Thankful to Learn

Tackling Grumble Spots, Part 2: Surrounded by Messes

It’s been a while since I started this series. It started with a post where I defined what grumble spots are and then continued with my another post about how the Lord is teaching me to tackle those things in my life. Now we are on to the next thing on my list that often leads to anything but a thankful spirit – messes, messes everywhere.

Mind you, when I say messes, I am not merely referring to tangible stuff stacked up everywhere. Of course, that is often a reality in my life. But the messes I am referring to are not only comprised of toys, clothes, partially eaten food, trash, mud, grass and all other other messes we can see. I’ve learned that mental messes can pile up too and are just as big of a threat (maybe bigger) to a thankful spirit.

This is not another post about eliminating clutter.

So let’s tackle the familiar form of mess first. I know there is no shortage of blog posts, YouTube videos, articles and the like related to keeping up with clutter. There are all sorts of chore charts out there aimed at encouraging the whole family to take part in preventing the mess from becoming such an mammoth mountain to climb. (And sometimes, actual climbing, weaving and tip-toeing happens.) I am not going to go that route with my suggestions because I know other good help is out there and because I have come to learn that developing a thankful heart cannot rely on the actions of others. It is an inner discipline that has to be cultivated despite one’s circumstance. And remember, I’m still in development, too….just sharing what I’ve learned so far.

I’ve learned that I cannot keep up with housework in the way that I once did. I had to purposefully choose to be ok with this before I could move on to being thankful for the household messes. Yep. I said it. I am thankful for the messes. They are proof that little creative, playful and energetic souls live in my house. Messes are evidence of amazing abundance in provision of needs AND wants. The clutter also serves as reminders of fun times spent together with each other. When I see a mess from days before, I choose to remind myself of the smiles and giggles my kids had when they enjoyed playing forts. It’s proof of one of life’s greatest blessings – parenthood. Now, before I lose anyone, I do teach my kids to pick up after themselves and give them daily chores. However, just like I don’t execute every task perfectly right away (or even ever), I cannot expect pristine pick-ups all the time from them either. They are learning and growing in responsibility and I would rather be a patient guide than a taskmaster.

To be honest, I do get overwhelmed by clutter at times. It happens to everyone. There are times when my first response, and sometimes even second or third response, is not thankfulness. However, I am blessed to have a wonderful partner in this journey and my hubby reminds me that in a better moment I resolved differently. I sometimes am not ready to hear his helpful words, but as I let them seep in, the Lord uses them. I often get up and go somewhere without temptation. What in the world is that? Such a place exists!? Well, if you are tempted to grumble about messes everywhere, you better work it into your day to have one tidy spot in your home that you can retreat to and collect your thoughts. You just need one and it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. But if this is a threat to thankfulness in your heart, then you need to put it on your daily list to keep up with this spot. Don’t let messes get out of control in just that one spot. If you can make a way to keep up with more than one spot, great! But give yourself at least one place where you can look around and not see the mess. For me, it is the smallest living space in our home. We call it our family room, although I think most would call it a den or study. There are times when all the floors and furniture in every other room in the house are nearly impassable. However, I can’t see them. I go to the family room, grab a snack (blood sugar matters, momma), count my blessings and pray. Sometimes, I even get in the Word. I give myself time in this anxiety-free space to come up with a mental game plan for the mayhem in other rooms.

But as I said before, this is not a “clean your clutter” kind of post. I think the bigger mess that more often threatens thankful living is a mental mess. Bad thinking, momma. Unrealistic expectations, over-expecting, over-emphasizing – whatever you want to call it. Simply put, a mental mess is created when the way you think/want things to go is different from reality and you create the rationale for why. This leads to assigning what are often times completely inaccurate motives/actions to others around you and leaves you with a mind full of muck. Ew. This is a recipe for a complaining, joyless spirit.

Time to clean up that mess!

So, how we keep the muck out? Well, again, I’m still learning here, but the Lord has taught me a few things that I sort of put into action steps. I hope these are helpful to you as you seek to grow in your response to disappointment, change of plans and other unmet expectations. Here we go:

  1. Check you expectations with a trusted mentor. A believing spouse, a Titus 2 mentor at church, or a pastor can help you determine if you are threatening a thankful heart by simply setting the bar too high.
  2. Remember your own imperfections. When your hubby forgets the trash or your kids leave their toys out AGAIN or your BFF totally stands you up for a much-needed coffee date, know that grumbling will not help at all and keeps you from moving on towards the next joy. Disappointment is ok and natural. Letting it fester, assigning motive and planning revenge are sinful. One thing that helps me avoid those things are remembering the forgiveness granted to me for my many wrongs.
  3. Get the facts. Ask questions. Communicate!! Find out what happened. Let others know what you were expecting and allow them to explain what happened. Chances are, when you get disappointed, you are not thinking on whatsoever things are true, nor are you assuming the best (Phil. 4; I Cor. 13). Those, dear momma, are dangerous enemies to living thankfully.
  4. Ask the Lord to show you the blessings in your disappointment. I am convinced, that when asked humbly, the Lord will not fail to grant you this request. Countless psalms tell me that the Lord is near and very helpful when we want to respond rightly. The first couple blessings may be hard to count, especially if anger has started to creep in. But I’ve found that once I name a few blessings, the Holy Spirit starts softening my heart and the blessings come readily to mind.

These steps may play out differently for you than for me, but I hope that the Lord uses these thoughts to take you from a momma who is a quick complainer to one that a counts blessings. There’s just nothing more refreshing than a thankful heart in step with the Savior. I think that is because thankfulness is somewhat of a divine humbling agent. Thankfulness does not come to a greedy, entitled, selfish heart. On the contrary, it abides in the heart of one who knows that the goodness of the Giver is neither deserved nor earned. It helps the believer to remember their own unworthiness of any good thing and causes humble gratitude for all that’s been given despite that reality. It re-establishes the proper, rightful authority in a believer’s life. It allows us to regain trust in the One who works all things according to His purpose. And it is a faithful guard against our disappointed complaints and grumbling that fill our minds with messes and muck. As I’ve said before, dear friends, thankfulness is a tremendous protector!

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This is my blog devoted to sharing lessons learned about thankful living. Along the way, you’ll see all sorts of bits of the life I’m so thankful to live.

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