Engraving Thankfulness on our Hearts






 Meet Laura- Laura is a Jesus follower and wife to Jeff Lewis for 10 years this December.  She is a mom to 4 kids ranging from 9 months to 7 years old.  After being a pediatric nurse for 9 years she felt God calling her to step into the area of hospice nursing at home.   She is passionate about studying and teaching God's word, spending time in the kitchen (anything to avoid cleaning), good black coffee, and time with her family.  She loves encouraging other women to use their God-given gifts and do more than just survive, but actually thrive exactly where God has them.  Having endured many physical trials as a child she has learned to see beauty in the ashes and is daily learning to trust that God is working all things for our good and His glory.
Laura, is a dear friend to me and one of my close tribe members. She is so great at encouraging and speaking truth, she also is the one who helped in coming up with questions for us to discuss about thankfulness, as our hearts really want to engage other moms into our conversations. 

Here is what Laura had to say:
 
1. What does it look like for you to pursue thankfulness in the midst of the most mundane aspects of motherhood?

For me it's discerning the difference between abiding and escaping, and having a game plan on what it looks like to live that out.  By nature I want to chase after comfort.  With 4 young kids, the "mundane" is usually uncomfortable for me.  The mounds of laundry that never end, the messes that are always underfoot, and the noise that makes me want to check out.  I am all about simple "comforts" but there also is a need to press into the uncomfortable too.  What I am learning over the years is that escape is usually a gateway to discontentment and almost a lethargy in my "motherly duties", whereas abiding leads to a sense of purpose and a joy that really is independent of my circumstances.  For example, if I wake up and first thing roll over and mindlessly scroll through my phone checking in on facebook or my email that quick escape might "feel" good for the moment, but if those 15-20 minutes could have spent digging into God's word or having a face to face talk with my husband before the hustle of the day helps give me a sense of thankfulness from the get go.  It's a game changer most days, yet I have to fight for it.  My first inclination will always be to go to that quick burst of comfort rather than pressing into that which will really get my day off on the right foot. 

On a practical level I find there are things that help with the "hard" things that I just don't want to do.  I am a huge fan of podcasts, I swear my most productive days are the days that I seize those moments I have to tackle a job around the house, pop my headphones in and get into the zone! I am feeding my soul truth and getting a "job" done all in one fail swoop.  Another strategy for me is to slow down in those moments where I find myself frantic trying to do too much, when what I need to do is stop everything, turn on some music that brings me joy, and sit down and play with my kids.  It seems too simple, but I can't tell you how many times this has saved our day.  When I am hustling trying to be too productive or expecting too much of my kiddos, I just need to reset.  There is nothing like sitting down on the floor and looking your kids eyes and just being present with them.  Sometimes a 15-20 minute chunk does good for both my kids and myself. 


2. What things do you find undo (negate) thankfulness in your life and how do you handle that?



As Christian moms we think we have to do it all, and do it well!  We look around at each other's successes and think being able to do "x,y and z" = godliness.  I think that is where we get it wrong many times.  The seasons where I am doing too much looking around and comparing are hands down my most discontent.  Too often we see another Mom doing great in "her lane" and we think we need to do the same, but we need to learn to stay in our lane.  We are so diverse as a body of believers,  God has equipped us all uniquely and beautifully!  If we truly embrace who God has made us to be and trust God's plan for those gifts we will be blown away by His good plans.  I spent too many years trying to be too many things that I wasn't made to be, and I feel like I missed out on what God was trying to reveal to me.  These past 2 years I have been prayerfully seeking out God to reveal my gifts and have learned how to "dream big" for the gifts He has revealed.  I have been completely blown away by how He has not only revealed these gifts that I had never even seen, but He has opened more doors than I can count for me to put these gifts into practice.  We serve a good and faithful God who delights in using us in His kingdom work.  All we need to do is ask and have a willing heart. 

I know we all think about social media these days.  I won't harp on that too much, but I will say I think it is a stumbling block.  We all know that spending time scrolling through pictures of another Mom's "perfectly" decorated home, or the amazing craft-time had with  "perfectly" behaved and compliant kiddos, or let's not forget the "mom's night out" we weren't invited to that leave us feeling alone and unworthy.  I use quotation marks because this is just our perception, but not the reality.  Yes life can look perfect in pictures, but we all have our unique real life struggles that cause us to grumble and compare.  We have to use filters if we are on social media and ask God to give us hearts to cheer on the other Moms around us on while still staying in our own lane enjoying the good gifts God has given us. 


3. What difficult circumstances in your life are you most thankful for now?

Last summer my grandma got sick very suddenly.  She was 93 and had been so healthy and spry up until she hit a bump and was not able to eat normally and became very weak and frail. She was one of the most influential people in my life.  We grew up with her in our home and she very much shaped who I am as a woman today. We ended up losing her in June of this year and it was by far one of the hardest things I ever walked through, but just as He does, God was redeeming this trial for good.  God made it clear that I was to in a sense escort my Grandma to the end by caring for her in her last days.  As a nurse and a mom it was very natural to go into caretaker mode, but I had no experience in caring for someone who is dying.  It was one of the most sacred experiences I have ever had.  In a sense I feel like I was able to touch heaven as she left this earth and I have never been so aware of the fragility and sacredness of life than I am now.  My grandma taught me something invaluable in those last days of her life, and while I still grieve her loss, I am so thankful for those sweet memories that I have.  She died with no regrets and no fear, which to me is really remarkable and a testimony of God's power and grace over this fallen world.  Through this process God opened a door I would have never dared even touch before.  I am now working as a hospice nurse caring for the dying and using my gifts in a new and very gratifying way.  When you are in the middle of a trial I would say ask God to reveal his purposes to you.  So often we get caught up in the grit and struggle of the trial that we forget to even be on the lookout for God's redemptive plans.  He is in the business of redemptive grace, taking those ashes and making something absolutely breathtaking. 

Isaiah 61:3 talks about this very process:
To grant those who mourn in Zion -- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 

That's the beauty here,  God is glorified through this redemptive process in our grief and struggle.  It really is a miraculous and precious gift he gives, taking our ashes and making them beautiful. 



4. What simple pleasures are you most thankful for?



I am all about taking ordinary moments and making them "sacred".  For the longest time, my husband and I would try to carve out time to have a cup of coffee together on the weekends and sit and enjoy it while the kids entertain themselves.  As our family has grown this is harder to achieve.  We discovered that if we both wake up early enough we can enjoy some peace and quiet  and a nice cup of coffee together and it is truly my favorite time of the day!  I used to struggle to wake up early, but what I have found is if you *really* make it worth while you will become motivated to not hit that snooze button!  As it has become our routine to wake up early and get that time together and time in the word I honestly look forward to it every single morning.  Isn't it funny how selfishness can be a motivating factor sometimes?!  This is one of those times where I think it ends up being all around beneficial as we get time together as a couple every day, and the kids as a result get happier more balanced parents.  Win-win!  And in case your wondering, I am a hot black coffee drinker all the way.  And it has to be dark roast, and strong.  I am a huge fan of my French press and aeropress.  We actually don't own a drip coffeemaker.   

I am also a big fan of creating fun traditions as a family, from the little to the big things. You don't see it as much when your kids are young, but now that our oldest is 7, I can see how those little traditions bring her so much joy.  We usually take one trip to Indiana a year as a family to visit my in-laws, which is about a 10-11 hour drive.  We drive into the night and have a number of traditions for that trip.  We wear our pajamas, pack a yummy dinner that is different from the norm, have a few new movies that are usually Christmas movies since that is usually the time we are traveling, and make a few fun stops for soft pretzels and coffee of course.   At some point the kids fall asleep and it is like a little adventure as a family on the open road.  My husband and I usually have the sweetest conversations during that time, and as long of a trip as it is, I love it and look forward to it every time!  Some other fun traditions are living room sleepovers with the big kids watching a movie and eating snacks, yearly Christmas tree shopping and decorating the day after thanksgiving, spending a whole week "honoring" the birthday boy or girl with their favorite meals and little treats each day, and fall apple picking as a family.  What are you passionate about?  Use the things that bring you joy to create traditions as a family that will bring all of you joy for years to come and help break up the monotony. 


5. How do you teach your children thankfulness and what does that look like in your home?



We talk about a lot about thankfulness here.  When I hear my kids complaining I don't take it lightly.  Entitlement is a big problem kids face today.  There is so much that this world has to offer that promises to fulfill and satisfy their longings.  We know these things always come up short, but our kids are so susceptible to buying into the lie that this world can fills those voids in our hearts.  When we do something outside of the normal, a nice dinner out, a special gift, or a special trip to an amusement park or even a vacation we talk about what a gift it is to have these opportunities.  We try to reflect as a family how good God is to give us good gifts.  I also spend a lot of time pointing out those around us who have needs.  We are blessed to have our kids in a public school where there is a lot of diversity and also a lot of underprivileged children and families.  There are pros and cons to that, obviously, but I see it mostly as a wonderful gift.  Our kids are exposed daily to kids who are so desperately in need of love as well as practical things.  Our kids are very aware of this, and we have almost daily conversations about this.  I never want our kids to tune out or be ignorant to the needs around them.  We often talk about giving things away that we don't use or need, and my kids are now starting to initiate that on their own at 5 and 7 years old.  I think if we start talking about these things when they are young, we will see the fruit as they grow and mature.  When our kids are quick to grumble we ask them "what does Philippians 2:14 say"  They now know this passage and it just helps give them a heart check when they are quick to complain. 

Philippians 2:14 says:  "Do all things without grumbling or disputing"  It's a command, and we need the reminder as much as our kids do.  We have to watch where we feel entitled as parents.  Our kids will pick up on this in our own lives.  If we want thankful children, we need to start with ourselves first. 

(photos by: Bekah Grace Photography)

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