a movie with a couple of friends so I made the stop for poster board on the way home. (The movie I saw was “The Words” and I have two for you: Skip It!)
So, there I was standing for what seemed like forever choosing poster board and glitter glue and markers, then walking around looking for anything that would go along with her “Rock N Roll With Rivers for Treasurer” theme. As I did my shopping, I noticed the employees there for night shift and stocking. I encountered a couple of young guys and an older woman. They smiled as I passed them and I began to see something about my life as the Friday night lights came on in my heart.
What in the world do I have to complain about? There I was in Wal-Mart in the middle of the night, by choice, and I’m reminded how hard life can be for others. What if I needed to work all night long in Wal-Mart to help pay the bills? Would I still smile like the guy who pointed me toward the notebook paper? Would I be friendly like the woman navigating the aisles with a massive rolling rack of plastic hangers? Would I be content? I’m not sure. I’m thinking no.
You know why? Because if I’m not overcome with gratitude at having the choice to stay home with the three beautiful children I have without complaining about how hard it is I don’t see how I’d have a good attitude working the night shift. But wait, maybe I’m missing something. Perhaps when you have abundance, more than enough, you can easily slip into a spoiled, all about me, entitlement mentality. Perhaps when things are relatively “easy” in your life you begin to balk at anything or any situation that’s not. Is it tough raising young children sometimes? You bet. But is it everything I asked for? You bet.
Today, as my husband made electric guitar cut-outs and stars for the campaign posters (which the candidate will decorate tomorrow), Leah was hanging out with me as I glued the cut-outs to the poster boards. She found an old photo album from a medical missions trip to Guatemala I went on years ago. She asked me who the people were and what was wrong with them. I explained that Miss Brigit, PaPa and I went far away to an area where the people were very poor and did not have any doctors or nurses and we helped them with medicine and told them about Jesus. After Leah looked through the photos she said, Mom! I think we should pray for these people! How it fills my heart to hear my daughter suggest we pray. So, we did. And again, I was reminded of lives being lived with less. Less stuff. Less ease. Less help.
A few minutes ago I shared with my husband this epiphany from last night and today. See, I have every desire my heart hoped for. My marriage is intact. God did what only He could do in it. I have three really wonderful girls. I mean they are really wonderful. I had always hoped, before I even had babies, that I could stay home with them. I know that choice is not for everyone, but this was my heart’s desire. I don’t have money to blow and we don’t live in a really big house (two of my girls share a room) but our home is a nice one. There is a park behind our house and we can walk to the girls’ school. Which, by the way, is a great one. We have been blessed with Christian teachers every year so far in our public school. They aren’t breaking any laws or proselytizing but I always get to know them. We have everything we need and then some. Why wouldn’t I get up everyday with a great big smile and a song in my heart?
Because I can so easily fall into the trap of complaining about the weight of responsibility that comes with being blessed with so much. I wonder how God feels. I wonder if it hurts Him when He gives us the life we hoped for and we complain or moan and groan. Tonight I ask His forgiveness.
A job doesn’t give us true joy, after all. A paycheck, however small or large, doesn’t give us joy. Having everything we want in life or next to nothing we hoped for does not guarantee joy nor despair. You know what I believe is the precursor to joy?
I encourage you to take a look at your life. If you dare! The things you complain about, the things you feel overwhelmed with and stressed out about…are they desires your heart hoped for and God gave you? Your career? Your at-homeness? Your children? Your home? Your ministry? If so, this is not about you or I feeling guilty, because sometimes even the blessings can be overwhelming. This is about what we do with those overwhelming feelings. We can take them to God in prayer and let Him help us and enable us to manage and steward the blessings or we can complain. If we complain, our perception begins to shift. Those very things and blessings we longed for begin to look like “work.” Resentment can even build. Contentment wanes. Gratitude dies.
This afternoon Leah and I cuddled up in our hammock (Rivers is at sleepover). It was a little breezy and I must have drifted off to sleep because all of a sudden I felt her little hands tucking a blanket in around me. She even made sure my feet were covered. Smile…
Lord Jesus, please keep shining those Friday night lights in my eyes, especially when all I’m seeing is me, me, me. There is so much wonder and joy in my ordinary life. Help me not to miss it. And Thank You.