During our drive on Christmas day to spend the day with family, Sam and I were talking about life and our tendency to become complacent and forget to notice the blessings.
Over the last several months, I have allowed a critical spirit to seep back into my attitude in general, and if I am not alert and aware, that critical spirit is shared with others through the re-telling of life in general conversation about my day, something that happened at work, a family member’s reaction to something, or most recently, a conversation about the state of our country and the new leadership set to take over on January 20.
I don’t like the way I feel inside when I am surrounded with negativity and biting comments and a lack of gratitude. I don’t like how I feel inside when I am in the presence of others who look at the glass half-empty and complain about the smallest of things or even the life-changing things. I cannot change their attitude. I can only change mine. I cannot light their candle in the darkness; I can only let my own light shine and let God do His work in their hearts.
I don’t like the way I feel inside when my own thoughts are directed towards others in a critical and judgmental stream that grows more bitter as I give in to how easy it is to notice their faults. When I allow even the tiniest of silent complaint into my thoughts and attitude, it begins to affect every step of my day.
Case in point:
We are taking care of my niece’s dog while the family is out of state. It didn’t start out so well with several escape attempts and an unfortunate and smelly deposit under the piano on Christmas Eve. Sam and I kept telling each other, however, that it was okay, since we are doing this for our favorite niece…
Yesterday morning, I woke up to another unfortunate and smelly deposit. I handled it okay, though, and put the dog outside on her leash to prevent any other accidents while I began the bacon for my family who was still visiting. Within a few short minutes, I saw that the dog had tangled herself around some bushes and I ran outside while the bacon was cooking to untangle her and bring her back inside. The silent complaint was silent and small but was still a complaint in my thoughts.
We both came inside and I got back to the bacon, and when I happened to look down at the floor, I noticed some wet leaves stuck to the bottom of my shoe. I reached to pluck them into the trash, and they were glued to the bottom…by another unfortunate and smelly deposit.
Complaint was still silent but grew louder in my spirit.
Fast forward an hour or so later as the morning progressed and a spirited discussion ensued between my nephew and his parents about things he had read on the internet concerning immigration and plans in the new year to protect our country.
I allowed my critical spirit to escape through words, bitterness that had begun with an unfortunate and smelly deposit and a dog who really couldn’t help herself and my lack of noticing where I stepped… I interjected even though my words will not change opinions in a heated conversation. Especially when opinions run very deep.
Fast forward a few hours later, when a completely separate minor issue arose with another family member and defensive attitudes were in play.
Because I began my day with an unfortunate and smelly deposit and allowed my mindset to cater to complaint and bitterness inside, a bad attitude grew as I elevated myself, not thinking of others, not hearing or listening to their thoughts and concerns, and I ended up secretly criticizing, affecting everyone around me.
I left several unfortunate and smelly deposits in the form of negative interaction, elevating myself and my opinions above others, and a critical spirit filled my day.
How quickly I forget.
So today, I begin again, this time leaving fortunate deposits of blessings re-counted:
I am grateful for blankets on my bed to keep me warm in the cold of the morning.
I am grateful for carpet beneath my feet, carpet that had no unfortunate and smelly deposits to begin the day.
I am grateful for a new container of shampoo in the shower.
I am grateful for the wonderful smell of the coffee when I made a cup for Sam.
I am grateful for a crisp December morning that includes sunshine and the promise of a quiet day at work.
I am grateful for three soft little llamas to remind me of three beautiful granddaughters in Oregon.
I am grateful for two wagging tails instead of just one.
I am grateful that I am not dependent on social media and am grateful for a new resolve to limit time spent on Facebook to one hour a week.
I am grateful to have talked to Delores last night.
I am grateful for a beautiful new pitcher from Karissa and family to remind me that the joy of the Lord will fill me to overflowing.
I am grateful for toothpaste.
I am grateful for “readers,” so needed these days.
I am grateful for an hour of Dominoes last night with Sam and Dad.
I am grateful for Marlene’s help with decorating.
I am grateful to have met Len, a fellow door greeter, at Christmas Eve services.
I am grateful for an abundance of thank you cards to use.
I am grateful for green olives and ham on the table on Christmas Eve.
I am grateful for happy memories to hang onto and re-live with those who understand.
I am grateful for fresh and crunchy celery for snacking on this quiet Tuesday at work.
I am grateful for a new lantern on the mantle from Stan and Geri to remind me to “let it shine.”
And I am grateful that I can still hear Andrae singing in his best gospel vibrato, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!” as he performed his paper sack puppet show last Thanksgiving.
We’ll know we’re growing when our love for people dwarfs our opinions about them.
– Bob Goff