“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.” ― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
A couple of years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. At the time, I was spending my days in the NICU and, while the book itself has a fantastic message, it was falling on deaf ears due to my circumstances. Though once our daughter joined us at home, my heart ached for her message again. So, I read back through notes I’d written and dove back in and was able to connect her message in the book to my life. And, although the message of thankfulness and gratitude wasn’t new, it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
Attitude of Gratitude
The saying “have an attitude of gratitude” causes me roll my eyes. I’ve been hearing the phrase since I was a little girl. Although I do agree with the concept, the saying for me is played out. However, I’m forever thankful to my parents who chose to lead by example in making gratitude lists regularly, if not daily. Sometimes they’d share them with me, other times I just knew by their actions they were in a grateful place because of those lists.
As I got older, I took on this practice. In the beginning, I found it challenging. I started the practice during a very dark time in my life; a time when I felt I had nothing and everyone had let me down. I couldn’t see any good in where I was and I honestly didn’t want to continue. Coming up with 10 things I was grateful for took me longer than I’d like to admit. Each day, I’d write a new list with the same 10 things because I couldn’t think of anything else to be grateful for.
Even though my outlook on life was bleak then, making that list each morning put me in better spirits. I was able to be joyful at a job I didn’t love and it helped me learn to love myself and those around me. I began to see the merit in gratitude lists now, through my own personal experience.
…and discover Who can be counted on.” ― Ann Voskamp
As circumstances changed and life began to get really good, my list changed. There were so many blessings and good things to include. It was no longer challenging to find 10 things and I could even change my list up throughout the week! Not only was my attitude better, but I was starting to see God work in my life again (I say again, not because He stopped, but because I stopped looking for Him).
Fast forward 8 years and we are to the point where I picked up Ann’s book. As soon as she mentioned her 1,000 gifts list I smiled. I thought back to my countless gratitude lists that I no longer needed to write each day. I could think of something I was grateful for at the drop of a hat — way more than 10, for sure. But I love how she talked about this list as not only a way to change my attitude, but as a way to let God grow within me.
“Thanksgiving-giving thanks in everything-prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ.” ― Ann Voskamp
Like I do, I saw her list of 1,000 gifts as a challenge that I quickly accepted. So, I spent most of 2018 working on my list of 1,000 gifts. It was definitely a challenge, but one I’m pleased to say I was able to complete! Over the course of a year, I saws God show up and bless my life in big and small ways. I saw blessings in events from the past and found gratitude in lessons learned. At a time in my life when I was most unsure and scared, I needed to see how He continues to show up, and always had. I found Ann’s words to be so very true:
“Feel thanks and it is impossible to feel angry. We can only feel one emotion at time. We get to choose which do you was to feel?” ― Ann Voskamp
As a new mom with a micropreemie who was also learning to stay home full time, I found anger bubbling inside. Of course it was the secondary emotion to fear, but that’s another story. As I would feel the anger or frustration rising to the surface as my baby wailed for some unknown reason, I’d think back to my gifts… and every time, a smile would come to my face. It’s so easy to choose anger because it feels powerful, but thanksgiving has a power all it’s own.
The Power of Thanksgiving
“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” ― Ann Voskamp
This practice has given me a new appreciation for Thanksgiving. Not just the holiday. Being thankful in everything. Every moment. Every hard thing and every good. As I struggled in those early mom days with a crying newborn, I was able to be thankful that her lungs worked so she could cry. During the long days at home when we were unable to leave the house, I was thankful for my husband’s job that allowed me to stay home. When we can be thankful for what we have, we can truly receive all the gifts He has for us. Walk with open hands, an open heart of thanksgiving and receive.