Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
I’m taking a blogging break, but here’s a post from the past about the year I started counting gifts in a gratitude journal . . .
#2967 — The sweet and tart of cranberry bread.
#2968 — Peach colored dawn behind silhouetted branches.
#2969 — Phone call from far-away friends . . .
. . . and so I approach the end of another year of giving thanks, another record of the day-by-day goodness of God in my Gratitude Journal. Giving thanks is definitely not my default ( My husband just might have called me “Eeyore” a time or two in the past twenty-four years.); however, the discipline and intentionality of naming and numbering three gifts every day is changing my thinking.
It all started in 2012, a year of seismic upheaval in our family — good changes, yes, but huge and life altering: a graduation, a wedding, a college enrollment. My bearings were absolutely gone. Everything that had been obvious and routine up to that point (“How many plates do I put on the table for dinner?”) had suddenly become ponderous and complicated.
Rattling around in my subconscious (from having read a book review of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts), was the idea of keeping a list of blessings in order to fight the darkness and to sharpen the focus on God at work in the dailiness of life. I had not yet read the book, but I was grasping at straws on that mid-August day, because it had become very clear to me that I needed to take myself by the scruff of the neck and turn my eyes toward blessing and away from negativity. So, there was the phrase, dormant in my brain: “one thousand gifts.”
I realize now that it’s a good thing I had not yet read the book, because I would have given myself a year to come up with the list of one thousand blessings as the book prescribes. For me, at that time, desperate measures were required — not just a pace-maker, but a defibrillator for this dead heart that could not find the words of thanksgiving. Reaching out from the fog, I asked:
“Lord, can you help me to find one thousand things to be thankful for?
With His help, I set my face in that direction, and resolved to name one thousand gifts in time for Thanksgiving Day. With just over ten weeks to do the job, I would fight the fire of panic and despair with the fire of gratitude. From that moment, whenever my mind was still and my hands were free, I would write, combing my minutes for evidence of grace and pinning them down with my pen, desperate for evidence of God’s love and goodness in the midst of my chaotic and unhinged days.
#1 — Tomatoes in a basket on the counter
#2 — Birdsong coming through my window
#3 — A noisy house with three boys at home
Car trips in the passenger seat with my driver-in-training yielded:
#348 — Beautiful double rainbow
#349 — Autumn leaves on wet pavement
This was just the medicine my ailing soul required, because slowly it dawned on me that, like the recipients of Paul’s letter to Rome, I had become “futile in my thinking.” Although I knew God and had taught others about Him and had introduced Him to my children, I did not glorify him as God when my foolish heart was choosing to focus on fear, negativity, and mourning.
Somewhere around #697 I encountered the words of William Law from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life:
“If anyone would tell you the shortest and surest way to all happiness, he must tell you to make a rule for yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you. It is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing. If you could work miracles, therefore, you could not do more for yourself than by this thankful spirit. It heals and turns all it touches to happiness.”
This was realism and grace to look at the hard things of life, and still to give thanks:
#701 — Tough math lesson in school today
#718 — Friday! At the end of a hard week
I carried my journal in my purse, and suddenly, I was hot on the trail in a daily scavenger hunt. Where would God show His goodness next?
When I reached one thousand gifts on November 22 (Thanksgiving Day 2012), I noted the milestone in my planner with I Timothy 4:4:
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with Thanksgiving.
The new little journal I started in 2013 sits quietly on my cookbook shelf above the counter where I stand to prepare meals. I try to write my three gifts first thing in the morning to set my brain in the right direction at the outset, or, as Jonathan Edwards has said, “to stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, but now, much more, it has become my checkpoint. As I approach #3,000 in 2014, I will challenge my heart with these questions:
During times of disappointment, am I able to see and count evidence of the grace of God?
Can I communicate a spirit of thanksgiving to those who know me best when the immediate evidence does not support it?
Does saying thank you for small, every day graces serve to heighten my appreciation for them?
By writing the truth in ink, bold, I let God correct my wrong thinking as, together, we name and number His goodness:
#2972 — Three red hens scratching under a green pine
#2973 — Time to write, read, and think
#2974 . . .
As the list goes on, the greatest gift is a renewed awareness of God’s gifts — daily.