Giving Thanks

Thankful for Being Thankful

22 Comments 25 November 2010

I imagine many of you were like me when you were a kid when it came to being thankful…at least I hope so.  In those days my thoughts of thanks came up approximately once a year – Thanksgiving Day.  Yes, those were the days when I was forced against my will and my better judgment to hold hands with the family as we stood around the dinner table, which was bowed with the weight of all of the delights that awaited our salaciously salivating taste buds, and recall the things that I was thankful for that year.  In those times I wasn’t thankful in the least bit and could not care less about what had happened over the last year.  My eyes were on the turkey, stuffing, corn casserole, and the pies that lay before my eager eyes; my mind was on the Cowboy game which would begin shortly after the feast; and my heart was on…well, it was on myself and anything that made me happy at that very moment which clearly did not include allowing the food to get cold while I listened to my family drone on about health and happiness and all that other mushy-feely, happy goodness which we are taught to be thankful for whether we really felt it or not.  Hopefully I am not the only one who felt this way…pat your turkey and cranberry stuffed belly a few times if you’re with me!!

Ahh, those were the days!  I had the luxury and, in a way, the expectation to be as selfish and carefree as I could possibly be.  Sure, I was being taught to be thankful and selfless and all that junk, but my elders always said that “someday” I would understand and since that someday was not expected to have arrived yet, I was more than happy to put off all of that selflessness talk until that someday arrived.  C’mon, I know I’m not alone.  You, over there half asleep on the couch while the game plays in the background and the women clean the kitchen …I know you feel me!  (Hopefully the lady readers out there recognize this as a subtle jab at the men and not a chauvinistic poke at you!)

Well, as all parents are acutely aware, that someday comes and it comes with a vengeance.* And now that that someday has invaded my life, being thankful is not such a challenging task anymore.  Maybe it was the struggle that Casey and I went through to get pregnant with Eliot and the subsequent struggle of keeping that pregnancy alive that taught us how to be grateful for the small things in life…you know, health, happiness, and all that junk.  I remember asking my parents shortly after Eliot was born, “do you ever stop worrying over your kids??”  The girl had not celebrated her first birthday and I had already fast forwarded to concerns of boys and sexual predators and abusive husbands and the dangers of college life and mean-girl cliques and…ok, I’ll stop now.

Or maybe gratitude is something that comes to all of us eventually, kids or no kids, as we face enough of life’s challenges and come to the sobering realization that life can be really, really, really hard and unpleasant and downright awful sometimes.  Believe me when I tell you that when you face enough shouts from angry customers or red marks from hard to please professors and disrespectful comments from disrespectful people who are supposed to know better, you learn really quickly how to be grateful for those who approach life and humanity in the way that God intended…with respect and courtesy and love.

Call it maturity, call it parenthood, call it the lessons learned from the logic of life, if you like; whatever it is that brought me to this point in my maturation, the fact for me is that I now know that being thankful is something that should come very, very easily.  You have heard us say it time and time again:  we have had and continue to have a very good life and we have no reason to complain.  But don’t people who have very good lives still have very bad things sometimes happen to them?  And shouldn’t they have the right to complain from time to time?  I mean, no matter how good life is, it is still life and life as we all know by now can be very, very, very hard…I think I said that once already.

It all comes down to fairness, I suppose.  Americans love their fairness right?  We pull for the underdog, we excoriate those who try to gain an unfair advantage, and the child born with a silver spoon in his mouth has much more to prove to the everyday American than do those born on the other side of the tracks.  But to be honest, what do most Americans know about being fair anyway?  When you consider that 45% of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day (nearly 3 BILLION people!!!!!) while many Americans spend $2 nearly every other waking minute, how can we talk about fairness?  What do we really know about being grateful?  While we are in an uproar over new airport security measures that promise to delay us (oh, my!) and possibly embarrass us (the horror!) and the fact that Bristol Palin made it to the finals of “Dancing With The Stars” (conspiracy, I tell you!), children are dying daily of Cholera in Haiti, 1 million kids are sold into sex slavery every year, mothers in Africa are dying from a disease that is prevented by a 20 cent drug, and just yesterday roughly 7,600 people worldwide were infected with HIV, mostly among those living in the world’s poorest, most destitute regions where hope is something they know nothing of…by our definition of the word anyway.  Given that contrast of ideas, I would have to say that when it comes to being grateful, most Americans are clueless as to what that word really means.

I count myself among the ranks of the clueless, just so you know.  I have been accused of being a bit high maintenance and my accusers are more often accurate than they are not.  I work hard to gain the fruits of my labor, yes; but how would I react if I woke up to a world that was drastically different from the one I once knew?  How would I respond to a bank account that was wiped out, a refrigerator that was empty, and a car that wouldn’t start?  How would I respond to God if he had chosen me or my loved ones for the “challenge” of dealing with a fatal, incurable disease?  Truth be told, I do not know.  Some have said that we responded very well to the quintuplet invasion and the change it brought to our lives, but I am here to tell you that there were times and there are still times today when our response is not nearly as gracious as it could be.  How would you respond to these things?

There was a time when Casey was in the hospital waiting for the babies to be born and I was trying to maintain an income to handle the family’s needs, and time with Eliot was really hard to come by, and life was beginning to feel like it had become more than I could handle.  The blinders of uncertainty seemed to grow tighter and tighter around our world every moment of every day and instead of looking forward to the birth of our babies with joy and excitement, I was beginning to suffocate from the lack of oxygen in my new reality.  I was struggling and I was sinking; I was frustrated and I was scared.  And then a thought occurred to me as I was pulling up to the hospital one day.  What if I was thankful instead of frustrated?  And what if I showed gratitude instead of showing fear?

It took me 10 or 15 minutes to walk from my car that day through the maze of halls and waiting rooms to get to my lady’s side in her new home, room 314 in the labor and delivery wing at Seton Medical Center.  And during that time I gave myself a good talking-to…the people who passed me in the halls probably thought I was an escapee from the mental ward!  I did not scold or chide myself; I simply made a list.  I made a mental list of everything that I was grateful for…everything, big and small, that I could possibly think to be thankful for got an entry in the file.  “I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, my amazing daughter, parents who love me, and Blue Bell ice cream.  I’m thankful for sunshine and dogs and green grass and cold weather in the winter.  I’m thankful for Christ in my life, for Riverbend Church, for Longhorn Football, Baylor’s Business School, and our troops fighting overseas.  I’m thankful for music and art and the freedom to appreciate both even though I am terribly inadequate at either.  I am thankful for those five babies about to enter my world and the amazing medical science that has made their survival possible.  I am thankful for friends and strangers alike who have supported us all along the way and I am thankful for the critics and the grounding that they help us to achieve.  I am thankful for being thankful, for being an American, and did I mention Blue Bell ice cream??”

The list went on and on and did not stop until I had reached Casey’s side.  And the Ethan that appeared in that hospital room that day was an Ethan that had not been seen in awhile.  Frustration had been replaced by optimism; fear replaced with hope; joy replaced misery…the joy of being thankful replaced the responsibility of being thankful.  I discovered on that day, during that walk that the simple act of being thankful was a gift in and of itself and it too was something to be thankful for.

We have a friend who came into our lives when the babies came home from the hospital.  She was one of the first volunteers to sign up for a baby care shift and she still comes today when her schedule permits.  Casey and I both admire Michelle and her husband, Brian, deeply for their wide open love for life.  Michelle is a hopelessly lost romantic and an infectious optimist with a very inspiring daily routine.  Every day (almost), even on long, tough days like she has had recently with her new job, before she considers her day complete, Michelle sends out an email to friends and family titled “Gratitude List.”  Sometimes long and dreamy, sometimes short and to the point, the email is nothing more than a list of the things in life that she is grateful for on that particular day.  I love getting the Gratitude List at the end of my own day and I love the daily reminder that I am provided with by Michelle’s subtle urging – be thankful for all things, little and big, and be mindful of those things…every single day.

It’s brilliant, isn’t it?  To turn something so simple, so ordinary, and so attainable to every one of us into something so uplifting, so communal, and so restorative…absolutely brilliant.  God did this…for you, for me, and for everyone else out there.  No matter where you are in life, no matter how rough things have gotten for you, no matter how many mistakes you have made or how simply unfair life has been to you, there is always something that you can be thankful for.  Always…no asterisks, no parentheses, and no footnotes…simply always.  And the mindblowingly simple act of remembering to be thankful for those things is the very thing which can help turn your whole world from something that is frustrating, fearful, and full of misery into something that is optimistic, hopeful, and full of joy.  The brilliance is in the simplicity, the power is in the individual, the authority to make the decision is within…………you.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!  God bless!!


*Side note:  being thankful and unselfish is not merely reserved for the parents among us, though my experience tells me that there are but a very few blessed and fortunate souls who do not yet have children, but have somehow managed to learn the lessons of the grateful kind :)

**Side note #2:  all of this talk of America being so abundant is not to say that we do not have more than our fair share of struggles and heartaches right here on the home front.  Lord knows millions of Americans live in brokenness and poverty and disease with little hope of change.  But the opportunities that exist in this country vastly outweigh those available to the world’s poorest individuals.

Your Comments

22 Comments so far

  1. Linda M. says:


    Love the message on thankfulness! Very good. It’s on my list daily to be thankful. My very most favorite thing to be thankful for? The sound of my sons laughing in their sleep. It is music to my ears, heart and soul!

    In the first part of your post you sounded as though you were falling prey to one of satan’s (no caps because I do not respect him) oldest tricks: making you feel guilty over something you had no choice in. No one chooses where they are born; in poverty or riches, opportunity or stagnation, America or Zimbabwe.

    In para. 6 as you were listing all of the things that are “wrong” with the world, I wondered about that. Seeing others doing without while we have is not something that we should feel guilty about because it wasn’t our choice. We had nothing to do with their want. That kind of guilt does not come from God; it is the enemy’s tool. I say this without reserve or shame because it is God’s will where people are born. He chose you to be born here, with opportunity and plenty. He chose you because He knew that you would use that opportunity and plenty to be a blessing to those who did not have.

    Just as my family and I can bless those worldwide in need because we have more than they, you can bless whomever you will because of God’s provision in your life. Never, ever, let your blessing be turned into a guilt, a curse, a tool to be used against you. God provided that blessing. Never feel guilty about what God gave you and expects you to be thankful for, and to use to bless others with (as we have seen you do on the show). No guilt comes with a gift from God.

    Remember, Ethan, being thankful is only half the battle. Not allowing those blessings to be turned into curses via the enemy’s accusing finger is the other half.

    Still hoping that QBS is picked up for many more seasons. Your family — your love for each other evident, your love for your children abundant, your respect for your parents endearing — is a blessing to us and I hope to see the children grow up.

    God bless you daily, moment by moment, and in between, give you peace.

  2. Karen says:

    Ethan, that was so beautifully written! No matter our circumstances ~ we have so much to be thankful for! Wishing you and your beautiful family God’s richest blessings! PS I am thankful for you that God gave you at least one son….ha!

  3. Fran says:

    Enjoyed your post, Ethan. I was especially struck by your reminder of the responsibility of being thankful – for things both great and small. Thanks. And Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

  4. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this message, it brought me to tears. thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday because I do have a lot to be thankful for and I try to keep a heart of gratitude every day, but you brought home the fact that I really don’t know how much I truly have to be thankful for.

    I too am thankful for being able to be thankful, because there have been times in life when I honestly did not even feel I had the strength to even say thanks. I hope that I will never have to face those valleys again and if God see fit for me to do so, then I hope that I can remember to be thankful no matter what!

  5. Alyssa M. says:

    Ethan, what a great post! I know I am certainly guilty of taking MANY things for granite on a daily, hourly and sometimes even minutely basis. Even when life throws you a thousand curve balls at once, there is always things to be grateful for. With God’s love, mercy, and direction it makes it a little easier everyday to face those curve balls and the not so thankful moments in our lives. This definitely gave me a new insight on the things I am given everyday, and I wish you and your family the very best this Thanksgiving!


  6. A spectacular outlook to have and a great reminder. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  7. Chassie says:

    Thanks Ethan for keeping us updated on you guys.Thank you fir the reminder of how blessed we all are

  8. Stacy says:

    Another WOW post! Thank you for reminding us all what we know, but seem to lose sight of in our day-to-day struggles & challenges. I was laid off on June 30th & it has been tough with our income cut in half. But I know that we are still more fortunate than a lot of people in so many ways. Thank you for helping me re-focus on that & shake me out of my ‘oh my gosh, what are we gonna do about Christmas’ funk. We have love, family, friends & most of all God watching over us. We are truly blessed & thankful. Hugs to all of you!!!

  9. Anne Judd says:

    So glad you had that talk with yourself in the hospital that day. Amazing what a shift in perspective can do! Isn’t God SO good to us?

  10. Megan says:

    Thank you for posting such a wonderful message. I have been feeling so overwhelmed with the impending arrival of surprise baby number three that I have admittedly forgotten to be thankful. Thankful for the precious gift of life that I have been so blessed with.

    Bless you and your many blessings. And thank you….for being thankful.

  11. Donna says:

    I echo most of what Linda M says above…but most want to say, just have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your beautiful family!!

  12. Allison says:

    Wow! That post was, WOW is all I can say. I’m an avid blog reader of yours, but this is the first post I’ve ever commented on. I’m a huge fan of QBS and am praying and hoping that God’s will and plans will be done with the journey he has planned for the outcome of your show. Your post just struck me very hard. I’m 18 years old, I’m a college student, living in a dorm, racking up the loans. Lately, I’ve been frustrated with how I’m going to pay for all these loans. I’m going to become an Elementary School Teacher and we all know how little of a salary they get. I’ve been frustrated with some family problems going on, and thinking of how God could ever put that on my plate right now. When I read your post, it brought me to tears. I’ve realzied how selfish I am, when I need to become self-less. So many people have it so worse than me and when I wake up, I don’t realize how good I have it. When my alarm clock goes off, I grumble and hit snooze when I really should be saying “THANK YOU GOD. You’ve let me wake up another day, to a beautiful life. I’m healthy, I can see, I can hear, I can read and talk. I’m so blessed.” But that is not my attitude. Clearly I need an attitude adjustment. I just wanted to say thank you for posting that post, because it really set me back on track. My goal now is to everyday, when I wake up, when something good, when something bad, when something sad, when anything happens, I’m bound to always have the attitude of “Thank You God. I know this is for you. This is all for the glory of God.”
    Thank you! And May God continue to bless you and your wonderful family!

    In Him,

  13. Klin says:

    I loved this post. Yes we have much to be grateful for. We do not have the struggles that others have and because of our bounty we have other more grave struggles like pride and gluttony. I am grateful for those who help me keep that in check.

    I am also grateful to be able to follow you and your family via the web. A privilege that has been mine way more than it has been yours. Thank you for opening your family and home to us the world, even though some out there are critical in a way that is rude and shocking, even to me- the social worker/therapist who hears a lot.

    Stay awesome Jones Family. God needs a powerful people to build his kingdom. He plants us where he needs us.

    Happy Thanksgiving and just in case I don’t get back here with the busy party/family/giving season, Merry Christmas to you all and may God continue to bless you all.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Enjoyed reading this post, Ethan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective. Hope you all have a blessed holiday season!

  15. Jeanne says:

    Beautifully said! Love the perspective you gained from the parking lot to the hospital room!

    My husband and I struggled for 6 years to have our son, who was born a few days before Thanksgiving. Now, on Thanksgiving even more I’m reminded how we should all take the time to simply be THANKFUL for our amazing blessings. It’s ashamed our society seems to have forgotten Thanksgiving heading straight to Christmas. But when you have the most amazing gift given to you it sure does give Thanksgiving a whole new meaning!

    Thank you for sharing your family with us!

  16. Thank you for this. We are so blessed to live here, to have plenty of food, to have clothes, shelter, TIME to complain because we are not busy 24/7 just surviving. I am grateful indeed for your brood and mine — that we all stand a good chance of living long and healthful lives. Thanks for being thankful.

  17. Aimee says:

    I have really admired your writings on here for some time now. I have never written but I have thought about it for some time now. I read your post Thanksgiving night and showed my husband. we talked about how grateful were to have each other and our 2 young children.
    The next morning my husband was killed as an Suv crossed the center line and hit my husbands sedan. He was only 34. Please be thankful for everyday you have with your loved ones and tell them how much you love them everyday as well.
    Thank you for letting me post this here.

  18. Enid Ballard says:

    I loved this post. Yes we have much to be grateful for. We do not have the struggles that others have and because of our bounty we have other more grave struggles like pride and gluttony. I am grateful for those who help me keep that in check. I am also grateful to be able to follow you and your family via the web. A privilege that has been mine way more than it has been yours. Thank you for opening your family and home to us the world, even though some out there are critical in a way that is rude and shocking, even to me- the social worker/therapist who hears a lot. Stay awesome Jones Family. God needs a powerful people to build his kingdom. He plants us where he needs us. Happy Thanksgiving and just in case I don’t get back here with the busy party/family/giving season, Merry Christmas to you all and may God continue to bless you all.

  19. Jamie says:

    First off just wanted to say your kids are so cute. It is great to teach your kids to be thankful in there early childhood. I loved the post and can not wait for more quints by surprise.

  20. Evone says:

    I have to say you have a gift for writing. I enjoy reading your posts, especially those with the WOW moments like this one. Perhaps a book with these posts and pictures could be in the works? What an amazing gift to your children one day, and to all of us whom you have let into all of the craziness of parenting, reminding us that we are not alone! If you do decide to publish, I’ll be the first in line to buy!

  21. Jennifer says:

    Ethan and family,
    Your words of thanksgiving are inspirational and reminding for us all. Hope you have a wonderful 2011!

  22. Christin says:

    Thank you Ethan. That was just what I needed to hear in this season of my life. I am going to start my gratitude list tonight and you will be on it.

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