Two weeks ago I began the challenge of finding 1000 gifts from God. Last week, I posted some of the things I had gotten on my list of thanks as well as things that I learned so far on this journey, which you can read here. If this is the first post you’re reading, I plan on posting updates weekly and would love for you to join me in finding 1000 gifts! There’s a follow button at the bottom of the page and a “Connect” page you can get to by clicking the link at the top, where there are some ways you can connect with me. I would really love to hear from you and be able to encourage one another.
This week, I reached 142 gifts. For those doing the math at home… I don’t really know how much more that is. *Sheepish grin…* :) Math is not one of my strong points. Oops.
Anyway, something I noticed this week were that some opposites that were coming together on my list.
137. Good friends
109. Billowing clouds
126. Clear, blue sky
These made me smile. I love the beauty of the paradox. God gave us rain and shine, noise and silence, and we can be thankful for and enjoy all of it.
God gave us happy, good times; He also brings us to times of suffering. I believe that it’s possible to be thankful for both. It is all from God. It is all good.
There are three thanksgivings this week I want to focus on that I learned so much from. The first one is number 63…
63. The ability to bless others
I was advised during this time to love outwardly and invest in others more purposefully. It isn’t easy to do at first when you’re hurting because it takes energy and effort, physically and emotionally. But I found opportunities being sent to me to reach out and serve others, to sacrifice my convenience to better another. I found how strengthening and encouraging it is. And I didn’t feel pride because of something that I had done, I felt purposeful and honored and blessed because I was being used by God to bless another. To be able to see God work through you is a heavenly, uplifting experience. It brings instant joy and, as I quickly realized, gratitude for His goodness.
69. Answered prayer
This one was so significant to me, I wrote it down twice! (Discovered that happy accident and fixed it later.) When I wrote this one down, I wasn’t just thinking of the answered prayer from others. What put my pen to paper this time was when I was listening to my playlist of encouraging music, specifically, “Called Beauty” by Jenny and Tyler. Now, this song has always meant a lot to me. It talks about being a prodigal child and choosing the world’s dirt and filth over God’s riches and beauty, yet we are still valued as priceless in His eyes. I’ve sung this song a thousand times on my own and for other people, and each time I sang it, I made the bridge my prayer. “O, do not spare the rod, how I long for faithfulness. Tell me once again of Your grace and woo me in. Let not these lovers be more attractive than You, God. Remind me of love, remind me of You… Jesus, all of You.”
Do not spare the rod… When I heard this song recently, I saw that my honest but naive prayer was answered. God stripped away the things that I was holding on to and putting before Him, and the rod hurt. I am still healing, but it brought me to my knees in faithfulness. How I long for faithfulness. Even before it happened, I knew in my heart that having God first, no matter what, was best. That I would only be happiest if I was fully in Him. God answered my prayer, I am finding again that He is all I need, and I can testify that God answers prayers. And that is good.
115. Second chances (redemption)
How I came across this one was special. Of course, I had always been grateful for my redemption in Christ. But I saw it in a new way on Friday. I had a long shift at work, and it was stressful. I hadn’t started my day right, either. I wasn’t focused on God and gratitude towards Him as I should have been. I’d pretty much set myself up for misery. During the busy work day, I thought I could handle being strong and having a good attitude on my own, but it didn’t take long before I was complaining, cranky, and seeing things in that too-familiar pessimistic light. My feet hurt. My coworkers were stressed and tense. After work, all I had to look forward to was babysitting until very late. This is going to be such a long day, I kept repeating in my head.
We got through the day. I maintained my cool and left, relieved to have the first part of the day over. I turned on my playlist in the car and saw my thankfulness journal on the seat and realized how horrible a mindset I had adopted. I felt exhausted from work and now discouraged from my failure. I drove home and crashed on my bed. I looked for what to be thankful for. My failure in mind, I wrote this one down. I’d fallen so short, but the day wasn’t over, and tomorrow was a new day. I was already forgiven and redeemed.
That night, I was met with new challenges. The kids were tired from a long day at the beach and a little on edge. Thankfully, the time between work and babysitting was just enough to prepare me for the night. I mentally noted teaching opportunities for my list when I had to teach the middle child to share with the older sibling. The older sibling, unsatisfied with the lot given by the younger, became angry and refused to accept discipline when a bad attitude became out of control. The struggle lasted for quite a while, but thankfully I was able to spend time with the two younger children while the older spent some time alone. I noted The youngest’s tiny voice as this 2-year-old spoke adorable, broken sentences to me with an excited smile, and The middle’s silky hair as I combed it through after a bath. Finally, the oldest accepted the discipline needed, and I received an apology, perhaps a little half-hearted. This child had just learned to read and offered to read me a story. I felt such pride as I listened to the words of a simple book come slowly but surely from that young one. The moments of peace after the storm showed the love between us, and I was thankful. Later, all four of us sat on the couch reading stories before bed. Completely out of the blue, the oldest said, “Emily, I’m sorry about everything.”
My heart broke from the beauty of the moment. “I’ve forgiven you already, honey! I’m not mad at you. It’s okay. We’re having a wonderful time now.” I immediately saw myself in this young child. I realized I was yet a child myself, unhappy with my lot, rebelling against the discipline I was receiving for actions that deserved it. I later wrote The ability to forgive in my journal, but thanked God a second time for the many chances to start over He was still giving me.
I’m learning to recognize every moment for its beauty. As I said last week, this takes focus. I need to dwell on His goodness and truth with every breath. Every little thing that makes me smile inside is from God – the reliable ticking of the clock, the gentle warmth of the sun, full leafy trees, birds taking dust-baths outside the window at work. And I want to testify to the joy it brings when you look for these gifts. Thankfulness in every circumstance brings joy in every circumstance, every single time, without fail.
Joy. Something that I’ve always struggled to grasp, and am now feeling so deeply each day I simply set my mind on His goodness.