Thankfulness in Imaginary Worlds

by Hilary Horn

By Lynne Baab

My older son turns 40 in a few weeks, and I’ve battled insomnia since I was pregnant with him. Thankfully, “battled” is no longer the correct word. In the past decade or so, I have peacefully acknowledged that I will have periods of sleeplessness some nights. I use those times for prayer and reflection.

I’ve created four imaginary worlds where I often spend time during the night hours when I’m awake. In three of the worlds, I have designed places where I engage in thankfulness. I want to tell you about these mental pictures that I have dreamed up because one of them may help you notice the things you’re thankful for and express those thanks to God.

One of my worlds has a large thankfulness garden full of identical sculptures of various sizes. The sculptures are shaped like waffle ice cream cones which sit upright on their small end. The sides of the cones are covered with swirling designs that are three dimensional enough that little ornaments can be hung on the swirls. 

Each time I visit that garden with Jesus by my side, I erect a new sculpture. The size depends on how many things I want to be thankful for at that time. Sometimes my prayers focus on things I’m thankful for from that day or the last few days. Each item I’m thankful for becomes an ornament that I hang on the sculpture for that day or time period. Sometimes the sculpture focuses on an aspect of my life, such as things I’m thankful for in relationships or things I’m grateful for about my home.

All of the large and small sculptures from past moments of thankfulness stay there. I can’t remember exactly what’s on all the ornaments, or even what the topic of each thankfulness sculpture was, but when I imagine walking in the garden among dozens of thankfulness sculptures, the sheer number of them reminds me of how good God has been to me.

Another of my worlds has a tree painted on a interior wall of a house. Again, the tree is tree dimensional enough that I can hang thankfulness ornaments on it. Across from the tree, in my imaginary room, is a sofa where I sit beside Jesus looking at the tree and generating ornaments for it. On the tree, the ornaments are not in topics like the sculptures in my other imaginary world. I just hang all sorts of random things I’m thankful for on that tree. 

Illustration by Dave Baab

My third imaginary thankfulness place involves a sculpture of hands sitting on a deck overlooking a valley with Mount Rainier on the other side. The sculpture is about my height, showing a left and right forearm touching on their inner sides, with the hands spread back, uplifted toward the sky. You can see what it looks like in the illustration for this post. When I visit that deck, I think of things I’m grateful for and I lay them in the hands of the sculpture. Because the hands are raised toward heaven, I have the sense of bringing those moments of thankfulness into God’s presence.

The conscious practice of thankfulness has changed my life. Twenty-five years ago my husband and I decided to begin every prayer time with thankfulness. At that time, he and I were praying prayers of desperation two or three times a week. Our kids were demanding teenagers, he was unhappy at work, and I was uncertain what to do professionally. We decided our prayer times were so negative that we needed a change.

Thankfulness prayers with my husband taught me to notice good things in the middle of challenges. As I bring those good things into God’s presence, my relationship with God is strengthened. My three thankfulness places in my imaginary worlds grew out of the blessing that thankfulness prayers have proven to be. Taking time to notice God’s free and generous gifts switches our perspective from absence to fullness. When we bring those words or images of thankfulness to God, we affirm our dependence on God and our delight in God’s goodness. Our relationship with God is nurtured.


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1 comment

Lisa Scandrette November 8, 2019 - 4:18 am

Lynne, I love this. Lately, I wake often in the night and my first inclination is toward anxiety. One strategy I have used is to begin to give thanks for the good things, which often calms me. I love the idea of imagining ornaments of gratitude on the tree with Jesus–I may have to give that a try next time I wake in the night and can’t sleep!

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