*First I need to say that the people you see in that picture are some of the greatest gifts I have ever received. This is my family. God gave me these beautiful people. I am proud to be their Mom, Mother-in-law, wife and soon to be Gigi! They all love Jesus and what a gift that is to me! I am so grateful for them!
A few weeks ago I wanted to get my mind ready for Thanksgiving. I immediately thought of picking up the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp to help me get my mind focused on the things that I am thankful for. When I read the book the first time, it made such an impact on me because it changed the way I looked at my life. I was happier and felt more peace because I concentrated on giving thanks for everything and I mean everything in my life—meaning the good and the bad.
I hate to admit that I had gotten out of the habit of doing this in my life. I let my circumstances discourage me instead of giving thanks for them. Why is it so hard to let things bring me down instead of give thanks for them? For me, giving thanks is a discipline. It doesn’t come naturally for me. But, I have learned that it is a necessity.
“Our fall is always first a failure to give thanks. A lack of doxology leads to depravity.” Voskamp Just look at the world today and you can see the depravity. You can see the selfishness. You can see the “ungratefulness.” She says, “The real greats live gratefully.” I want to live gratefully. I want to be thankful because I know that it leads to joy.
“Joy is found at the table of thanksgiving. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.” Voskamp Thanks is the key to joy. When I named by blog “Journey 2 Joy” it was because I have been looking for that three lettered word for a very long time. Sometimes I think that I finally have it and then it goes away. I long for joy. I crave it. I know I can have it. It really is pretty simple— I need to be thankful!
While I was reading Ann’s book, I came across this sentence. “Fears have formed me.” Those four words really hit me because those words explain so much about who I am. I have been fighting my fears my whole life. But, I know that is not God’s plan for me. He doesn’t want me to be afraid. I have to focus on Philippians 4:8 “whatever is good, pure, lovely, think on these things.” And for me, that is hard to do.
I think that the holidays can be very difficult. I have unrealistic expectations and want everything to be perfect. I want everyone to get along and be happy 24/7. I want my life to be like a Hallmark movie where everything works out. I think I always have. I was wounded so much as a kid that I want things to be different for me now. Anyone else ever feel that way?
Ann asks this question in her book. “How long does it take your soul to realize that your life is full?” Let’s be honest. Think a minute. When was the last time your life felt full? I usually feel that way when I am with my kids and everyone is having fun and getting a long. I look at everyone and feel satisfied. I also feel this way when I am with the Lord and He is teaching me or when I am writing. But, moments are fleeting. My satisfaction needs to come from the Lord—not anyone or anything else all the time! Psalm 107:9
When I was growing up, I learned many bad habits in order to cope with a toxic home environment. One bad habit I formed was to be in a constant state of hyper drive. I was constantly waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I still fight that bad habit to this day. My heart immediately goes to the dark side when bad things are happening.
The reason why I mention this is because I am a work in progress. I want to help anyone who struggles as I do. I am learning that giving thanks is really the key to fighting all sorts of issues. I love Ann Voskamp’s advice—“Stay calm, enter the moment, give thanks.” The “staying calm” part is the real struggle for me.
In the midst of the craziness of life, the only way I can survive is to have A LOT of time being still. I need time to be with my Lord. For me, that is how I calm my heart. When I get bent out of shape, it is usually because I haven’t had enough time alone with Him. I also use this time to count my gifts. I try to write down at least three gifts I recognize that the Lord has given me for that day.
I started counting a few years ago when I read Ann’s book for the first time. I made it to 1,000 and then stopped. I should have continued doing it, but for some reason I didn’t. It took me several months to count 1,000 gifts, but during those months, my mind really changed. I was happier and more at peace than I had been in a long time. There really is something to counting gifts.
In order to receive the peace of God, we have to be thankful. They go hand in hand. There are many things that have happened in my life and I need to be thankful for the good and the bad. I know that is very hard! It is not easy, but I am willing to do it because I want to have peace. I want to experience joy. I want to trust that God works everything together for good. Romans 8:28
I want an untroubled heart. Ann says, “An untroubled heart relaxes, trusts, leans assured into His ever dependable arms. “ Oh how I long to be able to do that! I want to believe the God I love. I want to trust His ways. I have to focus on His word and not on my circumstances. That is why counting helps. I focus on what He is giving me. He is giving me this very valuable book to read. He is giving me time with Him to learn and to write. He is always giving. I just need to look for it. I am asking for eyes to see Him and what He is doing in my life.
I have many scars from what has happened to me. I have always wanted them to go away. But now I am realizing that I need to look at them differently. What if I didn’t look at them anymore as something that is ugly? What if I looked at my scars as something beautiful because I need to see the beauty in the ashes?
There is beauty from my ashes. I am able to write about my experiences. It is too easy to forget these things and too easy to gloss over them. That is why I need to discipline my mind to remember and to count.
I know the season of Thanksgiving is over but it is never too late to start counting the gifts that God has given you. In fact, I am going to make counting a practice I do all year long. I got to 100 today and I am not going to stop this time at 1,000. I am going to keep going until the day I die. I would like to invite you to join me. Grab a notebook or journal and start writing your gifts down. Count them one by one. Watch what the Lord does in your heart. Look for Him. Look for the ways He loves you every day. You will get to the point where you can’t wait to sit and write them down.
I love you dear friends. I am going to leave you with this verse. Until next time….
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow.”