God always answers prayers. Sometimes it’s ‘yes.’ Sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ Sometimes it’s ‘you gotta be kidding.’
- Jimmy Carter
I arrived home yesterday from a week-long visit to my parents’ house and was met at the door by a tail-wagging pup and a hangdog husband. Nothing had happened in my absence: no grocery shopping, no housecleaning, no laundry, no plant-watering, no picking-up-after-yourself.
One teenager was asleep in the middle of the afternoon, I could smell rotting fruit from the hallway, and not a flat surface was uncovered. Instead of giving the big hugs I’d anticipated, I skulked to my bedroom to sulk.
Disappointment is a hard feeling for me to handle. It tips over a whole row of unpleasant emotional dominoes: hurt, anger, resentment. Though I struggle mightily to rein in my reactions, I don’t always succeed. If you’d met me for the first time last night, you might not have recognized me as a Christian.
But the Christian in me knows that that the way out of any emotional rut is to refocus my thoughts on what I can be thankful for. Since I didn’t have any immediate gratitude last night, I got up and sorted a mountain of dirty clothes. Then I cleared off the dining room table, picked up a room, took out the recycling.
With each task I acknowledged something I could be thankful for and said thanks to God, regardless of how I actually felt at the time. Sometimes saying the words leads the way for my heart to follow, and I arrive at a better place.
This morning the house is mostly back in order. My feelings mostly are, too. Messes can be cleaned, and emotions pass; today is a new day. For that, I can definitely be thankful!
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.