This week I've been thinking about how a grateful heart doesn't happen automatically. We aren't born with one. Instead, it has to be cultivated, grown through practice and effort.
I discovered this one day not long ago when the family had an ice cream treat at the mall. It happened like this:
We settled around a table, with our spoons out, our mouths open. Bria scooped a bite onto her spoon and stuffed it into her mouth. But she didn’t giggle and she didn’t smile. Instead, she let out an ear-piercing howl.
I jumped up. “What’s wrong?!”
Her eyes filled with tears.
Bria’s lip quivered. She took another tiny bite, and whimpered. “The i-i-i-ice cream iiiiiss . . .”
“It’s too COLD!”
“The ice cream is too cold?” I laughed. Bria’s sisters laughed. Jayden just kept eating. And Bria just kept crying.
She wanted warm ice cream.
I took a deep breath. My voice softened.
“Honey, it’s ICE cream. It’s supposed to be cold. Otherwise it would just be, well, cream.”
“Do you want to give it to your brother to eat?”
He perked up and reached for her ice cream cup.
She snatched it back toward her chest and shoved another bite in her mouth. She didn’t look like she enjoyed it.
I shook my head. Sometimes Bria was just silly.
But then, sometimes I am too. Maybe not about ice cream, but I can be just as silly about other gifts that God sends my way. When God sends me a friendship and it doesn’t turn out just as I wanted, do I fuss and complain that the ice cream is too cold? When I’m involved in a ministry and things don’t go as planned, do I whimper and whine? When I go to church to worship, do I end up complaining the music is too loud, the sermon too long, the seats too hard? When I’m at the mall, chasing around six kids, do I complain about the chaos . . . or do I thank him that this once-infertile mom now has her hands full with the kids she prayed so long to have?
That day at the ice cream shop, Bria gave me a good laugh. But she also showed me that I have a choice. I can cultivate a heart of complaint or a heart of thanksgiving.
Psalm 100:4 (NIV) says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
I want to receive the ice cream treats of God with a grateful heart, even they make my teeth ache a little and send a chill into my chest. Ice cream is good. God’s gifts are good. They may make me a little uncomfortable, they may not be just what I expected, but they’re still a treat, still a gift!
From now on, I want to have a thankful heart . . . even when the ice cream seems too cold.
So, here's a tip: Everyday on the way to wherever you're going, try this:
I am thankful for . . .
________________________________________ (a thing)
________________________________________ (a person)
________________________________________ (an opportunity you’ve had)
________________________________________ (an attribute of God)
And practice cultivating a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving!