As I stepped outside into the winter air to start the grill, I thanked God that He caused the ignition switch to work so I didn't have to hunt down matches, try light the gas grill in the cold wind and thus delaying dinner which needs to be completed on a tight schedule so our family is punctual for evening activities. Is it unspiritual for me to think that a grill ignition switch is something for which to be thankful? I've been conducting a little experiment this week: tracking my attitude and my thought patterns throughout the day, then seeing how they relate.
As I returned inside from preheating the grill, I noticed how calm and peaceful I was before a busy night. Indeed, I think choosing to thank Jesus for the little gift of a working ignition switch rather just chalking it up to good luck is giving God glory and it changes my attitude to one of joy and peace.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2 
One way, among many, to set my mind toward things of the Spirit (yielding life and peace) is practicing thanksgiving. Paul commands thankfulness in all circumstances to the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
However, I admit that I'm not good at thanking Jesus for a screaming baby. Just a day ago, our 12-week old decided he would have nothing to do with cuddling before nap time. Nothing! Squirm, squirm, cry, scream. Set him in his crib and within minutes, he's soothing himself to sleep. Thinking on this later (not in the moment) I realized that this is new found independence for him is a gift. Yes, it comes with screaming, but he already wants to do something on his own. So thank you Jesus for a self-soothing, sleeping baby.
She's mad. I'm steaming. She's stuck in a rut with a new song on the violin. Stinkin' rhythm, staccato, accents, quarter notes, eighth notes. It's hard. I think she wants help, so I offer. This has only made the situation worse. Leaving the room and leaving her to herself, I continue listening (honestly, I'm still steaming) as she works through the piece. However, at times I can tell she's figuring it out. On her own. Thank you Jesus for nine-year-olds learning the violin.
She hates to enter new places by herself. She loves the comfort of momma beside her. But lugging a carseat in and out isn't exactly fun or easy and she knows it. When I drop her off at her appointment she asks, "Going in myself?" "Yes, please," I plead. And she bounds out the door. Thank you Jesus for twelve-year olds who can (and will) go by themselves.
"Are you sure you don't want someone to go over it with you?" both mom and dad have asked the middle schooler before her next math test. Lately, the engineer hasn't been helping her with any homework but she simply says, "I got it." As parents, we choose to let her go and trust her work ethic. Days later when she delivered the news: 100% on the test, we celebrated with her. Thank you Jesus for her discernment and confidence.
All these  prayers of thanksgiving are really thanking God for my children moving toward independence. Independent children are a gift.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, are the children of one's youth. Psalm 127:4
Arrows aren't meant to stay in the quiver or case, they are meant to go out. Our little (and not so little anymore) golden heads aren't meant to stay in our fold forever, but to go out into the world and spread the gospel. These prayers of gratitude for the little things are really prayers of thanksgiving for a bigger gift of independence. Independent children are a gift.
So on second thought, I will thank God for the screaming baby.
What circumstance in your life seems less than ideal? Sassy children, lying co-workers, broken dishwasher, waiting for surgery, the mundane day-to-day? Will you choose to find gratitude somewhere in that? In Corrie TenBoom's The Hiding Place, she tells the story of her sister, Betsy, thanking God for fleas. Later, the sisters realize it is because of the fleas, the Nazi guards let them have Bible Study and prayer in their bunk beds with other prisoners. Betsy chose to thank God for the circumstance in her life and in the bigger picture, the miserable circumstance was a gift. If you choose to offer prayers of thanksgiving, maybe like me with the screaming baby, you'll see the larger gift.

I'm pleased to report the baby boy found a new pacifier he likes and will occasionally let me cuddle him before naps. Thank you Jesus for pacifiers too!


Awakened by rustling in the bathroom next door and the clank of decor swinging on a bedroom door, I roll out of my bed, slide my feet into slippers, then throw an old sweatshirt over my pajamas so I can go straight to getting breakfast ready before the 7am bus. During the breakfast prep, I slide a horse-sized vitamin down my throat with a glass of water. A biblical teacher once taught me to visualize dressing myself with the following Colossians passage as if each attribute were clothes to put on in the the morning but never before have I realized how much I need this spiritual clothing, or daily vitamin, as to address my attitude, language and heart as I parent.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
Graced with a unique cross-section of parenting, my home and heart embrace teen, tween, elementary-age and infant. Different stages, personalities and temperaments require a diverse set of needs and training. Each golden head requires a varied amount of endurance, creativity and energy on part and I deeply desire to respond to every encounter with a godly attitude; one of those listed in the Colossians 3 passage. Truthfully, I fail miserably mostly. But sometimes, by God's grace, the Holy Spirit speaks louder than my selfishness.
Angered by the waking baby in the middle of the night, I mutter to this crying infant, "Why can't you just sleep? Momma wants to sleep!" In that moment of frustration, I am convicted by the Holy Spirit, Put on compassion. After all, he's just a baby.
Skirting past middle schoolers in the morning kitchen as they rant and rummage through cupboards assembling lunches. I'm just trying to make my way to that glorious first cup of black coffee. I'm tempted to snap, "Can't you be less messy? Fight less? Bicker less? And could you stop slamming the cupboard doors?" Again the Holy Spirit nips on my heels, Bear with one another. 
A hungry, snappy 9-year old claims she "can't load the dishwasher because it's just too hard." I want to yell, "You'll load the dishwasher because I said so!" The Spirit's voice says, Meekness (humility) is not demanding what is rightfully yours: help in the kitchen before a crazy night of taxiing three kids after you've just made the entire meal. Rather in patience, teach her how in a moment of non-conflict. (I admit, I have to get back to that teaching part...)
The most important vitamins I can take are the virtues of Colossians 3. How do we take these one-a-days? I must daily ask the Holy Spirit for these attitudes so that I can respond in holiness to each parenting encounter. It's not about trying harder but letting God in the person of the Holy Spirit work through you. In essence, praying that I take a compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love daily vitamin, is inviting the Holy Spirit into my day, setting my mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5) and letting Him work in me (Colossians 1:29).
After inviting the Holy Spirit into my life, I can naturally " thankful," (Colossians 3:15b) for these family moments that sanctify me and give me opportunities to die to myself and live to Christ. And I am thankful for the words of the apostle Paul that instruct my attitude while I train them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). 
When I desired to become a parent, it never crossed my mind that it would be my chance to grow in holiness. Did you think of this? My mind went to teaching them diligently the words of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Yes, this is biblical but I have overlooked the sanctifying work in motherhood.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16
If seeking the words of the Lord in scripture were not part of my daily routine like taking a multi-vitamin, would I hear the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sinful attitudes? This is how the message of Christ dwells in me richly during these days of parenting: teaching, advising and encouraging these children every day in every activity in every word and action.
Maybe you're not in the throws of parenting, but where are you? God sanctifies us in every stage of life. Where in your life could you be reminded to take compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love vitamins? Let these words from the Apostle Paul dwell in you richly this week as you set out on the course God has called you.