Gratefulness has been the theme that has been on my mind lately. Thankfulness and gratefulness ring throughout scriptures as an anecdote to anxiety, fear and worry. And although I know logically that we have so much to be grateful for, sometimes, our grumbling and griping, especially in times like this, tend to take center stage as opposed to or blessings. I, as well as everyone else in my home needed a visual reminder.
Curt Thompson put a Lament/Grateful journal in his blog , Love and Lament in March Madness, suggesting that this is a practical way to record our thoughts. I fear that I may have corrupted his intentions, however, this crazy idea I had, did seem to pay off.
I charted 6 sections on a chalkboard wall in our house. This could be done on a glass door or a mirror with dry erase marker, a poster board or just a piece of paper for that matter. I’ve included a PDF if you would like to print each person in your family a journal, it could be kept and added to on a daily basis.
In the section on “Loss” on the top left section, I asked my kids to tell me all of the things that they felt like they lost because of the quarantine. These being practical, tangible events that were taken off of the calendar, or special things that they are not getting to do now. I started writing as they listed all the things. I have to tell you that my eyes teared up to see all of the things that they deemed so important that was taken away from them. We did not talk about how much other people had lost, or how much worse it could be. We sat in the loss they had experienced every time I wrote another one down. I let them tell me all the things, no matter how “big or small”…Prom, Teen Conference, Co-op or Chick-Fil-A.
We then talked about the definition of “Lament”. The fact that it’s to grieve something. To experience sorrow. Now what I wrote down in the next square was what was grieved as a result of the things that were lost. For example, as a result of losing our Connect Group nights, we grieve that time with friends. This was even harder than the loss itself. It put into perspective how important our outlets are to us. How blessed we truly are with valuable friendships, church and community and what in important role these all play into our overall well being.
In the last box on the left side, we exposed the emotions that the lament was creating. It was interesting after we got all of our emotions on the board, that seeing the list, explained all the behaviors we were experiencing, from all of us! If we’re being honest, the emotions were already exposed, we just were naming them out loud. Remember that what children don't speak out, they act out. We just sat in this box for a little while. I made sure to point out that every single one of these emotions were just fine. Experiencing these really hard emotions like sadness, anger, disappointment, frustration and so on, made us all human. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
We then moved on to the next box on the top right under “Gain”. I asked everyone to think of something that had gained since being at home full time. Everyone just paused in thought and looked at the chart. I made sure to say that, this gain, in no way took away what was lost. We weren’t going to mark off a loss for every gain. We had experienced both! This gave them such freedom. They began to name things that they had found to be valuable in quarantine and again my eyes welled up with tears. They found value in everything I had put in place for them. The new schedule, the games, family time. Then there were so many surprising things that I had no idea meant so much, like some of the projects that we had worked on together in the yard, new fancy drinks we’d come up with to replace our Starbucks addiction.
With the excitement and energy building I asked them, “As a result of this Gain, what do you find yourself grateful for?” This is when it became a sob-fest for me. The list went on and on. I was shocked at how easy it was to find things to be thankful for in the most unexpected places. And that what seemed to just be a gain, like the treehouse they finally finished, was actually thankfulness for learning a new skill, time with Daddy and Papa John, a great place for alone time, fun and play. The benefits multiplied themselves and continued to without any coaxing.
When I ran out of space to write, we moved on to the next square. I wanted to know what emotions were felt as a result of the gratefulness. Peace, control, happy, recharged, accomplished, better, amazing. Are you seeing the power?!
In the original article, Curt Thompson had encouraged us to write our journal in a ratio of 1:3. Meaning for every one thing on the left side, we should write 3 things on the right side. With kids, I was just hoping for a close 1:2 ratio at best. We were all astounded to step back and look at the chart. The right side filled up so much easier than the left.
We closed out by again saying that the good emotions do not cancel out the bad ones. We can be happy about one thing and sad about another at the same time. Especially the woman in the house. And that’s ok, as long as we can respect each other and understand that this is not easy. And the truth is we all handle hard different.
We left our chart up until it eventually wore away, but I still think about that chart, the fun memories we learned by doing it together. There were powerful lessons we all learned and connections we all made by seeing what we were feeling, all written out, accepting the good and bad in each other and choosing to keep moving forward together.
God is good, even when things are bad. We know both are true, and that propels us all forward.