So I’m reading this book on being thankful. I was led down this path two ways. One is that the magnificent Tim Keller mentions being thankful as part of the way you respond to adversity in an effective, Christ-like way. Ever since I read that in his book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, it has stuck with me. Thanking God even when things are not going well. Being thankful in the midst of scary and painful circumstances. How can this be what He expects of us?
Then, Lisa Slayton, my trusty mentor, gave me a very interesting book – it is called One Thousand Gifts.
The author is an interesting person. She writes with peculiar cadence and word choices. She is a farmer, or maybe more accurately a farmer’s wife and mother of six kiddos, and writes like she has at least a PhD. Maybe she does. But her simple life and complex thoughts are unexpectedly divine. I’ve seen a clip of her speaking, and she dresses and talks like an NYC poet. Such an interesting woman! Ann Voskamp.
Early in life, she and her family experience the most horrific of tragedies. Her young sister was very accidentally killed by an oncoming delivery truck driver. They all saw it happen. Devastating. Tragic. Gruesome.
When you go through something like that, you pretty much either shut down, cross your arms and turn away from God. Or you run toward him desperately, knowing that He is the only possible thing that could ever make you in anyway OK again.
She initially chose the former, quietly, humbly. Confused, desperately disappointed. She continued church going but closed off part of herself. She settled into a longtime depression of sorts. She didn’t become an atheist or anything – she just stopped trusting God and stopped being engaged with Him.
The book talks about how she came across this idea of Eucharisteo, the table of Thanksgiving. As long as there is grace, thanks is possible, and so joy is possible. She met someone who was thankful IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (and he’d been through some doozies.)
She knows how Jesus thanks God before he asks him to do stuff. She notes that thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.
She thinks hard on this Eucharisteo. She considers how even our saving by Christ must include gratitude. How else could we accept the gift of salvation but with gratitude? Gratitude is the evidence and manifestation of our acceptance of his extended grace.
So she begins the list. A list of things she is thankful for. Little things, big things. God’s grace and the beauty of morning sunlight. Her husband’s embrace. Her children’s bare feet. Apparently there is a workbook that goes along with this book. I don’t have it. But I got the idea that I should probably start making a list, too. The title of the book is One Thousand Gifts. So I guess that is what we’re shooting for, here. So far, I’m up to about 200. I forget things that should be obvious. I think I’ve written down some already, and realize I haven’t. I’ve written some things twice, I think. But here is the list I have so far. Many of you reading this will find your names on it. And if you don’t, it’s probably because my brain is addled from chemo and pain medication. it’s far from complete, so your name may well be popping up soon.
I’m only about a third of the way through the book. And I have not magically transformed into a naturally thankful person. But I do find myself taking note of blessings that I took for granted before. Little things that people do or that spring up before me, source unknown. I’m more aware, and more willing to give thanks even if I am not feeling especially thankful. Sometimes, the very act of thanking prompts those feelings of gratitude. There is some special magic in that. I don’t have it all figured it out. But I think I’m on the right track.