Last week I began the challenge of finding 1000 gifts from God. I know that there are far more than one thousand, but I realized this is going to have to be a lifestyle to find them all. Because in every moment, there is something to be thankful for.
But in order to find that blessing, I need to focus. I need to be in constant, thank-you-God mode, and with the suffering, imperfections, and uneasiness each day throws at me (both little and big), I easily fall into complaints and dissatisfaction. And when I do that, I’m missing so much of the good.
I want to share with you some of my thanksgivings from the week. I reached 59, and although that is good headway, the thing I noticed was the first 30 rolled off easily. They were things I always thanked God for. But as the week went on, it took searching to find new ones. That didn’t mean those meant any less – I just was having to work to adopt that new mindset. So here are some of the things I found this week to thank God for.
1. The back roads to work
Almost every weekday, I drive to work. I choose the back roads over the highway. I always enjoyed it more because all other driving I do is highway driving, and that gets monotonous. The curves of the road plus the color of the grassy fields, the open sky unobstructed by billboards and signs, a clear horizon, a slower pace but fast enough that it isn’t too slow, the sound of only my car and not hundreds of others allowing me to hear birds and wind – this is something I adore. It gives me time to think and pray. It lets me sit without thoughts and just watch the world go by that I love. And I never once thanked God for it. I took it for granted, enjoying it without thanking the gift-Giver. So as soon as Monday was over and I sat in my bed reflecting on the day, this was the first thing I thought of and wrote down.
2. Scripture-rich music
I am always listening to music. “Christian” and “secular” both can be found on my iPod, but the most-played, especially of late, are the songs that are full to the brim of God’s word. Music speaks to me like nothing else. It’s how I pray sometimes. It’s always been how I best connect with God – musical worship. And because music is a gift of mine, I memorize songs very quickly. So songs like “Psalm 86” by Jenny and Tyler or “Good to Me” by Audrey Assad have been such a blessing. They get stuck in my head. I sing the lyrics when I’m on my own and they’re on repeat as I drive or sit and work on my computer. And since many of these songs are directly from God’s word, I’m memorizing Scripture, and that is so comforting. Just thinking about it as I write makes me say, “Praise God!” He knows me and what I need!
3. Love unexpected
I’ve been seeing this pop up everywhere. Surprises of God’s love through people. It’s incredible how God uses people to love me when I need it most – and they don’t even know it. I also wrote on my list encouragement from others because of how many people have spoken God’s truth about myself to me, especially in moments where I’m struggling to believe it. There are so many examples I could give – my coworkers, random customers at my work, relatives that I hardly ever talk to – but I would like to share one in particular where someone stepped forward with eagerness to shower love on me. I posted on Facebook that I was starting to work through the “One Thousand Gifts” devotional. A young mom from my church who I had previously never talked to commented minutes later that she had the actual book and wanted to give me a copy. She was so excited to share this with me, that the next day in church, she apologized for not having it with her and then drove to my house after the service to deliver it in person. She said that she wanted me to connect with her if I needed anything at all and told me that I was in her prayers. Wow. What a beautiful woman of God. I’m still amazed by the amount of love and service she so eagerly gave without hesitation. God sent her and worked through her in more ways than she knows.
4. This trial
Giving thanks in all circumstances. This one I struggled with. I still do. Sometimes I feel so ungrateful for what God is doing. But I have found that during this time, I am being drawn closer to God than ever before.
I find that when I’m not immersing myself in God and His word, I’m not having joy; I’m at risk of despair. When I am, there’s peace.
So I am thankful. Because He is fully satisfying in every way.
Closely tied to music. Next to singing, what’s the best way to express music outwardly?
I had the privilege to be in my sister’s wedding yesterday. Although it was difficult in many ways, the one time I was able to fully celebrate and be happy with her was during the reception as the music played. My friends, who are absolutely crazy, coaxed me onto the dance floor. I don’t know if I’m any good at dancing, but I let loose. I twisted, threw my arms up, cha cha’d, and swayed. I spun with the little kids and twirled by myself. I had a full smile. I forgot everything and just felt joy. I felt confident and alive and beautiful and did not stop until my feet hurt and I was utterly devoid of energy. I was sweating, but happy. Honestly, that was the most fun I’d had all summer. I was so in the present and… Just having so much fun! This morning, I am happily sore and thankful for the good memory and the moments of freedom from everything. And of course, I’m happy for my sister! That crazy, silly, ridiculous girl is now a wife. (I say that all lovingly.)
These are just the ones that really stood out to me, but there is so much more. My prayer support. I have a group of people who have come forward in my life that I can ask at any time to pray for me, and they will. And their prayers are answered. Prayer itself. Talking to God, but even more, listening to Him, has been a great blessing. Of course, coffee. My job and my coworkers. Fresh cold water. My pets. Even the smell of the devotional – cinnamon-y and homey. The list goes on.
Here is what else I’ve learned.
“If I’m ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no.”
This quote from One Thousand Gifts is exactly what I have done. When I saw this in myself, it was an epiphany. I wasn’t experiencing peace because I kept insisting on my own plan and desires. Living the yes, opening my hands to God’s plan, whatever it may be, is what brings peace.
The term eucharisto was something else I learned that I will continually remind myself of. This Greek word for thankfulness holds more than just that definition. It contains the words for “grace” and “joy” as well. Scripture supports this truth that in order to have joy, you must have thanks (Psalm 50:23). Thank for the graces of God leads to joy. When we live thankful, we live with joy. Grace, thanks. Joy. Eucharisto.
I will leave with this passage I discovered that has become my prayer. In my rebellious nature, I cursed God for His perfect plans. I mistrusted the One who holds it all. And although I still don’t know the end of my story, I know this – all my trials and hurt, as well as my joy and blessings, are for His glory alone. My life is meant to be a testament to His love and perfection and grace. And even though it’s all for Him, He wants me to have good, too. So I can praise and trust Him.
“I know that You can do all things,
and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees You;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”