Do everything without grumbling or arguing
We traveled to the Rocky Mountains this summer. Before our trip, I prepared our three small children. I told them what to expect and what we would do there. We took increasingly longer walks around town to get our bodies ready for big mountain hikes. But my secret was I was more excited than any of the kids. Yes, they got an airplane ride. They got to hang out with grandparents, aunts and uncles (which meant they were spoiled with treats). They got to stay at a hotel (which meant a swimming pool). And on and on the list went. But I got to go hiking in the mountains. It had been years. I was so excited.
We made it to Colorado only to have our oldest son get sick. Mom offered to stay back with him so the rest of us could go on a short 3 mile ridge hike. I felt a little guilty, but she persuaded me to go. She had hiked that trail the last several years, while I had not been there for six or more years (that woman is a tricky reasoner when she wants to bless you with a gift you aren’t sure you should accept).
So hiking we went!
At least… for a little while. But things quickly fell apart. We were on a high alpine trail with a one-year-old and a four-year-old. If you are a parent of small children, I probably don’t need to say anything else. The hike alone was a challenge. Add the distance we had traveled the day before as well as rising considerably higher in altitude (which is a lot harder on your body than you would guess) and this wasn’t turning into the blissful ‘Sound of Music’ moment I had been anticipating.
I was overtired. I was guilt ridden for leaving my oldest son (and my mother). I was trying to get my two younger children to hike. I wanted to do this hike, it’s one of my favorites. But it was clear my kids couldn’t make it any further. We were going to have to stop halfway and turn around.
I was not happy.
Enter my dad. He stayed back with us, instead of doing what he wanted and hiking on. He stayed with two grumpy kids, his grumpy adult daughter, and her husband (who wasn’t grumpy, and rarely is). And he found something to be thankful for. Correction, he found about a hundred things to be thankful for. “Isn’t this a great view! I love this view!” “What a great napping rock! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a great napping rock!” “Is that a chocolate chip granola bar! Those are my favorite!” “What a beautiful day! Perfect weather!” And on, and on, and on…
And suddenly I was smiling too. Because there was plenty to enjoy right where we were. We didn’t need to get another mile down the trail to see great vistas, or enjoy chocolate chip granola bars. We could be happy here. We could rejoice here.
This is an analogy for my life. I live on a schedule, always concerned about getting somewhere by a certain time. I have things to do and places to go. When things don’t turn out the way I expect (which is more often than not), I can get grumpy.
But God isn’t calling me to be a grump. He is asking me to rejoice! And I can do that wherever I am, with God’s help. Focusing on Him, the beauty of His creation and the good He is doing, and suddenly everything else isn’t so important. Not the schedule or the to-do list or the shortened hike.
So after a brief snack, we turned around and headed back,
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Rejoice. Not with fake happiness. Not feigning thankfulness. But seriously looking around and finding something to be thankful for. We can all find one thing. Start there. Then, surprisingly, finding the next thing to be thankful for gets easier and easier. When we are truly filled with joy from Christ, it’s contagious. Dad lost three grumps on the side of that mountain, and headed back with three cheerful hikers. I just couldn’t stay grumpy when he was so happy, and sharing that happiness with me. And it was worth it- because on our way back, we stumbled across a herd of elk!
So, be thankful in the small things today, because you never know what is around the next bend. It could be even better than you imagined. It might not. But I know one thing- God will be there with you.
May you rejoice in the small and the large. May your eyes be opened to the blessings you already have. And may God give you the joy you need for each day! In Jesus name, Amen!