Grateful for My Van’s Hot Mess

Gratitude has been a long and hard lesson for me. I never dreamed that I was an ungrateful person, because I gave thanks at every meal, and it’s always been easy to say ‘thank you’ when given something. Except, when the things I was given weren’t the things I wanted, then, I despised my gifts and made it very clear to everyone around me.

Like I said, had you told me I was ungrateful, I would’ve been shocked at such an accusation. I was grateful for many things: good health, food, beautiful weather, clothing, beautiful children, but what I didn’t realize about myself was my lack of thankfulness for my: imperfect body, imperfect husband, junky cars, ugly houses, and empty bank accounts.

I didn’t know how to honor the ugly things I had until something better came along, or until nothing better came along. I would whine, sulk and complain about everything that I didn’t like, or I would hide them in shame with tons of excuses.

On my self-discovery journey I learned the importance to practice gratitude for the good things AND for the things I think are bad. I’m learning that the joy of life doesn’t come from a good life, but the joy of life comes in the wake of a lifestyle flooded with gratitude.


One of the best examples I can give is Bella, because it was a two year journey. In 2010, we adopted Bella after our current van died. She was a gift, because Matt was without work, our current van died a terrible death on the side of the highway, and then someone we barely knew knocked on our door with almost $2000 to purchase a new van.

That’s when we found Bella, and paid cash for her. She was old, but she was a gift, and I was very thankful.

Fast forward two years, Bella began to show her age. Things began to go wrong, she began to look old, and sound sick. I stopped looking at her as a gift, and started looking at her as a shameful stain on our lives. I began to despise her, and I wasn’t afraid to say it. I’d snarl at her in our driveway, I’d roll my eyes when something went wrong, and when she spent an entire winter parked in our driveway because we couldn’t afford her surgery, I sulked, and hated her even more.

Van door

I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that Bella somehow defined me.

As Matt and I began to rebuild our marriage, we were on a journey to a better life, marriage, and self. We were no longer satisfied with our miserable existence. The one thing we found over and over that led to a better life is gratitude.

That’s when I made a conscience decision to change in how I thought of our old worn-out van, and I accepted her just the way she was. For nearly two years, I practiced saying things with a heart of thankfulness about our van’s hot mess.

Filling Up Bella

I didn’t complain that every. single. day. I had to fill her radiator with water or oil, or that her roof fabric was falling down. I began to laugh when her automatic sliding door wouldn’t close or open, and I’d hold up the school pick-up line trying to get it open, and then closed. I laughed with a family member when she told me that she felt like she was riding in Uncle Buck’s car.

The day the kid’s P.E. teacher came over, stood in front of my van and announced to the entire pick-up line that there was fluid running out from under the van. And wondered if I saw it smoking. I just smiled and said, “Yeah, she’s about to choke.” And as embarrassing as it was, I didn’t let it define me, and then took a picture, because I knew one day I’d blog about it. {I waited until she turned around, because I didn’t want to make things more awkward than they already were. Notice the ever glowing Check Engine light}.

PE Teacher

Do you want to know what made my practice of gratitude easier? Hope. Hope that something better was coming. I didn’t know when. I wasn’t given a date, and I didn’t look for one. I just made up my mind that when Bella’s time was over with our family, then I would welcome the new car, but until then, I would love, honor and practice gratitude for the one we owned.

Yesterday, Matt went and picked up a new family vehicle. I have grown kind of fond of Bella, since she’s the one I learned to practice gratitude with, and I think, I may miss her high-maintenance self, but I’m excited for this new and beautiful gift we’ve been given.

You know, maybe we would’ve gotten this new car whether I lived with a thankful heart or not, but think of the two happy years I would’ve missed out on had I not chosen to practice gratitude while I waited.

New Lady

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This post is part of the #write31days challenge, 31 Days Falling in Love with the Journey. I’d love to stay connected with you through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Come by and say hi!

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6 thoughts on “Grateful for My Van’s Hot Mess

  1. Life Breath Present says:

    Ahhh….The joy and pain of gratitude and being grateful. It’s always soo easy to be grateful and kid myself into thinking I live gratefully when things are chugging along alright. But then there’s that moment or event that throws me right into the muck of life and I’m not only confronted with myself, but also with the truth that a decision either towards or away from gratitude and living gratefully needs to happen.

    Happy new car to you and your family! I’m glad you decided on gratitude in the case of Bella. 🙂

    • Charity says:

      Yes! That moment(s) that throw us in the muck and don’t make gratitude so easy. They seem to keep showing up and holding a mirror in our face! Thank you!

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