Grandchildren have to be one of God’s best ideas.  Growing up, I had grandparents who were especially close and I reaped the benefit of their lavish love and attention. Now that I’m on the other end of the equation (all my grandparents are gone and I get to be the Grammy), I understand why their faces would light up when they saw me and my siblings coming through the front door…especially during the holidays.

      If being a parent is one long classroom in the school of life (and it is—we learned so much from our kids, and from raising them), then being a grandparent is like being in the graduate school of joy. The tutorials are more specialized and you find yourself wanting to stay after class.

With Thanksgiving just ahead, I was thinking about the lesson in pre-gratitude my oldest grandgirl, Lilia, taught me a few years ago.

It was Christmas Eve and the whole family was gathered at our house for the festivities. The decorations were up, the table was set, and the air was filled with the aroma of favorite holiday dishes. Though they were trying to be patient, I knew Lilia and her little sister, Liberty, were aching to get through dinner and on to the opening of the gifts.  They had been eyeing the brightly wrapped packages under the tree, trying to size up which ones might have their name on them. And though they were the youngest members of our tribe, they already knew that even after dinner, there would be further delays.

First would come at least a cursory cleaning of the kitchen before we gathered around the tree. Then it would be time for singing a few carols, after which Papa would recite the Luke 2 version of the Christmas story from memory, one of our cherished traditions. After that, it would finally be time for presents. The last-minute touches were put on the meal, the candles were lit, and it was time to call everyone to the table.

I noticed earlier that Lilia had made a special hand-made card for each family member and had put them at our place settings. As we sat down, we each opened and read Lilia’s cards.  Mine had a hand-drawn reindeer on the envelope and I knew I would save it forever. In that lovely, messy first-grade scrawl, my card read: “Dear Grammy, If wun of the pressus is frum you, I love it.  Love, Lilia.”  Translation: If one of the presents is from you, I love it. 

           Pre-gratitude. Anyone can be grateful after the fact but Lilia determined beforehand to be grateful for whatever I had chosen for her, even if she had to wait for it.

She knew I loved her and trusted I would only put something good in a package with her name on it. Instead of waiting until she experienced the actual receiving of the gift, she wrote her thank-you ahead of time. I wish I had that kind of graduate-level gratitude.

I wish I always trusted God’s character enough to know He only has ultimate good in the packages set aside with my name on them, despite wrappings that aren’t always so appealing.

Jesus said, “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:11 New Living Translation)  During the times I have to wait for my heart’s longings to be fulfilled, I wish I would spend my time in active pre-gratitude instead of worrying and complaining.

So here is my prayer as I enter into this season of holy celebration with special thanks to Lilia, my sweet little instructor in the class of pre-gratitude:

“Dear God, That next present from you? I love it. Love, Jodi.”

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