I have told my kids over and over, we are blessed beyond measure. Sometimes it is to declare this amazing truth, and other times to remind us, because life can be hard and it is easy to forget. Many years ago I started on a journey of joy. I did not know it was a journey. I did not see the dots connected as clearly as I can now. Sometimes an AHA moment seems to appear in an isolated piece of time but usually it is connected to many other moments that prepared your mind and heart to see. Gratitude has been that. 2010 I stumbled across a blog that was balm to my soul. Its background was black, there was beautiful piano music, beautiful life pictures, and great quotes along with thoughts of a woman with a deep, thoughtful soul. She was counting gifts and recording them on her blog. Within the year of me finding the blog aholyexperience, Ann Voskamp released her book One Thousand Gifts which has been so impactful in my life and others. I highlighted much of my copy, gave away many copies, had a book discussion for the ladies of our church, and started buying everyone gratitude journals and challenging them to number their gifts. The numbering ended up being the key to solidifying the discipline of giving thanks and measuring my days. It helped me to see gifts and be thankful for others no matter the size or significance. I had kept gratitude journals before, I had read books on gratitude and joy. But upon reading this book it seemed new and fresh. Her words connected to my soul and gave me a fresh perspective on joy and gratitude.
Apparently, a few years earlier I had read, He has made me Glad by Ben Patterson. I recently found the quotes I had saved from that book. Many are similar to the ones I highlighted in One Thousand Gifts. I laughed when I saw that. How dense must I be. Thankfully, God’s mercies are new every morning, and each day is full of His faithfulness. All is grace. I went looking for the origin of that phrase. I was thinking it was Spurgeon. Upon a google search it turns up being said over, and over by so many saints that I admire: Elisabeth Elliot, Brennan Manning, Martin Lloyd-Jones, Therese of Lisieux, the Apostle John and many more. Seeing all as grace is a key component to what had once seemed to be the elusive joy. But as Ben Patterson stated in his book on gratitude, “Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning. And as gratitude follows grace, so joy follows gratitude, for joy is what we feel when we are hugely grateful.” You cannot have any of those without the other.
For me the piece that has helped me to see was keeping a gratitude journal and numbering the gifts or graces. As I watch the number grow, and as I see things that I would normally have glanced over, my heart grows more grateful, and as my heart grows more grateful, my joy multiplies and spills out. When I get away from this habit, I notice that my eyes start seeing the dark and hard as more powerful than they are. They easily distract and become my filter of seeing the world. I start complaining and get frustrated easier. For me, practicing gratitude, choosing to write down and number all the many gifts, helps me to see better. There are plenty of studies to confirm it, and many books that suggest it, but actually doing it has refreshed my soul and increased my joy. “The pattern runs through scripture… Genuine gratitude must necessarily be joyful. The greater the grace, the greater the gratitude; the greater the gratitude; the greater the joy….” (Ben Patterson)