While I’m on baby break I thought I’d re-run an old post on the topic of gratitude. This was originally published on October 22, 2007.
I had a lovely little answered prayer today.
I’d been up with the newborn since 3:30am, and was finally drifting off to get a little catnap around 7:00. For the first time in hours I was comfortably nestled under the soft sheets, had a pillow flopped over my head, and was looking forward to a little bit of desperately needed sleep before I had to get up for the day…and then I heard my one-year-old start crying to get up. I don’t know about you, but I find that being unexpectedly woken up just as I’m starting to drift off to sleep, especially when I’m severely sleep deprived, is one of the worst feelings ever. I was so tired I felt physically sick. So as I trudged downstairs with my screaming one-year-old, I was in an extremely bad mood.
It occurred to me that perhaps this would be a good time to pray. As I prepared the morning bottle of apple juice (making sure to slam the refrigerator door shut and bang the apple juice container down on the counter because, you know, that’s just so effective and helpful — not to mention mature), the only “prayer” I could muster was something like this:
Hi, God, it’s me. I want to go back to sleep. I hate this. On a logical level, however, I am aware that I have a really good life and have much to be joyful about. I’m just NOT FEELING IT right now. But I apologize for being ungrateful. Please help me see how utterly ridiculous it is for someone with my life to be upset about something as trivial as missing sleep. Amen.
It was dry, it was said through gritted teeth, but it was sincere. And the act of simply pausing to say the prayer seemed to help. I got some coffee, turned on an interesting History Channel show to keep myself awake, and managed to improve my mood from “horrible” to “vaguely grouchy”.
Then, later in the morning, I got out a pen to add some things to the store list. I do this about five times every day. But this time, as I wrote “bread” and “black beans” on my little pad of paper, it hit me: I am doing something really, really amazing here. Out of the blue, I suddenly saw writing items on my grocery list in a completely different light: I realized what an incredibly — almost unimaginable — luxury it is to be able to simply write down what I want to feed my children, and be able to go get it. Quickly. Easily. Cheaply.
Can you imagine my great-great grandmother watching me do this? Or anyone who lives in a poverty-stricken part of the world today, or who lived more than 70 years ago? Imagine what their reaction would be to the concept that you can create your dream list of the food you’d like to put on your table, and have it there within the hour if necessary. I imagined such a person standing there, watching me write “swiss cheese, ” “mozzarella cheese, ” “olives, ” and “ice cream” in disbelief, perhaps asking, “You can really just go get that?! Are you royalty?”, and probably not being able to fully comprehend how much abundance there really is at my local grocery store, asking, “What about butter? They don’t have that ready for you, do they? Surely they don’t also have things like fish, or juices, or candy?” To most people who have ever lived, the concept of regularly having enough food to feed themselves and their children would seem like a fantasy come true — but to always have more than enough of whatever you want would be just unimaginable.
Today, as I gazed in amazement upon my store list, seeing it as if for the first time, fully appreciating how amazing it is that I can write down a wish list of things I’d like to feed my children and presumptuously assume that they will be readily available to me, I realized that this is what God’s grace feels like. In my life I’ve occasionally been able to muster up some appreciation for my cushy American lifestyle, but to be caught off guard and just thunderstruck at the beauty of such a simple, mundane daily task…that didn’t come from within me.
I realize that to some I might seem like a bit of a lunatic for writing 700 words about a store list. And I can’t prove scientifically that my moment of awe this morning was anything other than the coffee finally kicking in. But I wanted to share my experience because I am certain that it was a direct answer to my prayer, and an example of how even the littlest things are beautiful when seen through the eyes of God.
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