Give Thanks In All Things
“How do you do it?” I was asked.
“How do you choose joy?”
I thought back to that cold, dark, damp floor, during that cold, dark, damp season of life. That night when I sat on the bathroom floor weeping. That night when the weight of being disappointed by friends and feeling betrayed and abandoned by God crushed me. That night when the only thing that willed me to life, was the life (lives we would later discover) within me.
How - in a strange place, newly pregnant, under difficult circumstances, with no home of our own and no finances to get one – how would I have found joy, let alone chosen it?
Joy had been such an elusive pursuit for me. Just when I would think I had grasped her, she would run again, chased away by the latest difficulty.
The most recent time, however, when I found myself slipping, I was determined not to fall into the pit of darkness again. I remembered how easy it was to get in, but how I had to fight what felt like forces of hell to climb out. This time, I told people, who could check in and pray before I fell in. This time, I found a different path.
As I prepared to go on a personal retreat, I kept coming across the book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. If something comes up enough, I take it as a gentle nudge from the Lord. It was.
This book was written for women who know the truth of “Do not be anxious for anything, but in prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6), but struggle to live it out. It is for women who have lived a bit of life and have discovered that it often swallows them. It was written for me, and perhaps, for you.
I love the complicated simplicity of how Ann suggests we can find and choose joy, by eucharisteo – giving thanks.
It is that simple. Yet, difficult to consistently practice.
“How do I fully live when life is full of hurt?”
The pathway to finding joy is to choose to give thanks in all things. To develop a habit of thanksgiving. To realize that in any given day, God has given us gifts – both large and small.
The ability to see the trees as they change colors is a gift.
Hear the laughter of a child.
Feel a cool breeze that blows on a warm day.
The reflection of the sun as it sets beyond the horizon.
And yet, we often miss them. And in missing the gifts, in ignoring them and taking them for granted, we miss out on joy, on miracles. Ann noted that in scripture, often times giving thanks preceded a miracle. Jesus gave thanks, and the fish and loaves were multiplied. He gave thanks, and Lazarus was raised.
So, she issued a challenge (one that was also given to her), to be intentional about finding and recording the gifts found in life, one by one, up to one thousand. The habit of giving God thanks on a regular basis, can overshadow the difficulties. Not erase them, not ignore them, but put them in a proper perspective as it helps one live an abundant life.
So, as we approach Thanksgiving, I ask you to join in this challenge. Find a little notebook that you can easily transport (you may be surprised by where you find gifts). Start the journey. Slow down to take notice. Begin recording your one thousand gifts. One by one. Short phrases are all that is necessary. Nothing is too big or too small to be recorded. If it captures your attention or your heart and puts a smile on your face, write it down. And give thanks.
Blessings on the journey, and Godspeed on your pursuit of joy.