Are you grateful for chaos?
If you’re a busy mom balancing work and home, an enneagram 9 (I see you fellow peace-keepers!), especially prone to anxiety, reaching for big goals or have any other number of qualities, responsibilities or innate traits, the answer to that question is likely a loud, resounding “no.”
Maybe it’s more subtle. Maybe you believe wholeheartedly in your purpose and the plan for your life, and think you’re grateful overall, but follow that sentiment with serious “except for’s…” or “but’s…” or “well’s…”
I’ve read a lot. Because of my choice of professions, I spend lots of time doing research. Something that comes up a lot – especially in the health space – is the body’s need for homeostasis. We are programmed to seek out balance. When things seem to tip one direction or another, we feel out of sorts. Our fight or flight responses kick in. We feel shaky and panicky (some of us much more than others). We cling to the chaos that surrounds us because it’s all we’re able to focus on. Our brain chemistry shifts and, unless we find a way to balance it, we become ineffective at much of anything.
It’s unnerving for the best of us, completely life-haltering for those of us who need more balance than others.
As schedules get busier and busier, this is especially detrimental.
Here’s the thing: life doesn’t show signs of becoming any less crazy. Our jobs will continue to increase in responsibilities as time goes by. Our kids growing out of toddler years will lead to kids that need to be driven to multiple activities as family dinners become fast-food drive-throughs and quick hot dogs on baseball bleachers. Commutes could become longer or more stressful.
Bottom line? Chaos tends to increase, not decrease. We can choose to live in that chaos, excusing ourselves for our inability to handle it, or, we can choose another path.
We can choose gratitude.
Hear me out. It sounds simple – or, maybe like something you already practice. But, when it’s purposeful, it can be life-altering.
One day, I was drowning in laundry. We have five kids. Our toddlers are not always great at making it to the bathroom. Bedwetting means a ton of extra sheets. Our diva-daughter often changes outfits and costumes 5 times a day. There are a ton of clothes. I do 1-2 loads of laundry a day, which is funny since if I had to choose one chore that I hate over all others, it’s definitely that one. God has a sense of humor.
Anyway, on that particular day, I was near tears. I – admittedly – don’t do chaos well. In keeping with that 9 enneagram pull I mentioned earlier, it tends to lead to repressed anger. Sometimes it spills over to the place that I am surprised by it: it’s not pretty. That day though, I felt something telling me to be grateful. I felt as though I was supposed to pray a prayer of thanks – specifically for that laundry mountain in my face.
I thought it through. That laundry? It reflects a full house of – mostly – healthy kids. It represents God’s grace in overcoming difficult pregnancies and scares. It represents a busy schedule of fun activities that we are able to afford and do as a family. The dirt is representative of a lot of really amazing things.
Gratitude – while not natural – was actually an extremely appropriate response that I had never – in my own selfishness – recognized before. I prayed a quick “thank you.”
That grew over time. During daily laundry activities, I made that prayer of thanks regular. Dishes? Same thing. “Thank you, God, that I have these dishes to do: they represent your blessings.” Crazy workload where one more phone call feels like it might break me apart? “Thank you Lord for allowing me to help provide for my family, even when the task feels a lot bigger than me.”
See the pattern?
Over time, it changed EVERYTHING.
As time went on (guys… it’s been slower than I’d like to admit), it became where I turned – and turn – when life felt – and feels – crazy. I don’t know the science behind it, but, I do know that it has rewired not only my brain, but my heart.
I still have moments, but, I can say that my first thought when I want to break is to thank God and to ask him for his help in overcoming whatever is up ahead, whatever feels bigger than me.
Gratitude changed everything.
It’s commanded of us.
What I’m sharing may have felt groundbreaking to me; it certainly changed things. But, maybe it shouldn’t have. In fact, throughout scriptures, we are told to be thankful time and time again.
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good. Psalm 52:9
I could go on and on. But, in reading these – and other – verses, a theme becomes apparent. Thankfulness is one way to praise our God. It’s tied up in joy, in hope and every other good thing that God offers to those of us that trust in him.
Something else? It doesn’t come with exceptions. No, “praise him with thankfulness except when…” No, we are called to gratitude. It’s how we reflect our God’s goodness and love. It’s how we look different. Perhaps just as importantly, it’s how we become different.
Gratitude changes us, especially when it’s hard, or unnatural. It hardwires us to become closer to our Savior. Maybe gratitude for the chaos isn’t such a stretch after all?
There’s no game plan for “getting started.” But, if you’re struggling with the mountains that seem to surround you, slow down: there’s hope…great, giant hope that’s beyond anything you can imagine. Instead of focusing on the mountain, chose to dwell on the one that is with you through it all: thank him for the mountain. Everything else – through hard work, perseverance and other endeavors we are called to – will fall into place in a plan that’s so much greater than we can imagine or fathom.
Gratitude is a game-changer.