When Tricia Goyer and her husband adopted seven children, making her a mom of ten, she knew the core issue of many of her kids’ character issues was discontentment, instead of gratitude. With a goal to lead her children in a grumble-free year, the challenge intensified when Tricia’s grandmother broke her back on Thanksgiving Day. Tricia longed to seek God’s face as she guided her kids, but now she became a full-time caregiver, within her home, to her grandmother too. In her book The Grumble-Free Year, Tricia shares how God taught her how to praise—and how to lead her children to do the same—in seasons of hardship as well as joy. And Tricia’s heart-lesson all started with the sound of her grandmother’s voice, rising up from the bedroom. I invite you to consider how God desires for all of us to lift our faces, and our voices to Him, even in the midst of life’s biggest struggles. It’s a grace to welcome Tricia to the farm’s front porch today…
Last month I had been thankful that I was able to bring Grandma home from the hospital after she’d broken her back on Thanksgiving Day.
This month I was still thankful for that, but I was getting weary.
Oh, Lord, I prayed often, day and night. I don’t feel as if I have anything left in me.
How am I going to teach the kids about not grumbling—my goal for the year—when I’m exhausted from daily life?
I wish I would have received a clear answer. Wouldn’t it be nice if a No Grumbling curriculum showed up on my bookshelf next to all the rest of the homeschooling curriculum?
It didn’t, of course. This was a journey I was on with God, attempting to seek His face as I tried to guide my kids.
The thing was, it took me a while to realize that He was actually sending clear lessons in the midst of our circumstances.
After the therapist left and Grandma was again settled down in her bed, propped up with pillows and her back brace off, something else interrupted our homeschooling lesson time. This time it wasn’t a visit from a therapist. Instead, it was singing.
“What is that?” Grace asked, turning her head toward Grandma’s bedroom. “Is she playing music?”
“Actually, it’s her. Grandma’s praising Jesus.”
I immediately recognized the sweet soprano voice I remembered from my childhood.
I always liked to sit next to my grandma in church growing up, mostly because I loved to hear her sing.
She didn’t have the prettiest voice in church. No one ever asked her to sing a solo or join the choir, but it was beautiful to me. She’d lift one hand as she lifted her voice. Her eyes would be closed too.
Many times she wasn’t reading the projected words on the wall but instead was mixing in her own praises, singing to Jesus from deep in her heart.
And that’s what she was doing this day too.
Grandma sang with a mix of lines from her favorite hymns and her own praises and thanksgivings to God. Yes, thanksgiving.
Even as she lay propped in bed with an aching back and limited mobility, she thanked God.
She thanked Him for life.
She praised Him for His goodness.
Her praises didn’t erupt because of all the wonderful things happening in her life in that moment. Instead, they sprouted from a heart that understood God was worthy to be praised, no matter what.
Grandma knew her praises were about Him and not her situation. She sang because she was thankful for life, no matter how frail her body was.
More than that, she was thankful for the eternity to come: an eternity without an aging body, pain, or confusion. She sang about that too.
As I listened I realized all the kids were listening too. I could tell from their furrowed brows that they were trying to make out her words.
“She’s thanking God. Singing to Him.” Maddie smiled.
“Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I wake up to hear her praying aloud, thanking God for all He’s done for her,” I told them. “She also prays when she is hurting and her body doesn’t move the way that she wants it to. In fact, when she’s really hurting, she prays in Spanish.”
“Spanish!” Buddy shouted the word as if it were the most amazing thing he’d ever heard.
“Why Spanish?” Aly asked.
“Well, that’s what she learned to speak first.” I paused, realizing how little I’d told the younger kids about Grandma’s life. “Her parents were immigrants from Mexico, and they spoke Spanish. Her mother never really did learn English her whole life.”
“Tell them about the boxcar, Mom.” Grace’s head bobbed.
More than any of the other kids, Grace often liked to spend time in Grandma’s room, watching movies with her and asking her stories about her life.
“What boxcar?” Buddy again exclaimed.
I settled into my chair. “Grandma was born during a time called the Great Depression. Her family actually turned a small boxcar into a house, and they lived in that for all her growing-up years. Grandma, her two brothers, and her parents in that little space. Well, until her father died when she was just eight years old. Things got even harder after that.” I stopped there.
I could see this was difficult for the younger kids to take in. They were used to their great-grandma sneaking cookies and telling them to stop running in the house.
Yet she’d been a little girl who faced challenges just like they had. And as an adult, things hadn’t gotten easier.
As a young mother of three children she’d once become so ill her family was told she wouldn’t make it through the night, and yet here she was.
Had all those years of hardship changed her heart?
Had she learned to praise instead of grumble as the chapters of her life filled with both joy and hardship? Was this my lesson now?
“Yeah, we have nothing to complain about,” Grace mumbled. Then she turned her attention back to the homework in front of her.
“You know, I was thinking the same,” I responded.
“Can Sissy and I watch a movie with Grandma when we’re done with our homework?” seven-year-old Aly asked, brown eyes large and round as she looked up at me. Aly could be just as loud as the other kids, but she could also be quiet and sweet. Her love language was quality time.
I knew this gesture was a way to connect with her great-grandma and to show her love.
“Yeah! The King and I,” Sissy piped up. “Or maybe The Unsinkable Molly Brown. That’s her favorite.”
“Of course you can. Let’s hurry and finish this.” I smiled.
And as I returned to the lesson, I realized that, although I’d fallen short at trying to work on this grumble-free thing, God had been working on it all along.
What other kids had such an example of a great-grandmother’s faith shining strong, even in the midst of hardship?
Yes, Grandma grumbled at times, especially when her television wasn’t loud enough or when the therapist wanted her to do five more arm lifts than she wanted to do, but, as everyone saw, the core of her heart was one of thanksgiving.
She’d walked enough steps on this earth to become familiar with drawing close to God and leaning on Him.
When she couldn’t remember much of anything else, she remembered this.
USA Today bestselling author Tricia Goyer cares for her passel of children, and ministers to inner-city teenagers, from her home near Little Rock, Arkansas. Tricia processes the life-challenges she faces—and others have faced—through her novels, parenting books and blog.
Not satisfied with “good enough,” Tricia and her family embarked on a yearlong quest to eliminate grumbling from their home and discover a healthier, more thankful approach to life together. With grade-schoolers, teenagers, and a grandmother who believes children should be seen and not heard, plenty of room exists for flunking the challenge. Add to that seven children being homeschooled together in close quarters, and what could possibly go awry?
In The Grumble-Free Year: Twelve Months, Eleven Family Members, and One Impossible Goal, the Goyers invite readers into their journey as they go complaint-free and discover what it looks like to develop hearts of gratitude. They share their plans, successes, failures, and all the lessons they learn along the way, offering real-life action steps based in scripture so that readers get not just a front-row seat to the action but also an opportunity to take the challenge themselves and uncover hearts that are truly thankful.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership on today’s devotion ]