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I often struggle to truly be thankful and fully embrace joy, especially in times of suffering. I know it’s what we’re called to do and I know it brings immense peace and hope in the midst of trials, but for me, it just doesn’t come naturally.
I’ve tried so many ways to incorporate gratitude into my days, my prayers and my life, but it feels like a mind-thing and not a heart-thing.
So when I picked up the book, One Thousand Gifts, I thought it’d lead me on the same dry attempt at a life of gratitude.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Honestly, I’m only 3 chapters in and I’ve seen a powerful and heart-changing difference in the way that I am living and feeling.
Her dare is to live fully right where you are. No matter what is going on around you, to live fully-open and to fully embrace the grace that God offers.
I’ve lived most of my life only half-open to this grace. When you’ve been through immense struggle, grief, pain and brokenness, it becomes natural to live closed off to the possibility of pain.
But when you don’t allow yourself to experience the fullness of pain and loss, you will not be able to experience the fullness of grace and joy.
I don’t know about you, but I do not, in any way, want to experience the fullness of the pains and griefs of my life. I want to stuff them as far down and back as possible and live free of their burdens and sorrows.
What about you? Are you also afraid to experience the fullness of pain and sorrow?
But in every attempt to stuff away the burdens and sorrows of yesterday, I end up also stuffing the grace God offers in those moments.
So how did I come about this heart transformation in just 3 chapters? How can we truly be thankful and find joy?
Ann Voskamp talks about the greek word, eucharisteo. It means to be grateful, to feel thankful, to give thanks.
She talks about this radical and powerful mindshift that will bring joy and allow us to live fully.
Her dare to write one thousand things that you are thankful for both changed her life and is changing mine- and I’m only on number 62!
It’s not just a list of things that I’m thankful for, but a changed way of approaching life.
Normally, I struggle to feel thankful, because I am afraid of pain and struggle. But in living in this half-alive state, I’ve lived without complete joy and peace.
Claim Gratitude in Writing
So to begin, I want to encourage you to start writing a list of things that you are thankful for in your day to day. I write the big things, an encouraging coffee date with a friend, or the little things like the sunrise colors shining through my window.
As you cultivate this new mindset, you will begin to shift the way you think. The very way you approach each moment will change.
I’ve begun to notice things I never would have before. And even some things that I would naturally grow frustrated or annoyed with (yet another layer of snow on the ground), in writing them down and claiming gratitude, I’ve found myself actually grateful for them. Instead of being annoyed at the continued cold and the slick roads, my focus shifted to the reminder of God’s new mercies in a blanket of white snow.
When you write down the things you are grateful for, not just once, but consistently throughout the day, you will begin to see your heart shift. In claiming gratitude or eucharisteo, you will find Satan’s grasp loosen and joy fill you.
Learn the Language of Gratitude
Another powerful lesson that Ann Voskamp shares is about learning gratitude like a language.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life speaking a language of fear and self-protection. You may want to live out joy and abundant grace, but your actions and your thoughts reflect a fearful heart - fear of pain, suffering and grief. I’m afraid of the actual painful trials and I’m afraid of the reminders of them.
This language of reservation and fear has kept me from speaking the language God invites me to speak.
But learning a new language does not happen with a decision or a desire. It happens with dedicated perseverance and consistent hard work. And that is why it will take day in and day out of physically writing down the very things I am thankful for.
In doing this, I am rewiring my brain to feel thankful in each and every moment. It won’t always show such promise and many times it will remain a decision to choose gratitude, but God is changing my heart.
Embrace Grace Fully
To live fully will ultimately bring with it immense joy and immense pain. To fully love means to endure both pain and joy. But grace is promised every step of the way. God’s grace will be with you in the extremely hard times and in the insanely good times.
When you are facing your days, decide to live out God’s grace fully in each moment. Decide to embrace your heart, both the good and the bad, fully.
I hope that you will begin to learn to speak this language of gratitude and experience the radical joy that comes from a life of eucharisteo. And if you are encouraged to read the book alongside me, I hope you will read the beauty in the words of Ann in One Thousand Gifts.
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