“Quit complaining!” I am curious to know how many times I’ve said those words throughout my eleven years of parenting. Or, how many times my parents said the same words to me. I believe that as adults, we might say children complain the most, and that the things we complain about are so real and difficult they are valid enough to spend time feeling negatively about. Maybe we do not even realize we are complaining; throwing temper tantrums like a two-year-old. Afterall, every one of us has something to complain about, and fairly so I imagine. Nobody lives the perfect life, without struggle or disappointment.

My realization that each of my voiced complaints hold opportunities to be thankful came to me during a moment I wrote about in my Taking the Dis out of Disability blog. My motherly instinct was to be pouty about the fact that our daughter cannot see as well as her classmates; that she has to struggle to get through a school day. I’ve been working to train myself to see the opportunity for gratitude instead. Rather than focus on the part I don’t like, the part I can do nothing about, I want to choose to think ‘I’m so thankful Logan has the courage and heart to fight against her disability and thrive.’

I have recently started a new strategy with our kids, and it seems to be harder for me to demonstrate than I would have imagined. Patrick and I want to be living examples that we can choose thankfulness in every situation. Easier said than done, of course. Children’s complaints often show that they are simply learning how to voice their feelings or thoughts about something. However, as adults, we do the same thing, without teaching an alternative to the complaining.

Our ability to pick the good out of the bad can seem so simple. However, if this is something we practice regularly, we might be able to keep from being overcome when inevitable, bigger, more complicated struggles come our way. Of course, we could start with the obvious…‘There are starving children in the world. Quit complaining about dinner!’. Here are some examples of a complaint vs thanks conversation in our home:

“I hate that we have to take our daughter to UVA for clinical drug trials.”

Vs

“I’m so thankful there are doctors who dedicate their careers to fight vision loss for people like Logan, and we have the opportunity for her to be treated by them.”

“I wish my arm worked like it used to, and I wasn’t known as ‘The Columbine Girl’ wherever I go.”

Vs

“I’m so thankful for this second chance at living life, and demonstrating to our kids that we can survive to thrive.”

“The food is taking forever to get to our table!”

Vs.

“I’m thankful we are able to spend this evening dining out together.”

“Oh my goodness, the piles of laundry on my floor!”

Vs.

“I’m thankful for all four of my healthy children who wear these clothes while living a full and healthy life.”

Some of the examples are extreme, some are so basic. And, certainly, there are times when life is just plain hard, and we need to be stuck in the difficulty for a time. People often tell me, “You have been through so many difficult things in life…things that most people will never experience…and you still seem so joyful.” It is by the grace of God that I have found healing of my heart and mind, but I believe my daily desire to choose where my focus goes helps in keeping my mind and heart optimistic. There have, at times, been way too many life-shattering things for me to complain about that it has felt impossible to find even one tiny positive. I promise, the tiny things are there. And, most of the time, if we change our perspective, we realize…the tiny thing is the one we are complaining about, and the choice to be thankful reveals something so big that the complaint fades away.

“A thankful heart is a happy heart!” -VeggieTales