Developing a Heart of Thanks

For a long time time now I have wanted to write and tell you about my favorite book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

I first read this book just over two years ago when my mother-in-law gave me the book for my birthday. I started reading it shortly thereafter and was completely drawn in by Ann's spiritual insight and expression of words through writing.

This book has changed my life because it has pointed me to the One who is worthy of my thanks and it has taught me to see that everything in my world has something that I can give thanks for.

I appreciate a writer who is transparent because I feel that it is the most effective way to help the reader bring about change in her life.

When I started reading this book it was the beginning of a change in the way I thought and viewed the world around me.

I'd like to share an excerpt with you from this book. Ann shares the story of a world-traveling aunt who had come to visit her family one day. Her aunt played a simple game of rolling a ball back and forth with her very young daughter and how the excitement and joy over something so simple was more amazing to the aunt than any of the wonders of the world that she had seen. Ann then shares,

"Eucharisteo [thanks] makes the knees the vantage point of a life. I shake my head, my quiet laughter remembering her glee, because isn't that how children live? Life as large surprise. A child has no expectation of a globe-trotting aunt bringing her extravagant gifts from the Orient, or a bouquet of flowers, or even a postcard. A rolling ball? Surprise! A laughing aunt? Surprise! Again and again? Surprise!

My mama, valley wise and grief traveled, she always said, 'Expectations kill relationships.' And I've known expectations as a disease, silent killer heaping her burdens on the shoulders of a relationship until a soul bursts a pulmonary and dies.

Expectations kill relationships--especially with God. And that's what a child doesn't have: this whole edifice of expectation. Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?"

She then shares how after she returned home after her young son's surgery and how the memories of all the hurting children in the pediatric wing caused her to look at "bedrooms and bathrooms and kitchen and fridge and windows and unmerited, luxurious health and I threw up my arms in giddy gratitude.

Here? This place? Surprise! I was a woman who saw what her life could well have been, a woman who didn't live by a deathbed or in a refugee camp or a war zone or the rubble of an earthquake. I laughed at the surprise of dishes in my sink and the wild surprise of turning on the stove to boil water and I swished toilet and I was healthy and I got to be here and do this!"

Can you see how living with this kind of outlook on life could truly change your life for the better? A heart that gives thanks is lighter and less weighed down by the cares of the world. Even in the midst of difficult situations, when we give thanks, our hearts do a 180 and face the brightness of the Son rather than the darkness of our trials.

"While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving. True saints know that the place where all the joy comes from is far deeper than that of feelings; joy comes from the place of the very presence of God. Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn't negate all other emotions--joy transcends all other emotions." --Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

What a wonderful habit to develop--training a heart to say thanks for all the little things. And when we take the time to write those gifts down we can look back on them some day perhaps even with bittersweet memories as we remember how God carried us through the sun and the rain.

"...counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me." --Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Although you can record those moments in something as simple as a spiral bound notebook, it is nice to have something a bit more meaningful to treasure for your family.

We have to work very hard these days at keeping our family united and a great way to do that is by spending time as a family giving thanks for all that we have been given.

That being said, I was more than happy to review the One Thousand Gifts: A Family Gratitude Journal by Ann Voskamp from Deneen, an independent consultant with Blessings Unlimited.

In this journal, my family and I record the things we are thankful for. After having read Ann's book, I had already been trying to remember to take the time at dinner to have us all share something we were thankful for. A journal like this will be such a blessing for years to come when we look back and our memories are flooded with the many moments of grace that were given to us as a family.

I keep this journal with my Bible so that when I sit down to read it I will remember to include a time of thanks in my personal worship time. At other times, I bring it to the dinner table and as our children or my husband share something they are thankful for, I write it down in the journal and put their name next to it.

And then the Lord reminded me that since it's our family's journal, I should let the older two children periodically write down what they are thankful for. Because I know some day, years from now, I'm going to treasure those thick-lined, Large Print Version gifts of thanks.

This journal is going to be a family keepsake for sure. Not only does it have room for you to write your personal 1,000 gifts of thanks, but it also includes Scriptures, quotes from the book, beautiful photos, places for you to include your own photos, pockets for holding keepsakes and even conversation starters for your family.

One of the reasons I blog is because I hope that in some small way I can impact families for Christ. One way I want to impact your family is by telling you about One Thousand Gifts and the accompanying journal.

We live in such a dark world, but as the Light of Christ dwells in us and we share that Light with others, the world becomes less dark, one soul at a time.

One of the results of living in the Light of Christ is having a heart of thanks. "For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true....And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:8-9, 20

I hope you will take the time to read One Thousand Gifts and use this Journal. I truly believe they will change how you view your life and your world.

"It's only when you live the prayer of thanksgiving that you live the power of trusting God. I had never known what the door of eucharisteo might lead me into--and all the fears it might lead me out of." --Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

If you would like to receive further encouragement, Ann also has a blog where she writes daily. I'd encourage you to check it out!  

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