For me, it began one Monday morning. It was my day off, and with my first cup of coffee emptied, I had already begun checking things off of my To Do list.
The moment is forever heart stamped…an urgent voicemail needing returned, the kind that stops you in your tracks. I can sense the alarm, and I don’t want to press the call back button. Within seconds, life is changed forever, and no preparing can spare the heart of such pain and loss.
For some, it begins with scripts…..played and replayed over too many years; the drama changes but the dialogue repeats with the intensity of a pounding drum. Some relationships are just too difficult to maintain, and separation is the only answer for peace.
Or a marriage struggling for more. The waves of strife beat relentless, and the resolve for stubborn love is not as strong as once naively declared, and hope fades.
Or a job, and maybe even two jobs don’t pan out, and we find ourselves in a place we never saw coming.
How can we even begin to be thankful when life bears down hard, and any silver lining is lost in the blinding fog? How can we manage to come out stronger on the other side when the faith we thought we possessed is cracked to the core?
It is deceptively easy to tap into our capacity for thankfulness when life rivers flow smooth, and all appearances of faith stand towering.
But true gratitude is a discipline, not one to be practiced on a whim, because disciplines are never easy.
I remember many attempts at filling empty journal pages, and the idea that a new journal with a fresh cover would surely motivate made complete sense at the time.
But the trees don’t move the wind, and no amount of pretty and fresh can create what is not ready to be born.
And so my journey began, two years ago, not on a whim and not out of some sense of guilt driven obligation. My journey began out of necessity.
Because sometimes life is just plain hard, and we need to be able to do more than simply put one foot in front of the other. We need to be able to do more than just survive the storm. We need to be transformed through the storm.
There it was, the wind moving the trees…the proper order of things, and the birthing of a discipline began.
Opening the pages of a book on the best seller shelf of the local bookstore, I discovered the secret I had long been missing – The practice of giving thanks isn’t just a discipline. It’s an invitation to be transformed. ←(Click to Tweet)
“The practice of giving thanks…eucharisteo…this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” Ann Voskamp – 1000 Gifts
Change the way we see. This resonated with me, that in the very heart of my storms, I could do one thing each day that would restore my faith and uncover joy from beneath the rubble. I could choose to see these seemingly insignificant moments as gifts, and I could count them.
“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.” Ann Voskamp
“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.“ Ann Voskamp – 1000 Gifts
And so, I took the Joy Dare. A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. A dare to count 1000 gifts.
Only this time I didn’t need a new journal with a fresh cover. A dusty, barely used one would work just fine.
#1 Heart rock
#39 Morning snuggles
#61 Finding my keys just in time
#85 The remote control all to myself
It wasn’t easy, and really it felt a bit nonsensical at first. Could there really be any transforming benefit to being thankful for such minuscule moments?
#101 Warm laundry from the dryer
# 287 Contagious smile of a wheelchair bound man
#322 Dew framed spider web
#364 Heart pourings of a friend
But I chose to keep going, and as Ann describes in her book, I began looking for and anticipating the small gifts of my moments. Recording them gave them value. Savoring them helped me realize my value in the eyes of the One who gave them to me.
#438 Soft, spicy Snickerdoodles
# 572 Cleansing rain
#622 Family laughter
#688 Coffee with a friend
And before long, this intentional discipline of counting began to nourish my spirit. Although my storms were still raging, I felt a soul deep calm and a realization of the constant strand of grace lavished over my life.
“What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart. What has torn you, God makes a thin place to see glory.” Ann Voskamp – 1000 Gifts
#743 Late night talks
#749 Perfect timing and provision of new job
#827 Unfailing protection over family through 4 different accidents
#961 A strength not my own
#999 A discipline of thanks for life
#1000 A heart transformed
Now, well over 1000 gifts and two years later, the truth of how present God was and is in every moment of my storms slowly trickled and filled the faith gaps, and letting go is no longer a place of fearful resistance.
It is a welcome release, a declaration of trust, and an invitation to find joy.
And through this discipline of counting 1000 gifts, I am forever transformed!
Are you having trouble seeing past your own storms?
Do you find yourself caught in the fog?
Perhaps it’s time for your own 1000 Gifts journey!