There’s a habit I accidentally started when our foster-to-adopt case dragged on or felt downright hopeless: practicing gratitude even when it felt like “the earth [was giving] way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2). One definition of gratitude is “readiness to show appreciation.” I love that: READY to show appreciation. When it felt like everything was crumbling, my soul refused to believe God was absent; and so I intentionally and intently looked for Him. I made lists (of course)–lists of little blessings, little bits of sunshine, little moments of grace, and little spaces where I sensed His hand still working.
In my journal from last year, I found two instances when, in the “depths of despair,” I paused to remember and to be grateful. (More about that season in this post.)
We were waiting for the judge to give his decision on termination of parental rights, and I was so very heavy with unknowns. But this is what I wrote on December 24, 2017:
Thankful that the kids don’t have any biological parent visits right now
Thankful that we get another Christmas together
Thankful that we’re not celebrating Christmas with bad news hanging over us
Thankful for the wonderful provision of presents for all of the kids
Thankful for the time to teach them about Jesus’ birth and why we celebrate
And then on January 31, 2018, after the judge terminated parental rights, but then two biological parents appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals. I was devastated–still I had to find the courage to look for God’s faithfulness.
Can I find blessing even in this?
Our foster care per diem continues
Continued connection with our wonderful caseworker
The children are currently in a safe place
Another good area to practice gratitude in is parenting. When we’re in the midst of a hard parenting season, I have found it helpful to look back and to remember when we were in the midst of a struggle that is now passed and to be thankful! For example, recently I was moaning to myself about some hard thing, but then I remembered we really used to struggle with bedtimes–children not staying in bed, being put back to bed a million times, crying, lots of needs, even defiant behavior at times. And this went on for what felt like forever!! But now?! Now bedtime is literally a joy–they all go to bed calmly at 7 p.m. and do not get out of bed again until 7 a.m. (with an occasional quiet bathroom run); and there is no talking, no noise, no giggling, nothing. (Zeke does get up every once in a while; but it’s rare and he’s three, so that’s understandable.) I had forgotten to be thankful for this new season! And remembering with gratitude brought hope and encouragement to my current season of hard parenting.
Practicing gratitude even when… truly is a practice because thankfulness does not come easy when the burden or sorrow is great or when the road is long. We have to work at it, be intentional, and train our souls toward gratitude (and refuse the complaining, whining or begging that comes more naturally). I actually think this practice helped me to cope through the years of waiting in our foster case and helps today during the tough parenting seasons. Even when I am in the midst of the most hopeless moments, I can still find ways to thank God. He is always working and blessing and moving and sustaining. I just have to pause to notice Him.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . .
The LORD Almighty is with us . . .
Come and see what the LORD has done . . .
The LORD Almighty is with us” (Psalm 46:1, 2, 7, 11).