03 Aug Naming & Claiming our Gifts
August 3, 2017
Five years ago a dear friend gave me the book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It was a delight to read and packed a profound message, inviting me to pay more attention to the graces all around me—everything from the taste of the jam on my toast this morning to the man who collected my garbage yesterday. The book also offered this challenge: to keep a list of things for which I was thankful until I arrived at 1000 different entries. I adapted the process slightly, deciding to record three items per day for an entire year.
Family members and friends made my “gift list.” So did sunsets, sunrises and stars, various varieties of flowers, indoor plumbing, all five of my senses, having a job, music. Food was a fairly regular entry—the first pot of chili in the fall, a sweet, juicy watermelon in summer. I discovered that keeping a log of the abundant gifts that continually surround me increased both my gratitude and my joy. No matter what else is going on in life, there are always blessings for which to be thankful.
Although it’s been several years now since I completed my year-long gratitude journal, I have found that the practice of noticing, naming and appreciating the gifts around me continues. So, last week as I visited extended family and was treated to homegrown bounty out of the garden, I didn’t take it for granted. The purple-hull peas, green beans and potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes were something special. We literally ate “farm to table,” picking the veggies from the garden boxes, taking them to the kitchen to wash and prepare, and then sitting down to eat—with some scrumptious cornbread to boot!
I also appreciated the unhurried time, something that seems increasingly rare in our lives. Even as we worked shelling peas or snapping beans, we did so in community, enjoying being together and visiting. Yard work took half the time, because we all pitched in to help. Being together was, in itself, a gift, one that was made possible because thousands of people in four different cities coordinated their efforts so that our air travel was possible. Sometimes we forget that somebody—likely someone we will never even see—changes the toilet paper in the airplane loo while someone else loads the plane with jet fuel. Without them—and countless others—we would never leave the ground.
“Thank you” is one of the most powerful phrases in the human vocabulary. In any language, expressing gratitude connects us to one another as we acknowledge that another person has had an impact on us, whether small or large. It is vitally important that we say “thank you” to God as well, because in doing so, we are reminded that all that we are and all that we have are gifts from God’s gracious hands. And gratitude is not only an essential spiritual discipline, it is also good for our mental and emotional health.
If you haven’t done so already today, I invite you to look someone in the eye and thank them for something they’ve done for you. I encourage you to breathe a prayer of thanks to God for a particular blessing in your life. And, if you’re up for the challenge, you might try recording your own version of 1000 Gifts. I think you’ll be surprised at what you begin to see, almost as if for the very first time.
Yours for the Kingdom,