“Become a parent.” they said…” It’ll be fun,” they said

Well, it was…until last week when we dropped off our oldest for her first year of college.

Okay, that could be dramatic. But still, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. I can’t speak for my wife, but I was a mixed-up mess of emotions. I’m not sure I knew what I was feeling.

After the official move-in, we gathered in the chapel for a few words from the campus pastor. She related what most of us if not all, were feeling to the Pixar movie Inside Out. In the film, the main character, Riley, goes through a significant change, and the characters within her represent the emotions of Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust. Typically, only one emotion was felt at a time while Riley was younger. But going through this time of transition and Riley being older, the feelings are all mixed together. Fear mixes with Joy. Disgust and Anger come together. Sadness and Joy come together for a memory.

And that describes what was going on inside me.

What I found crazy, however, is that I was hanging onto more of the sadness and ignoring the joy right in front of me. Yes, there was good reason for the sadness, but I decided to focus on it and miss the joy.

It comes down to response.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to feel both. But for me, it wasn’t right to HANG ON to one when the other was trying to burst forth. It’s like purposely staying in the cold rain when the door to a warm, dry room is one step away.

So here’s what I’m proposing. See if you agree with me. Paul writes what researchers today have discovered was always the case. There is a direct correlation between our joy and our thankfulness. When we’re grateful, joy increases. This isn’t just me.

Gratefulness leads to joyfulness, and here’s what Paul writes to the Thessalonians.

Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Interestingly, Paul starts with always being joyful. I don’t think it’s entirely emotion he’s referring to. It’s emotion and decision. Here’s why. He follows with never stop praying. This is praying, but it’s more of an attitude of God-awareness and a submission to Him. When thoughts turn to other things, such as fear, worry, anxiety, and anger, that awareness turns us toward prayer, the connecting element to the one that helps us. And we are empowered to give thanks in all circumstances. Notice that Paul doesn’t say to give thanks for all things. No one gives thanks for having the stomach flu. It’s just gross. Paul’s point is this. Contentment isn’t found in circumstances. Contentment is found in Christ Jesus, who gives what we need for what we face. In giving thanks in all circumstances, we offer ourselves to the Holy Spirit to grow, chisel, and shape us more so we’re closer to the blueprint of Christ Jesus.

And that’s what I had to do. Give thanks.

Gratitude changes attitude. It changes our way of thinking about a certain thing – which, by the way, is the definition of attitude. To change attitude means we change how we think about that certain thing. In my case, I had to change the way I was thinking about college. Because guess what? I have to do this a couple more times. And from what I understand, it doesn’t get any easier!

Madylynn and Ellynn must never leave! (Of course, I’m kidding, but ask me when that day comes, and I might have a different answer, LOL!)

Here’s the bottom line: Gratitude changes attitude. And when our attitude changes, joy bubbles to the surface. We don’t have to stay out in the cold rain. We can come inside where it’s warm and dry and experience the love of a Savior who desires to give us all we need for what we face.

Even dropping kids off at college!

You are loved!