When Bjorn and I were newly married, we lived in Virginia for 3 months for his army training. And. We. LOVED. It. Living that “army wife life” at Fort Lee was a hugely welcome breath of fresh air – a needed time for me to decompress. (Our summer in Virginia came right after our crazy first year of teaching – during which we planned our wedding AND got married in late March! So stressful!) That summer in Virginia was also the perfect time for us to build that special first foundational layer of our marriage, learning to do life together in a totally new place, with no family or friends around. It really brought us closer together and taught us to rely on and cherish each other.
I spent a lot of time reading that summer, reflecting on the past year, and looking ahead at where I’d be the next fall. I brought a book with me to Virginia called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and it honestly changed my life!
We still agree that that time in Virginia was the best summer of our lives so far. (We’re actually super nostalgic about it – we’re a bit obsessed with that state now!) Aside from being our belated honeymoon and a grand adventure, Summer 2014 offered me the chance to re-learn how to REST, to abide in Christ, and to trust Him even when I didn’t know the future. Living on base at Fort Lee while my husband had training during the day gave this introvert self of mine plenty of time to reflect and readjust my thought patterns to ones of gratitude. This book (and the space and the freedom and the sunshine – oh, the sunshine!) had so much to do with the changes wrought in me. I am so so grateful for the gift that VA was, and the way that God spoke to me in my time there. Life hurtles on at a crazy driving pace, but I never want to forget the still, small voice that beckoned to me on this lonely bench in the hot sun at the edge of the trees.
Holy joy lies in the habit of murmuring thanks to God for the smallest of graces. – Ann Voskamp
In Ann‘s book “One Thousand Gifts,” she explores the art of thoughtfully thanking God for the biggest gifts down to the smallest details. She begins to keep a journal in which she lists blessings or gifts she notices throughout each day – totaling eventually to 1,000 noted and recorded gifts from God!
Ann writes so poetically – it’s easy to get lost in that beautiful lyrical language of hers. She finds in this journey of listing blessings that her whole attitude and mindset change, and her faith walk with her Savior is totally reworked for the better! She challenges readers to keep a “1,000 Gifts” journal of their own, and I eagerly obliged, sitting on that sun-soaked bench outside of our army lodging. I began to haltingly, timidly list those blessings I saw around me. I began to notice details that brought me joy. I began to write. I began to learn how to see my life through lenses of gratitude and hopefulness, attentive to the beauty and small blessings around me. Her poetic wording is so inspiring (and I’m already a fan of poetry and imagery) so it began to flow more and more so.
“Real Life” came back. That perfect summer had to end. And my journaling stopped. It’s crazy to say this, but two entire years went by: first, a beautiful, joy of a school year. And then another, more difficult stretch of 9 months. “Real Life” has that frustrating habit of grabbing you by the shoulders, demanding its way, and fighting ruthlessly for all of your attention. Or, it simply knocks the wind out of you.
I didn’t forget about that journal, though. I’d bring it out from time to time, turning the pages and smiling as I recalled our beautiful first-summer-married memories and I instantly found myself brought back to the exact emotions of those moments in Virginia.
I’ve decided to pick up my “One Thousand Gifts” journal again. And this time, I don’t want to halt. I don’t want to stop tallying the blessings, big AND small, that God lovingly sends my way. I feel this need, this ache to record life through a new lens. I need a new perspective, one focused a heck of a lot less on stress and anxiety (don’t you hate those words?! I do..), and I need that new perspective NOW. But it can only come from God and it can only come from a stance of intention.
So I’m letting you know here, in my little corner of the internet, that I’m doing this one-thousand-gifts-challenge again and I’m restarting that intentional search for blessings all around me. I want that accountability…and I want to challenge YOU to do the same!
A Peek at My One Thousand Gifts Journal (the first 30 on my list):
- Sleepy morning haze with a peeking yellow sun
- Rattly ice cubes in a hot-day vanilla chai
- The wrinkled-hand touch of an old man to his wife, still attentive after listening to her all these years
- Impatient smiles before jumping airport hugs
- Rough terry towel for my after-shower face
- A tight ballet bun, twisted and perched on top
- A trusting toddler’s walk-run in a forward tilt
- His midnight arm wrapped safe and tight around me
- The soundtrack of invisible summer cicadas
- The weight of a camera’s lens before you twist the ridges to zoom
- Mourning doves’ morning syncopation
- Drinking soda from glass bottles
- His short, soft army haircut
- New pens
- Sandals warmed by sun
- Dogwood trees, nodding heavy with pink, white
- Frozen yogurt bowls with more toppings than anything else
- Husband forgiving easily, smoothly – better than me
- Talking sand castle strategy with gritty hands
- Quiet tea sips as morning breathes slow
- Sleeping clear and heavy through the night
- Cloudless days with a sky-blue hat
- Walking in sun to the grocery store
- This sparking ring set, my permanent covenant-hug
- Husband in white T-shirt and jeans, strong
- Laughing at our own amateur jokes
- “Mornin’, ma’am” hellos from strangers
- Happy coral summer toes
- Dropping movie theater popcorn on laps
- Storytelling with new friends
Regardless of if you end up reading Ann Voskamp’s book or not (and I really recommend you check it out this summer!), grab that empty journal on your shelf – you know, the one you’ve been saving for an unknown special purpose – and begin to list those gifts. You’ll find you’re more attentive to God’s provision and majesty in your life, and that beautiful little bud of true joy will begin to grow!
PS – Have a mental or written list of little “gifts” like these? Leave them in the comments below, or e-mail them my way! I’d LOVE to hear yours!