I had gotten this book for Christmas at least five years ago and read half of it then put it down and forgot about it. That happens way more often than I’d like to admit. It wasn’t that the book wasn’t good, just that it had served its purpose and no longer applied to my season of life. It’s funny how years later when I’m looking for a book on my shelves because everything at the library is on hold, how I found it again.
I had been feeling a disconnect with my spirituality. Something that happens at least once a year. As I sat in front of my color coated bookshelf looking at titles, rummaging through my Christian section, I found myself drawn to this book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. A book about learning to be grateful for what you have and to see The Divine in the smallest of things, good or bad.
I thought that I was appreciative of what I had, but I wasn’t. I felt that my attitude was getting better and my “quick to anger” was leaving, and that might be true with the help of meditation, but it still wasn’t gone. I struggled with liking my job, feeling entitled to things that weren’t going to happen, frustrated with people I didn’t understand and was in a constant state of feeling like I didn’t have enough or wasn’t enough. It was clear that something needed to change.
So I took Ann’s advice. I started a list. A goal of listing 1,000 things that I was grateful for to be in the moment, to see The Divine and to appreciate the life I was given instead of wishing for something that wasn’t going to be. I took out a small journal to carry with me through the day, one I had been saving for a special occasion, and this felt like the right purpose for it. Each day I would try and write a few things down on these pages in the morning or throughout the day. They started big because those were the most natural things to recognize.
1. My Husband
2. My b-weekly prayer group
3. A loving family
4. My grandmother who is still alive
5. My niece and nephew
But it didn’t take long for me to run out of the big things. They were the obvious things to be grateful for. What was amazing was that The Divine was in the details. In those small things, I found gratitude; I found myself more present. In those tiny daily presents, I was closer to The Divine.
You see spirituality doesn’t have to be a specific religion or even going to church on a regular basis (If so I’m failing). What it has to be is a connection to The Divine however you see or feel it. There is no right way, there are no one-size fits all approach, and there surely is no pathway to heaven. Just us connecting.
150. The feeling of being clean
151. Sunlight dancing through the trees
152. Flowers coming back from the dead
153. Change in the air
154. Finishing a book
155. Visiting the past
Everything that Ann discovered in the book about being grateful I too have discovered. It changes your mindset, it brings you peace and joy, and it leads you to The Divine. It’s the place I had been looking for. Don’t get me wrong though; this isn’t easy. In the three months that I’ve been keeping this list, it will get set down and forgotten. I’ll find it buried in a bag and think “I should probably write something down.” I’m at 300 pieces of gratitude, and while it’s not 1,000, it’s this slow process working its way through me. Reminding me that I have to practice every day just like anything else. I have to look for The Divine, and there I will find the peace that I am so desperately craving.
262. Dogs held like babies
263. Escaping the wind
264. A fresh ripe peach
265. Jean weather
266. Dogs heads out windows
As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, a holiday that is indeed my favorite, I encourage you to start your own list. Maybe it’s not 1,000 gifts but 100 or a practice of saying three each day. When you sit around the table tonight with the whole family ask everyone to share what they are grateful for.
In a time in the world where things feel uncertain, where we fear for the future and get caught up in the divisions of our society, this is the practice we need to root us. Saying the things we are grateful for to remember that it can always be worst and that we are still lucky to be alive. Gratitude will bring you closer to The Divine and in that place, you might find the answers you’ve been looking for. I know that I have found some of mine.