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Got milk? The ad asks. Many of us are more likely to have self-pity in our supply.

As I parent and home school, I’m struck with the challenge of raising grateful kids free of self-pity.

Looking back on yesterday, I have a clear picture of my own self-pity. There it is—an almost empty box of cookies. In the split second I noticed the ginger cookies had been raided (by my intrepid husband, of course—my kids wouldn’t dare), my dinner plans unraveled.

No, I don’t serve ginger cookies for the meal. However, I have discovered there’s one side dish that nearly all my family will greet with cheers. With the exception of little Elena, they all devour my coconut sweet potato pie made with ginger coconut crust.

In my weekly meal planning, I had chosen this night for the well-loved dish because I also planned to make Spanish omelet. Simply made with just eggs, potatoes and onions, it’s perfect. Perhaps you can guess that not all my kids share my enthusiasm.

While not every day brings sibling conflict and family tension, yesterday seemed more contentious than others. My consolation was looking forward to a peaceful dinner. That raided cookie box nearly brought me to tears. Absurd, no?

Today was an interesting contrast to yesterday. With little exception, the kids were refreshingly cooperative. I even had a chance to go to the super market by myself and found a couple of needed items on sale. While making lunch, I discovered that I had just the right number of cheese slices for cheese toast.

Although it’s not unusual for me to offer thanks to God for such gifts during the day, I felt uncomfortable doing that. Somehow, it felt hollow and tinny. Do I only offer thanks when everything goes my way?

It wasn’t that I felt guilty. Rather, I had the feeling that I was missing out on something richer, something more sustaining. Almost immediately, I was reminded of the passage in Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

I always have known that God does not require thanks in the needy way we might strive for it. Then why thank in all circumstances? In doing that, we experience a greater fullness. It provides a connection with Christ that is deeper than the temporary gladness of getting my own way.

As in most things, the first step in overcoming my parenting challenges is to first take the plank out of my own. Leading by example satisfies—helpful for me and others.

Tonight, I go to bed thankful not just for my list…but just because.

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