One Thousand Gifts

IMG_5653Last weekend our church hosted Ann Voskamp as a special speaker. I have not met Ann (until that day) and do not know her. I also had not read her book, but the theme of gratitude struck a chord within me. I sensed God wanted me to hear her speak. Gratitude is something I have yet to learn well. So I went alone. I normally prefer to attend such events with a friend, but this time I felt that God wanted me to be open to whoever needed me and to meet whoever I needed to meet. It's amazing the things God does when we leave the decisions up to Him.

I ran into a good friend and was so glad to connect with her. I met a stranger whose story lightened my heart. I saw my pastor who encouraged me and even prayed with me, then willingly agreed to send me some information I need for my work-in-progress - Ruth's story. In some small way, I think those things were as important for my heart than just hearing Ann's story.

321910_1_ftcBut Ann's story was amazing--and it truly blessed me. I bought her book One Thousand Gifts and started reading it that night. I had already been trying to practice gratitude this year - first with a blessings jar in the middle of the table (that didn't work out so well for me), then in my daily journaling - one  grateful thing a day.

But Ann said, statistically speaking, it's been shown that if people will write down three things they are grateful for each day, they will be 25% happier. Who couldn't use 25% more happiness in their life? Besides, my emotional tank, as they call it, has been running on empty for a long time, and I could never figure out why.

I couldn't blame everything on my circumstances, though I won't discount that trials and struggles can be quite the challenge and definitely emotionally draining. But what Ann is teaching me in her book, which by now you would think I should have already learned, is to be thankful. In every circumstance. Give thanks always. In everything give thanks.

Jesus practiced thanksgiving all the time. Before He performed miracles. Before He ate food. Before He offered His life as a sacrifice for our sins. Even then.

IMG_5659"With thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." In the Old Testament they were to offer sacrifices and celebrate feasts with thanksgiving. In the New, we are to offer the "sacrifice of praise" for what Jesus has already done. To give thanks in all circumstances because this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

We are to be a living sacrifice, and to fully live is somehow linked to this idea of thanks. I'm not sure I have ever fully lived.

Not that I have never given thanks - I have. But it is not a habit. It is as though I am learning a new musical instrument and if all I ever do is listen to the teacher but never practice the music, I will never really learn.

Gratitude takes practice. Every day. Several times a day. (Daniel prayed three times a day, giving thanks.) Why don't I thank Him more freely?

IMG_5657Because I'm looking for something else. I want my circumstances to change. I would rather lift up my petitions to God than thank Him for the provisions He's already provided.

So how do I practice? I'm starting by taking Ann's advice and writing at least three gifts in my journal each day. In fact, I bought a new journal that I intend to use to record 1000 gifts, as Ann has done.

Because in just a few days of gratitude, I can already feel joy I have not felt in a very long time. Thanksgiving is linked to joy. And I don't wonder if Ann is right when she suggests that only in thanksgiving is prayer true.

How about you? If you haven't read her book, I highly recommend it. Have you journaled 1000 gifts? It's going to be a challenge, but already the poet in me is itching for a chance to notice the little things and praise Him for them in lyrical ways, in a song of words.

I hope you'll join me. I may post some of my list here from time to time. In the meantime, what gifts are you grateful for today?