In 2014, my life was changed and enriched by the magic of habitual thanksgiving.
That’s when I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, as well as her One Thousand Gifts Devotional. In these books, Voskamp introduces a practice that revolutionized how she looked at life. Basically, she started counting…counting ways that God had been gracious to her, counting things she was thankful for, including everything from broad generalities to minute, personal details. Her goal was 1000 things, but the results were much more overwhelming. She kept on until she’d numbered thousands of gifts and she insists her perspective was changed into one of habitual joy, seeing God in everyday moments and gifts—even things she hadn’t seen the beauty in before.
I’m sure many of us have heard of or participated in different variations of this. When I was a child, my mom had something on the counter she called the Blessing Jar. Throughout the year, we would write down things we were thankful for, or answers to prayer, and put the pieces of paper in the jar. At Thanksgiving, we would paste some of them on the paper feathers of Tom the Thankful Turkey, a kid-sized cutout bird taped up on the wall of the kitchen. This was a great reminder for me as a child to cultivate thanksgiving throughout the whole year, not just on the day designated for giving thanks.
Of course, holidays shouldn’t be the only times we give thanks…any more than Sunday should be the only day we worship and fellowship with God. I’ve heard Sunday described as the “anniversary celebration” of the Relationship that exists all week. Thanksgiving is like that. It’s a holiday marked by giving thanks and noting our blessings, but cultivating a lifestyle of thanksgiving makes the celebration come alive all throughout the year.
Making note of things I was thankful for blended writing with a spiritual discipline and I loved the beautiful list that unfolded. Here is a snippet of the first 1000-gifts list that I recorded back in 2014:
–The smell of warm, wet wax from a desk candle
–The tiara of first snow in my hair
–Faces…the light of God’s creativity in eyes and smiles
–Mountain color palettes
–The first patter of rain
–Full family dinners
–The pleasure of finding just the right book
–Sprinklers catching sun midair
–How God’s Word stands for me
–Bird chorus in storms
As you can see, Voskamp encourages you to be specific and personal, and I relished the opportunity to turn every day into a treasure hunt–a search for blessings, great and small, hidden and obvious. My final journal entry at the end of the year went like this:
My name, Jubilee, means Trumpet Sounding, but so often I disconnect from it, hesitating, waiting for God to somehow prove Himself again. But I’ve been wrong to do that. He is Goodness itself! And in dark or light, joy or pain, He deserves praise. He doesn’t take. He gives. He gives Himself, the best gift ever. And His Life consumes, empowers, enlivens, invigorates, redeems. What more could I ask for? This journey of deliberate thanks has brought me into the land of blessing that I desired.
So on the eve of another Thanksgiving, be encouraged! Take a moment and really think about the little things. What is it about God that just blesses your socks off? What details of life do you really appreciate? If your life is feeling flat and stale right now, this is just the remedy, I promise! Ask God for open eyes and you’ll be amazed at everything that was there, all around you. All the Grace and Beauty and Mercy. There is so much real power waiting for us when we declare God’s Blessings and “forget not all His Benefits” (Psalm 103). Andrew Murray said: “Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.”
Cultivating a lifestyle of thanks by making note of things we’re thankful for is truly a step heavenward. As the writer Joni Eareckson Tada puts it: “With each [gift or blessing] we experience on the earth, God leans over and whispers, ‘Just wait…one day you’ll bask in glory like this, and it will last forever’” (Tada, The God I Love, 283)!
If you’re interested in learning more about One Thousand Gifts, visit Ann Voskamp’s personal page.