We Gave Up Complaining for Lent

This year, our family is observing the Lenten fast in a rather unorthodox fashion. While food items such as meat or sugar are often fasted, this year we have decided to do something quite different: We’ve decided to give up complaining for Lent.

Yes, you heard me right. Complaining. It’s easy when your life mostly consists of first world problems to start getting picky and stop being thankful.

God’s word is very clear about complaining – He says very clearly again and again, “DON’T DO IT.” Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining or arguing.”

In contrast, God tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Put Off Complaining, Put On Thanksgiving

It’s not enough to stop whining and complaining. While the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” rings true, there is an important element missing.

While at times we may be able to bite our lip and suck in our snarkyness (is that a word?) and agitation, if we are grumbling in our hearts nothing has changed.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times it will take everything we’ve got just to keep our tongues from spewing out molten lava of negativity. And that’s important! Because what we say has a strong impact on the people around us. They either leave our presence uplifted or discouraged.

Beyond those “molten lava” moments, our family is trying to grab hold of a new practice. Scripture clarifies that we are not only to “put off” the unfruitful deeds of our sinful flesh, but also to “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10).

Write Down Your Complaints – God Can Handle It!


Psalm 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my trouble.”

I started by putting a long sheet of butcher’s paper on one of the doors near our kitchen. I wrote on the top left side “Complaints.” On the top right hand side I wrote “Thanks to God.” Then I told our family that if they had a complaint, they could write it to God on the wall.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are saying, but as we write it down, our thoughts become clear. When one of my daughters complained that she couldn’t have cheese (we have stopped giving her dairy due to skin problems) I said, “I understand that’s frustrating – let’s go write it on the wall.”

She wrote something to the effect of, “I’m tired of not having cheese!!” There was definitely an exclamation point involved.

But then my husband asked her, “Well, have you seen anything positive come from giving up cheese, though? Anything to thank God for?” She admitted that yes, her eczema is getting much better, so she wrote that down on the right side of “Thanks to God.”

Writing out our complaints to God and seeking to turn them into thanksgiving has not only helped us to become more aware of our negative attitudes but has also caused us to recognize gifts that God is giving us in that area of perceived lack.

Experts say that habits are a process, not an event. We’re not going to be “complaint-free” by Easter. But we’re getting started on the right path which will hopefully lead us to a deeper place of contentment and trust in the Lord as a family and as individuals. We’re giving space and grace for failure and we’re focusing on holding one another accountable.

And long after our “complaint/thanksgiving wall” is filled to the full, we will hopefully keep up the practice. Won’t you join us? Perhaps lying beneath some of your strongest complaints are some of your greatest blessings.

5 Simple Ways to Grow in Thankfulness


Thanksgiving is coming up and I’ve been meditating on this passage in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” As we seek to live with thankful hearts before the Lord, here are some ideas of how to get our thanks and praise on:

1) Begin and End your Day with Thanks: Thank the Lord for the gift of a new day. Thank Him for sleep, for the strength to face the opportunities and challenges of the day with grace. Thank him at the end of the day for all the ways you saw his hand at work that day.

2) Practice Giving Thanks As a Family: Take turns sharing each day with one another what you are most thankful for that day. Built into my morning devotion time with the girls is “thankful time” – we sing a little song that they love and then each person gets a turn to share what they are most thankful for. It is a great way not only to turn all of our hearts towards the Lord in gratitude, but also uncover what is most important to those you love.

3) Give Thanks for Daily Bread: Many families already say “grace” at meal times, but this simple practice shouldn’t be passed over ~ it helps us to stop briefly before digging into our food to remember and thank the one who provided it in the first place. Often when we sing our “thankful song” together, I am reminded that the God who provides for us will also sustain us in times to come and it fills me with gratefulness and hope.

4) Keeping a Gratitude Journal: Ann Voskamp’s bestselling book, “One Thousand Gifts” goes into this idea in much more detail, but the idea is simple – keep a running list of the things that you are thankful for. Ann found she began with seemingly small things that made her smile like “jam piled high on toast,” or “sleep – deep and long.” This type of documentation can help us to be aware of blessings we may have overlooked otherwise. By writing these “gifts” down, we take a picture of them in our memories and choose to focus on how they have enriched our lives.

5) Replace Grumbling with Thanksgiving: We all have “pressure points” that seem to pull the worst out of us. I saw this picture on Facebook that sums up this point entirely. The original source for this list and photo is Chelsea Lee Smith of MomentsADay.com :


What may seem like a burden to us are often great blessings in disguise – it all depends on our perspective. So – what are you thankful for today?

The Gift of Solitude


A harried executive who went to the desert father and complained about his frustration in prayer, his flawed virtue, and his failed relationships. The hermit listened closely to his visitor’s

rehearsal of the struggle and disappointments in trying to lead a Christian life. He then went into the dark recesses of his cave and came out with a basin and a pitcher of water. 

‘Now watch the water as I pour it into the basin,’ he said. The water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container. It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred-up water swirled around the inside of the basin; then it gradually began to settle, until finally the small fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face reflected in the placid water.

“That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others,” said the hermit. “You do not see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance. You fail to recognize the divine presence in your life and the consciousness of your belovedness slowly fades. “

It takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew. Guilt feelings may arise immediately. The shadow self insinuates that you are selfish, wasting time, and evading the responsibilities of family, career, ministry, and community. Theologian Edward Schillebeeckx responded, “…silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God. Failure to recognize the value of mere being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything is to gouge the heart out of Christianity.” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child.

The Blessing of a Broken Toe


Yesterday as I left my 35 week prenatal appointment, I managed to slam the big toe of my left foot against a curb while walking back to my car. The throbbing, stabbing pain immediately informed me that this was not just a stubbed toe. Through tears, I drove home in a torrential downpour only to walk into a house with no power, a sleeping husband, and hungry, crying children.

It was, in every way, a perfect storm. After the kids were finally fed and put to bed, my toe cried out to me for attention. A visit to the Urgent Care clinic confirmed what I already knew: “You have a fractured toe. Stay off of it completely for three days and slowly begin to increase your activity after that.”

I wish that I could say I said, “Sure thing, doc!” I merely laughed in her face. “I have three little kids,” I said. “Slowing down isn’t exactly an option.”

But sometimes circumstances beyond our control force us to slow down. A friend of mine in college said that she thinks that is why it says in the 23rd Psalm, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

Two days before this accident, I was spending some time teaching my girls about how we hear God’s voice. I wanted them to know that He doesn’t only speak to us through the “still small voice of His Spirit within us” or Scripture alone. “Sometimes,” I told them confidently, “God speaks to us through our circumstances. Like if we get sick and are forced to rest, it can be God’s way of saying, ‘slow down.’

Little did I know that God would speak to me these exact words two days later. I am 4 or less weeks away from giving birth to my 4th child and I will be very honest with you. I haven’t slowed down at all. But God saw fit, in His sovereignty, to force me to sit still and embrace rest, solitude, the gift of literally putting my feet up and just basking in His presence.

Embracing the Gift of Brokenness


Our culture has got some things really screwed up. One of them is that if we slow down or rest, we are failing…missing out…losing ground. But it is only when we slow down that we can focus completely on what really matters. It is only by embracing times of solitude and quiet that we come face to face with our true selves before the face of God. In that place, He can show us what we’ve lost through a turbulent lifestyle and restore it through His loving presence.

Do you fight or flee from solitude and rest? Do you press through fatigue and run towards busyness? Let Christ take your hand today and lead you into the stillness of His presence. Embrace what He may be speaking to you through circumstances that slow you down.

Sometimes weakness and trial can open doors to greater gifts than we could have ever imagined, but we must embrace them as such.

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