I love Christmas! The joyful music, the decorations, the way we make time to show family and friends how much they mean to us, and the change in attitude it seems to bring to everyone. We dedicate time to the beauty and love in our lives, and it makes life more joy-filled for that magical season. Then January 2nd rolls around and the decorations are returned to their boxes and we go back to work. The house looks naked, the holiday music seems out of place, and the whole month seems rather cold and bleak.
Instead of focusing on the beauty of winter, it’s been too easy for me to let the problems of life take center stage again. But 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 the “gifts” in her life, had changed her outlook on life from anxiety to joy. The 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.
I have a tendency to worry and focus on what needs “fixing”, rather than what is positive and beautiful in my life, and I knew I could use a “reset” as well.
So 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 reminder of the certainty that I will 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 epiphany helped me realize a lie I had lived with for quite awhile – that I had to do everything right in order to be blessed.
But He loves me relentlessly, bringing beauty into my life every day.
After a while, when keeping the list became more habitual, I moved it to a journal, where I could record 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!