Finding Gratitude in the Trenches of Mama-hood
Motherhood was a difficult transition for me. As a recovering perfectionist, part of me thought it would come more naturally — that somehow I would just be good at it.
Instead, I found myself struggling — hard. I found I did terribly with little sleep. I was frequently overwhelmed and stressed. It took so much more out of me than I ever thought I had to give.
The needs oozing from the tiny fingers of my vivacious daughter were both life-giving and life-sucking.
After what felt like a battlefield in her first year of life, I finally started to come out of a fog when my daughter was nearly 17 months old.
I remember that fall, when the Denver sun still grew toasty but the nights invited candles and sweaters, we began to think about Thanksgiving and travel plans. I had been reading on gratitude from both a faith perspective as well as its significant value from a psychological perspective. As a mental health therapist and a Christian, I’d already believed gratitude to be an effective coping skill and a way to connect to God’s presence. But when I assessed my reality, I saw I hadn’t been practicing it regularly in my own life for a while.
It felt like God was giving me a strong nudge — or maybe a flashing sign — telling me to pay attention.
In an attempt to implement a change, we began a thankful jar in our house. As the leaves fell around the Rockies, the jar filled with the many things I’d always been grateful for in some sense, but hadn’t necessarily made time to celebrate or notice.
This practice of daily considering God’s faithfulness, in big and small ways, seemed to also correspond with a resurrection inside me. Granted, it may partly have been coincidence. We were finally getting a decent amount of sleep after a wasteland of sleeplessness through my daughter’s first year. And, I happened to be doing much personal work inside of myself that particular fall. I could almost see my fingers loosening around the expectations I had once clung to so tightly. I began to realize, in an experiential way, I didn’t have to be a perfect mother or counselor or wife.
I felt the balm of realizing I am deeply loved no matter what.
And so as all the strands were woven together, I began to see gratitude in a way I never had before. Rather than just a good idea, I started to view my connection to the Giver of all gifts with a depth and breadth that had previously escaped me. I also saw how God was loving me and calling out to me in a fresh way.
I began to notice my heart living out gratitude rather than just talking about it. Yes, life was still hard and complicated and tiring, too.
Yes, my daughter still threw tantrums and meals burnt, and bills still came — but experiencing the fullness of Jesus in my life and how He met me in the place of thankfulness enriched and renewed me.
When the calendar finally landed on Thanksgiving, and we traveled across the country to see family, I felt the weightiness of the day. While I’ve always enjoyed the holiday, I found a richness there and a connectedness that I continue to draw on.
This year, as the leaves turn, I’m reminded again of living in this place of gratitude and the joy it brings.
When my heart wanders, as it’s prone to do, I find myself drawn to the whispers of hope found in the One who loves me and calls me beloved.
This is the gift for which I’m most grateful and the reason I’m drawn back to His ways again and again. This is what sustains me and convinces me Jesus is the Author of all the good we know in this life — the Creator of every good thing.