Remember that scene in White Christmas, where Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney are sitting around the cozy fire, late in the night? And he sings the song full of sage advice: "When I worry and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings"? It seems this is a concept that is timeless.
Like usual, I'm about a year late to a popular [fill in the blank] and this time it's a book that I've heard about for months and month and finally got for Christmas. THEN finally started reading at the end of January. It's called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. To be perfectly honest, her writing style is a bit much for me. It's very poetic and lovely, and I lean more towards straight-shooters who are self-deprecating and make sarcastic jokes. However, the content of this book has been extremely valuable and inspiring to me. The basic gist (in my paraphrased summary) is that this woman, who loved God and her family, found that she had an underlying foundation of sadness and discontent, partly based on some major losses and hurts in her life. She went on a journey to practice "eucharisteo" or living in a state of thanks and joy, in her daily, mundane life. (Basic Greek translation is charis: grace; eucharisteo: thanksgiving; chara: joy) She dared herself to find 1,000 small or big things she was thankful for. Her list (so far, I'm only about 1/2 way through) includes things like moonlight on the pillow, her kids' laughter and the beautiful grated cheese for her dinner. You might laugh, but the challenge to examine these small blessings in order to live with more fullness and contentment is striking a chord with me. I haven't literally started a list (I plan to soon), but I do find myself being more aware of small blessings, gifts from God for which I stop and thank Him.
"[giving God glory for cheese] might seem trifling. Even offensive, to focus the lens of a heart on the minute, in a world mangled and maimed and desperately empty. I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light into all the world."
It definitely takes practice, the discipline of constantly finding things for which to be thankful. But it's an exercise worth cultivating. Last week there is one that stands out to me. It was the witching hour, between 4:30 and 6:00, when we are waiting for daddy to come home and save us from ourselves. I'm usually tired and irritable, trying to get dinner ready and stave off hungry children biting my ankles and/or destroying each other and the house. But last Tuesday, something was different! My oldest, often the instigator of all kinds of discord, rallied his two siblings and decided they were going to put a box by each person's bed so we could deliver valentines to each other during the week. I gave them a bunch of boxes and he helped label and distribute them, and then he and Sydney started working on making cards for the upcoming holiday. This simple act of thoughtfulness and teamwork blessed my socks off, as I was smiling in the kitchen. We reaped the benefits of their work on Thursday morning at our Valentines Day breakfast, and his card to me was the icing on the cake. (See picture below.) So what about you...how difficult would it be for you to truly incorporate this practice into your daily life?
My apologies for the lack of shirts. It was first thing in the morning and Asher and I are the only ones who wear PJ's around here.
Best card ever, right?!