I’ve been keeping gratitude lists for around three months now. Ann Voskamp shared undeniable evidence in her book, One Thousand Gifts, that joy comes from gratitude, evidence I just could not argue against. I don’t know why I wanted to argue, why I didn’t want to believe there was a key to joy; maybe I thought it was too easy, and feared that meant I was responsible for my own bitterness. Well, that fear was real. I did have to own up to my cynical heart, and it didn’t feel good at all. Even as I began to write gratitude lists, I was still battling with struggles and sadnesses, and my circumstances didn’t get better.
I kept writing. I kept listing the things I saw, things that were good around me, even if it was something like “donuts,” or “paint marks on my skin,” or “warm hugs from a friend.” And I started seeing that giving attention to the good things does not mean ignoring the bad things– it means celebrating that there’s more in life than the bad things.
Ann described it as winning back some ground. When we see and name and give our attention to the good things, we are telling the bad things that they don’t reign; we are keeping the hard things from taking more room than they require or deserve. There is more to life. There is pain and hardship, yes, and there is more. When I started using the lists as a way to see the good, instead of a way to fix what was wrong, my heart began to change. And when I started being grateful to the Lord for those things, instead of simply being grateful inside myself, I started seeing that it was His love surrounding me.
Everything, everything, is a gift. And in times like this, when I am reminded just how messed up and broken I am, it hits me that I don’t deserve anything. That absolutely everything is grace. Everything is given to me by my Father, for my good; given because He loves me. Sometimes I still write the lists out of habit because the hard things seem more prevalent than the good. But my love for my Father grows every day, as He continues to love and I learn to love back by saying “thank you” for each gift I can find. There is always more. There is always grace.
“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” -John the Baptist, in John 3:27
Every November, I do some kind of gratitude/positivity project for Thanksgiving. Because gratitude lists are a daily habit for me now, this year’s project is a collage of the gifts I recorded in my journal, written on strips of paper with colorful markers. There are numerous layers to this collage, and it was made solely during the month of November.
Immeasurable grace, all around me, hardly captured. I can never stop being grateful.