Ephesians 5:20 says "...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I've heard them for years, but I remember those two because they have come up in my studies most recently. I remember them because there's a catch. Always. All. Scripture doesn't say to give thanks when it feels good or is easy. It says we should ALWAYS give thanks for EVERYTHING. People, sometimes that is REALLY hard to do.
The sermon at church yesterday was about Fact, Faith, and Feeling. When the pastor asked the congregation which of these should be priority, several people called out, "Faith". I didn't disagree, it sounded like the proper church answer. Did you know it isn't the correct answer? We can have faith in lots of things, but if that faith isn't rooted in fact then it's not worth much. Fact must come first. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that scripture is fact. Fact is first. My faith follows that scripture. My feelings come last. I knew this should be true and know that I have often been guilty of trusting my feelings over all else, but I also had a silent little conversation with God listing the reasons I should probably be allowed to follow and trust my own feelings. Turns out, I'm not the exception to the rule. Go figure.
So the scriptures about giving thanks and yesterday's sermon on putting fact (scripture) first sort of merged about an hour ago. I mean, y'all, I've experienced some really sad, crappy, traumatic, depressing, stressful, and difficult things in my life. Some big ones. Most of us have. I happen to be at a stage in life right now that feels pretty darn good. It's fairly fantastic, really. I'm grateful for that and give thanks for it every day. That's not difficult. "Hey God, things are pretty much awesome right now, thanks for that!" I can look back (and have feelings!) over certain things that I've been through and sincerely say, "Dear Lord, I'm sad about how some things have happened. I wish some things had been different and I don't fully understand why it all had to happen that way, but I trust you and I give thanks for where I've been and where I am and whatever you have ahead for me." That stuff is big and life changing and heavy. This morning hasn't been big and life changing, it's just been full of normal, stay-at-home-mom, annoying daily life stuff that kind of pissed me off. (Don't judge me, you'll get my choice of words if you keep reading.)
We're still potty training. It's not a done deal, but it's still happening and Eleanor is a willing participant... mostly. She wears a diaper when we're not at home (and sometimes even when we are at home, just because she wants to) and at night & nap time, but wears undies much of the day. She may tell me "potty" 42 times in 25 minutes (slight exaggeration) and never leave a drop of pee in the potty. She may also ask to sit on the potty and then cry because you're making her sit on the potty. She's complicated. She very often stays dry for hours at a time, even in a diaper. Sometimes those dry spells end with a successful trip to the bathroom and a victory flush that she thinks is super awesome. This morning she woke up with a wet diaper, didn't want to pee in the potty, but wanted to wear undies. So she spent the next 2 1/2 hours wearing undies, making multiple trips to the potty (never once actually peeing), drinking juice, but staying dry the entire time. It's beautiful outside today, so I took her to the backyard to play. Still in undies. (At this point, I was almost hoping for an accident outside so she would be reminded of why it's so much better to pee in the potty.) I watered my garden, filled up a tub of water for her to play in, and then hosed down the picnic table that Foose decided he'd just start peeing on. (Insert angry feelings here.) Come on, running water makes everyone have to pee. Everyone except Eleanor. She whined about 75% of the time we were outside and all I really wanted her to do was just go play with some of the fantastic toys that fill our backyard and let me sit on the porch for a bit. Nope. She splashed in the water, but her undies stayed dry. She declared "Potty!", so I ran her inside to the potty where she sat for 60 seconds, did nothing, then cried to go back outside. Outside we went, had a snack, drank more juice, whined about nothing, then she once again declared "Potty!". Inside we ran, sat on the potty. I read her a book and then she whined about wanting to flush the toilet. I reminded her that she only gets to flush if there's something to dump in the toilet (which was great incentive a few days ago, but not today). I read books and sang songs, anything to distract her and keep her sitting on the potty long enough to pee after more that three hours. Nothing. I called it a loss, put her down in the kitchen, told her I was going outside to put the toys up and that I'd be right back. When we're done playing outside, we always put all loose toys in the playhouse and shut the door so that the dogs don't pee on anything. (Whose idea was it to get male dogs, anyway?) Well guess what? While I was doing a song & dance to convince Eleanor to pee inside, Foose decided it would be a great idea to pee in the doorway and floor of Eleanor's playhouse. Let's just say that my frazzled feelings weren't fueling an attitude of thankfulness. SO far from it. I could hear Eleanor screaming like a maniac in the house as I washed out the playhouse, picked up toys, and tried to rush back inside to a frantic toddler. I opened the back door with my arms full of sippy cups & snacks and... stepped directly into a giant puddle of toddler pee.
Y'all, it hasn't been a great morning and I didn't feel thankful. Those moments of craziness didn't last more than a few minutes and they mean exactly nothing to the trajectory of my life, but they felt big and nasty at the time. That brings us back to Ramen noodles. As I stood there waiting for the water to boil, God put a little bug in my ear . "Hey Mandy, stop for a minute. Put your faith in the facts and then let's readdress your feelings." The annoyed and irritated feelings really wanted to run the show, but thanks be to God that they don't get to. I could sit and steep in the fact that my job today is being the ringmaster of the pee circus and the monkeys are all out of control, but that's not what God has told me to do. God has instructed me to give thanks in ALL things. When I'm feeling less than thankful, it helps me to take inventory. So I locked the dog monkeys outside and stepped away from the toddler monkey so I could take a deep breath, take inventory, and give thanks. Among my inventory of things to give thanks for...
These two loves.
My little girl in a dress and shiny sandals, playing ball in the front yard before church.