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Parent Devotion: Discovering the Sweet Treat of Gratitude

One day when my kids were small we passed by a McDonald’s after a day at the beach.

I thought it would be fun to spontaneously treat them to ice cream cones. I can still recall their looks of confusion quickly melting into squeals of glee when they found out why we were stopping. “THANK YOU MOMMY!” they sang in glorious chorus.

Naturally the next time we went to the beach they remembered the McDonald’s treat and sweetly asked if we could stop again. “THANK YOU MOMMY!” they erupted delightfully as I pulled into the restaurant.

Of course as time passed, ice cream became an expectation, and instead of “Thank You Mommy,” I was held hostage to tears and whining about how unfair it was to skip the Golden Arches.

Our trips to the beach had somehow become a platform of ice cream entitlement.

When my first child hit her teen years I saw this thankless attitude cropping up more frequently (an unfortunate by-product of adolescence) with her siblings quickly on her heels. I wondered when my children had become so self-centered? Why couldn’t they say thank you more often? Why couldn’t they see the ways I went out of my way to serve them?

Then my first child left for college and I thought now is the time.  Now that she’s on her own, she’ll realize how grateful she is for me. I waited (and waited) for her phone call that said, “Thank you for all you’ve done for me.”

Instead, my feelings were hurt when her social media accounts were filled with thanks to her friends for an “extraordinary birthday” and she didn’t mention the “extraordinary” birthday meal I’d made for her.

Agitated, I reflected on why this ungratefulness hurts me so much. Was it because I wanted to share my love through surprise ice cream treats and special birthday meals, or because I felt good when my kids thanked me?

My answer was a bit of both, and the following fresh perspective: I do things for my children because I love them, and they know this. Perhaps what I view as ungratefulness is actually my kids trusting that I’ll take care of them.

Isn’t this what Jesus does for us? 

God sent his one and only son to die a hideous death as a common criminal even though he was without sin in order to give us eternal life just because HE LOVES US.

But there are many days I forget to live a life that oozes gratitude for this sacrifice. And there are many other days when I feel lonely and forget how much Jesus loves and wants me.

Just like my children expect that I’ll pamper them with good things, I expect God to take care of me, answer my prayers, and come through no matter what. And I also still whine when he says no to “ice cream after the beach.”

Yet despite my frequent lack of gratitude, he sticks with me and promises to never leave or turn his back on me.

His love doesn’t hinge on my thanks.

I’m challenging myself to take the same attitude with my children, and recognize that they really are grateful--they just usually forget to say it.

And even though I’d love my children to act more thankful, and to shout, “THANK YOU MOMMY,” once again like our ice cream days, I can’t gauge the value of my actions based on the reaction I’m hoping for. If I do, I’ll miss the joy that comes from just being their mom and loving them well.

By the way, my daughter did end up calling me, out of the blue one day after she’d been in college a few months. And her voice cracked on the other end of the phone as she thanked me for all of the ways I had sacrificed for her.

Youre welcome, daughter. I love you, too.


Read and reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Journal prompt: Does it ever bother you that your kids appear ungrateful for what you do for them? Write about when this occurs, and how you feel.

Read and reflect on Ephesians 2:4-10

Journal prompt: When was the last time you really reflected on all Christ has done for you? Not just what he saved you from, but also what he saved you TO? 

Read and reflect on Colossians 2:6-7

Journal prompt: Think back to some of the moments in your life when you felt an overflow of gratitude for your relationship with Christ. Write down what happened and how you felt. What are some ways you can think of to become more rooted in this mindset?

End today by writing Jesus a thank you note for what he has done for you and your relationship with him.


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  • Laurel B.

    This article is just what I needed today. Thank you for such a lovely, thoughtful piece.

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