A life of gratitude, fully receiving all of God’s gifts with joy, while living
in the moment….
I know I am most content when my heart feels like it’s smiling with
gratefulness. . .when I’m focused on the moment with a sense
of “God-lenses” peering out to what’s around me. . . aware of His
presence and expectant of His affection.
My pondering with all of this grew stronger recently after picking
up a book that caught my eye – Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand
Gifts. As I read, underlined, and exclaimed to my husband every few
minutes, “You have to hear this!” I realized a deeper work had begun.
The journey began many years ago. While directing a missions
training school on a hospital ship in West Africa, we listened to a
student describe her way to cope with sadness, grief and rough days.
“When I’m struggling, I make myself find a few things in my day that
made me smile…and I call them my Joy Spots. Every day, I find more
Joy Spots!”. Taking the challenge, Chuck and I began to call out to
each other “There’s a Joy Spot!”, when something tickled our hearts.
A few years later, after hearing a discourse on Gratitude, Chuck
decided to begin each day by naming ten things he felt truly grateful
for in his life. I soon joined him in the challenge. The discipline
worked a new muscle, but over time, it became a natural part of
our day. We found ourselves not only “naming” thankfulness in the
morning, but actually looking for things to add to our list all during the
day. Our hearts smiled. We grew expectant.
This Fall, I felt prompted to meditate on Philippians 4:6. I’ve recited
that verse hundreds of times, usually trying to calm my anxious ways,
reminding myself to pray. How did I miss it? The big qualifier…not
just prayer and petition, but “with thanksgiving”! That’s the basis for
how I need to come to God…with thanksgiving. The key to unlocking
His grace and power. I began a renewed effort every time I asked
God for something, prayed for a person, or expressed fear to Him. I
forced myself to stop and be present in the moment. Then, I named
something related to my request that I was truly grateful for – before
asking anything. A sense of peace and calm followed. Now, the
prayer often seems secondary, the need less urgent and the sense of
God whispering, “I’ve got it covered” more clear.
When I began to read the first few pages of One Thousand Gifts,
my heart quickened. Finally words to express the stirrings in my
heart. “Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our YES! to His grace”
(p. 39) “God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given:
joy” (p. 57). I know have pages in my journal for writing down
my “gifts”…giggling with my husband, frosty glitter on the grass,
another day, willow leaves dancing, warm mittens, sweet Mama
memories…and joy comes.
Lord, may I be still in this moment with You. May I see the gifts you
are offering me right now. May my heart swell with gratitude, as I
enter your joy.
Sue grew up in Seattle and spent the last 24 years on a missions
adventure with her husband, Chuck. They served in the Caribbean and
West Africa with Mercy Ships, and now with Hope Force International
in Nashville. They joy in the gifts of their children Krista (married to
Jackson) and Peter (married to Jenna), and giggle with their grandsons,
Jack and Sam.