Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How "You don't seem happy anymore" Changed Everything

On Wednesday night I sat in a small circle of moms in mismatched chairs. I was back in my hometown, but I knew none of the faces snacking on chocolate covered rice crispy treats except the one who invited me there to speak. She looked exactly the same as she did in high school.

After the coffee and icebreaker, it was my turn to share the word God had put on my heart. I was excited to tell these ladies about joy! About how giving thanks is the key to the fullest life promised by Christ!  

 But before I got to the full part, I first had to tell them about being empty.

I took a deep breath and told the story of that night at my kitchen sink about a year ago. How in the midst of scrubbing dirty dinner dishes my husband made the comment that changed everything.

"You don't seem happy anymore."


It wasn't an accusation or a put-down. He wasn't mad. It was more an observation that made him sad.

I was completely caught off guard. How could he say that? I mean, I was a pretty positive person. I laughed throughout the day at my trifecta of tiny testosteronies. People often told me that I have a great smile. I often told people how my life is so blessed.

And to top it all off, I had spent that year studying the Book of James. Not just studying. Memorizing James. The famous words of the half brother of Jesus were etched on my heart,
"Count it all joy.."
So why would he say that? I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to quickly refute his statement and spew out all the reasons he was wrong. But thankfully, instead of being defensive the Lord allowed me to be reflective.

As I reflected over the days and weeks that followed, I had to admit that Chris was right. I really wasn't happy. More than that...I wasn't living the full life of joy. The root of my problem? Ingratitude. I knew it deep.

I asked God to show me the source of my ungratefulness and he first pointed to my thought life. I started to take note of my inner dialogue. Soon I came to recognize the familiar tape that told me I was a quasi-victim of my own life. 

It was subtle. But it was there. 

The voice that said this life of mine was just too much for anyone to handle. The dishes, the laundry, the three ACTIVE little boys, and the part time job. Time with God and time with friends. Time for my husband and time for myself. Time to scrape that mystery muck off the refrigerator shelf. The dissonant melody in my mind sang there was just never enough time for it all. And how could there ever be enough time to serve my neighbor, celebrate my friend, and remove the green crayon marks marring the white walls when I simply struggled to make dinner while not losing my temper and keeping my monkeys from jumping out of their make-believe trees?! 

But I didn't bemoan these thoughts to everyone. I wasn't an outright complainer. 

But my ingratitude did slip out.

It seeped out in the long sigh that immediately followed whenever someone asked, How are you doing, Becky? It leaked out with every comment about how tired or busy or worn out I was by my crazy boy crew--the precursor to any positive update I might give.

And I started to realize that each wayward sigh I made was a sideways means of seeking affirmation.

I wanted someone to understand, to acknowledge the challenges I faced each day. I wanted someone to see all the unseen effort I put forth to keep three kids and a household thriving, or at least surviving.

I knew I wasn't the only hardworking mom of littles. Yet, I felt...overlooked.

But the tape in my head and sighs slipping out weren't the only indications of my ingratitude. Each day I saved spewing all the poor-me sewage for someone. My husband.

For who on earth did I want affirmation from the most? Oh yes, my husband. Why hadn't I seen it before? Then finally I saw. Finally understood what compelled me to downloaded the grievances of my day just moments after he walked through the door. Every tantrum, backtalk, and timeout. Every less than terrific mothering moment that made me want to pull my hair out, he had to hear. 

No wonder he thought I wasn't happy.

I knew my husband thought I was a great mom. I knew he didn't think motherhood was easy. But still I wanted more. More affirmation. More validation. More shiny gold stars to show that I made it through even when it was hard. And somehow I thought the way to get that was by making sure he knew that it. was. hard.

Yes, my eyes were hard set on the wanting of more.

Around that time I started reading One Thousand Gifts. These words from the opening chapter confirmed what convicted my heart:
“Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude: Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.

Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sins?
Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what he gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”
The sin of ingratitude. Yes. Hungry for something more. Yes.

Though I was sincerely thankful for my children, my husband, my home... Honestly grateful for God's provision of work and finances... My focus was still so fixed on my lack (of time, affirmation, space to breathe) and my wanting more of all of it. Ann Voskamp makes it so clear:
"The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life--of my life--is a lack of thanksgiving."
 You and me both, Ann!

So I started to give thanks. Day by day, gift by gift. One all the way to one thousand!

So that's where my story of joy--a dare to live fully right where you are--started. The story of what came before I could write the ones about Always Joy and Fighting for Joy and how there's No Check Box for Joy.

 I told those MOPS mamas in the mismatched chairs that if they suffer from the first sin like I did, they don't have to stay stuck in their ingratitude. The full life IS available through thanks. No one has to stay empty.

There have been painful moments. Humbling moments. Moments I still fail miserably in "counting it all joy" and I unleash my ungrateful tongue on my husband. But through it all I am most thankful for the moments God reminds me of what I am really hungry for. More of Him. More joy with Him.
"Thanks is what multiples the joy and makes any life large, and I hunger for it."

*     *     *
One last note, dear friends:

If you read here regularly I'm sure you've noticed that I've been writing a lot about Ann Voskamp. I don't intend for my blog to be a catalogue of her quotes or a sales pitch for purchasing One Thousand Gifts. But I feel compelled to share the words, the wisdom that God has used to revive my heart and draw me closer to His. God is doing a mighty work through this faithful sister.

I have been changed by it. I pray the same blessing for you.


Sara said...

This is an incredible post, Becky. I hope you were inspired in some new way by the MOPS, as I am sure they were by you. :)

Karrilee Aggett said...

Hey there... we are neighbors over at Jennifer's tonight and I am so glad I stopped by! I too love Ann and her book 1000 gifts! It truly is a life changer, even if you think you already ARE a pretty thankful person (ahem!) there is always need for reminders! I am on Round Two of counting my 1000 gifts and I know my life is definitely more joy filled now than it was when I started!


Bruce Barone said...

Beautiful post.

Yes, Thanksgiving.

My Susan and I are going through a pretty difficult financial time but we are holding fast to the gifts that are given to us and we pray and we give thanks.

And words like your's are further inspiration.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for sharing your heart, Becky...my husband had mentioned the same thing to me not long ago...he didn't think I was very joyful, that I lacked joy and peace! Quite humbling for sure...I'm sure I was somewhat defensive at first, but tried to talk it out with him so to better understand why he said this to me...thank you so much for reminding me about Ann's book and having an attitude of gratitude...I read it a year or so ago...I've loaned it to someone...might need to read it again when I get it back...I need to get back into doing what she suggests...writing three things to be grateful for every day! :) This is Kelley Light from our (in)Courage group...I can't figure out how to choose my identity to be able to post my comment! :)

Mindy Rogers said...

It is never easy to be this transparent...even when it is from behind a screen. Write on! Write on!