I love Christmas and the joyful music, the way we prioritize showing family and friends how much they mean to us, and the change in attitude it brings to most all of us. We spend more time thinking of the beauty and love in our lives and it makes us more joy filled! Then it’s over and January can be rather cold and bleak. And it can be easy to let the problems of life take center stage again.
This pattern changed for me a few years ago when I hung a giant Post-It pad on my pantry door.
I had been reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts and how creating a list of things she was grateful for had changed Ann’s outlook on life from anxiety to joy. This practice of keeping a “gratitude journal” has also been scientifically proven to raise the level of happiness in the lives of those who keep them.
With my tendency to worry and focus on what needs “fixing”, rather than what is positive and beautiful in my life, I knew I could use a “reset” as well.
I started the list in a journal, but it was not visible enough for my forgetful self to remember every day, so I bought this pad of paper – two feet wide and two-and-half feet long – and hung it in the kitchen. It was hard to miss.
Initially, my first entries were the more obvious blessings:
- Children to love
- Parents who pray for you
But quickly they changed to things that I took for granted:
- My grandmother’s wedding ring on my finger
- Laughter on the screened-in porch
And then I started looking for them. And it was not difficult to record at least three every night.
- Breakfast with Andy
- A pink sunrise
- Taking a Bible class with Allie
- Rain that makes the gutters sing (some were more poetic than others!)
Interestingly, a number of them are food or food-related:
- Coconut Cream Pie
- The smell of bacon cooking
- Mexican food (I don’t know what it says about me that this is number six!)
And many are about nature:
- Chick-a-dees at the bird feeder
- A sleeping cat curled on the bed.
- Bright orange pumpkins.
But most were about people:
- An “I love you” from Kasie
- Meals made with the family
- Game night with the 20-somethings
- Shopping with Allie
- A visit from Jill
With many repeats:
- Laughter around the table
- An unexpected call from a dear friend
And answered prayers:
- An opportunity to heal a wound long forgotten
- Epiphany’s that relieves you from a lie
- Friends with godly advice
What I found as I recorded my gifts every day, was that
the list was not the purpose of the exercise. It was a catalyst to change my mind-set.
My list was documentation of a pattern of beauty and joy, and evidence of God’s goodness and faithfulness in my life.
And as I recorded the blessings of the day on the ever-growing list, I became more aware of God’s presence in my life, because “All good and perfect gifts are from above.”
And that awareness became my default instead of worry and fear. The possibility of God in the middle of misunderstandings or chaos relieved me from having to “solve all of life’s problems” and turn to Him for help instead.
The knowledge that I would find Him in every day has brought peace and insight.
The List is also a reminder that many of the things I have to be thankful for, are not in my control. This has also been an epiphany as I have been so sure I had to do everything right in order to be blessed.
After a while, when keeping the list became more habitual, I moved it to a journal, where I could record all of the evidence of goodness in my life before I went to sleep.
But I’m thinking of bringing the pad back to the kitchen this new year – where the blessings that are “new every morning” greet me each day.
Have a joyful Year!