Ann Voskamp hasn’t always trusted God. When she was four, her younger sister was hit by a truck and died. For a long time, her family struggled with the concept of a good God.
A few years ago, a friend challenged Voskamp to make a list of one thousand gifts she was thankful for. As she added to her list and thanked God for each item (morning shadows across the old floors, cry of blue jay from high in the spruce, wind flying cold wild in hair), Voskamp noticed an interesting effect—she felt connected to God, and overwhelmed with joy.
She discovered the Greek word used in the Bible that’s translated “he gave thanks” is eucharisteo, containing the roots for words meaning “grace” and “joy.” While making thanksgiving a daily, hourly, even moment-by-moment practice in her life, she found herself more aware of grace being extended to her, and of a lightness of spirit she’d never experienced before.
Voskamp’s writing style is unique—poetic and exuberant, with run-on sentences which delight rather than annoy. Some examples of her voice: “The Wounded Warrior [Christ] is achingly tender with the broken ones and He has all the patient time to gently lead those who seek and He keeps leading me back to eucharisteo.” And
Hadn’t I personally experienced it before too, that vantage point that gave a sense of smallness before grandeur? At the lip of the Grand Canyon, peering into the carved earth, the vastness of the hewn and many-hued chasm. A late June night peering into the expanse of heavens nailed up with the named and known stars. A moon field. I hardly dare brush the limitlessness with my vaporous humanity.
In One Thousand Gifts, Voskamp shares personal stories about her family. Some are horrifying; some are beautiful. But mostly, the book tells how, when she learned to thank God for everything, she saw proof that God is good and that she is greatly loved by Him (as we all are).
Another phenomenon Voskamp addresses in her book is that after mindfully cultivating the habit of noticing God’s gifts and thanking him for it, she began seeing miracles all around her. She emphasizes the order: first, thanksgiving; then come the miracles.
I know what she says is true because I have experienced it myself. Not that every moment of the believer’s life is easy, but when you are in communion with God, you know where to turn in the midst of trouble. And the more I thank God for everything– His blessings and the trials of life–the more joyful I feel, even while going through difficult times.
Because we are so close to the season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share some entires from my own gratitude journal, which I started a year and a half ago in response to reading Voskamp’s book:
- the beautiful plants in my yard
- warm, sunny weather
- freedom from pain (after a hip replacement)
- a husband I love
- people (like pastors) who live their lives in service to others
- laughter (especially laughing with friends)
- the people who harness wind and turn it into power
- wind chimes
- wilderness within the city (South Mountain Park)
- crisp, cool weather
- ice in the fountain
- frost on the roof and “diamonds” in the grass
- the dog I really didn’t want
- the rain and all the nourishment it brings
- that wool can be made into yarn
- that yarn can be made into sweaters and blankets
- a sunny day after rain
- the joy of playing handbells
- a husband who cooks and goes grocery shopping
- being invited out with friends
- unseasonably mild weather
- a pet whose antics make me laugh
- the people who read my blog
- peace in the face of uncertainty (while waiting for biopsy results)
- the idea to close an incision with staples
- my brother
- air conditioning
- that we survived four days without air conditioning
- small accomplishments and the blessing of satisfaction
- old friends
- spaces set aside for beauty, like gardens, parks, museums, wildlife preserves
- the neighbors I meet on my morning walks
- our choir director
- people who do simple repairs for free
Do you want to live a more joyful life? Try thanking God for everything, every day–not just Thanksgiving Day. Thank Him for the big things, for the little things, for the unpleasant things. Acknowledge that everything He provides is for your benefit. Test constant thankfulness and see if it doesn’t fill you with joy and new awareness of your blessings.