One spring when the kids were younger, Noah found a box turtle while searching for his lost ball in the neighbor’s back yard. He came running home with it smiling from ear to ear. He was so impressed with his find and he begged to keep it. I have a parenting belief that we should say yes to our children as often as possible so that our no is powerful, so I told him that if he did the research to learn how to take care of it, where it needed to live, what it needed to eat, etc that yes, he could keep it. Honestly I didn’t really think that he would do the legwork, but he did. He hopped on the computer immediately and learned about all things box turtle. I had no choice but to follow through, so we made sure our new turtle friend had everything he needed. We turned my tomato garden in the back yard into a turtle habitat complete with a water feature with a fountain! The kids would run out everyday to check on our new pet and feed him strawberries and lettuce. Eventually Noah found another turtle and we added that one to our little piece of turtle heaven. They really turned out to be some of the easiest pets we’ve ever had. They hibernated in the winter and resurfaced in each spring so we didn’t even need to take care of them in the cold months. It was always pretty entertaining to look for them when the weather turned nice again. We would all squeal with delight when we discovered they’d emerged from their winter slumber. The neighborhood kids loved our turtles too. They would hang out with the turtles feeding them and petting them for hours.
It was like having a petting zoo right in our own backyard.
One night after a full day of turtle activities, Noah’s bestie who lived just down the street stayed for dinner. While we were eating he told us that his parents were separating and they would be moving. It was so heavy. We sat in the moment with him and let him talk. When I was putting Noah to bed that night he had questions and we talked for a few minutes about the day and his friend. And then Noah said something so confusing to me.
He said, “Mom, we are the richest family in the world and I want give some of it to my friend so he can be rich too”.
It was confusing to me because we lived in one of the smallest houses in the subdivision, I was a stay a home mom at the time, all three boys shared one bedroom, and we were struggling financially and Noah’s friend lived in one of the biggest houses in the subdivision, both parents worked, all the kids had their own rooms, and they always had the best of everything.
I asked him why he thought we were the richest family in the world and what my little boy told me was not only sweet, it was profound…it was important…it was a life lesson that we all need to remember and hang on to.
He said, “We have all the turtles and they make us so happy…so we’re rich.
My friend doesn’t have any turtles. The turtles make him happy too so if I give him one of my turtles, he’ll be rich too!” What?! Noah wanted to give his source of happiness to a friend. This child was so happy…so content…so joyful in the blessings of his life that not only did he not notice that we were struggling, but his heart was so full of gratitude that it was overflowing to the point of sharing with others.
Wow! Just wow. Man, did that kid change me in that moment. It was humble…it was gentle...it was a heart posture of gratitude. His heart was focused on the good. It was right.
In the fourth of five sermons found in the book of Matthew, Jesus explained to his disciples the kingdom of heaven. They were struggling with pride and importance and this happened:
2 Jesus called a little one[a] to his side and said to them, 3 “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. 4 Whoever continually humbles himself[b] to become like this gentle child is the greatest one in heaven’s kingdom realm.
Matthew 18:2-4 (TPT)
Do you want to see the Kingdom of heaven invade the kingdom of earth today?
Yes? Then be intentional about looking at your circumstances with the wide-eyed wonder of a child…with the wide-eyed wonder of a child with a bunch of turtles. Practice looking at social distancing and self-quarantining and homeschooling and working from home with the humility of a child…with the heart posture of my sweet young Noah.
Seriously, let’s be real for a few minutes. Anybody feeling anxious these days?
Confused? Wondering what to believe and what not to? Anybody feeling worried about the future? About not being in control? Anybody feeling overwhelmed about your children’s education? About being their teacher? Anybody just plain bored? Yeah, I get it me too. It’s such a crazy time. It almost doesn’t even feel real, you know? These are the circumstances that can cause us to focus our attention on the anxiety…on the worry…on the fear…on the confusion….on the negative, but we have to change our thinking.
We have to practice focusing our hearts on the good…on the positive…on the joy or we will lose hope.
We will lose hope quickly when we have a heart posture of ingratitude, but we will overflow with a joy and peace that surpasses all understanding when we focus on all that we have to be grateful for. From cover to cover in the bible we read how important gratitude is to our well-being. It changes us. It doesn’t change our circumstances. It changes US. Many scientific studies have proven this time and time again. When we focus on what we have to be thankful for we become “rich”. When we think about the blessings in our lives even when things are hard, we become more content.
Harvard Researchers divided 400 people into 3 groups and asked them to keep a journal everyday for a month. The First Group, recorded things that they were thankful for during the day. The Second group recorded only things that irritated them during the day. And The Third group was told to write about anything they wanted.
At the end of the month they found that the group that wrote about being thankful had greatly improved their overall level of happiness and contentment with their lives and that the effects of that month lasted well over another month after they were asked to stop. The other 2 groups had no change at all.
You see, being thankful for even simple things every day cultivates gratitude in our lives, but most people aren’t regularly thankful for daily things, which is why two groups weren’t affected either way. They were pointing out the things they would typically point out…the bad….the irritating. The research was conclusive that being thankful even for the little things on a daily basis cultivates a life of gratitude and makes you happier, more content, and more joyful.
So how do we do it? It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s another thing to live it.
Paul, a former Christian persecutor turned Jesus lover and follower, told us how in a letter he wrote many years ago to the believers in Philippi. He told them that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. He explained that he had been in great need and he had lived with plenty and he had found the secret to being content in all circumstances. And then he told them the secret:
13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
It’s not a secret anymore. It hasn’t been a secret for many, many years.
We can do this, friends, but we can’t do it on our own.
We need Jesus to help. Ask Him for strength and He will give it to you. And it will look like the right message at the right time. It will look like a friend reaching out when you most need it. It will look like you being prompted to give a friend a call. Together we can do this. I’m not saying that things won’t be hard.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t acknowledge the hard things and feel them.
You should, but don’t stay there long. I’m not minimizing the hardship or the pain of this season or of this life.
I am saying you are stronger than you think you are. You are more capable than you think you are. You are richer than you think you are. You can do hard things.
Let’s start here. Comment below with something that you are grateful for even during this trying time. And then let’s keep it up. Find and focus on and record in some way all the things you have to be grateful for…ask God to help you find them and then sit back and watch as God does what only He can do in the minds and hearts and lives of all of us even during one of the scariest seasons of our lives.
We are in this together. I am standing with you. I love you and I’m glad you are here.