The rise and fall of the sheet that catches the wind, or is it the wind that catches the sheet? It folds and curls like the crest of a wave until SNAP! the corner signals the journey's end.
Those wisps of hair on your sweet girl's forehead curl while trapped under the sweat of active play. The salt water beads that formed on her nose tell you her heart has raced in the pure abandonment of chase.
Last year I finally read a book given to me by a dear friend. It laid untouched for a few years. Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts".
I had no idea what a command decision that would be. It changed my life.
In short, through much anguish and childhood loss, a challenging physical disease and grief-induced mental illness of her mother, compounded by the whys of tragic events overflowing into every season of life, Ann had lost hope and joy. In her words, "I am woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall --- discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied." Joy was gone and Ann couldn't have cared less. Good riddance! It was then she was dared by a friend to document 1000 gifts, not those wanted but those already possessed. Casually implemented at first, a discarded piece of scrap paper held her first gratitude. "#1. Morning shadows across old floors."
I was so inspired that I made it my own personal challenge to document a chiliad of both ordinary and extraordinary little and big things throughout my days. It was to be my gift to myself for Christmas four months away. I had no idea what a command decision that would be. It would change my life.
It started very militaristic at first. I divided a thousand by 120 days. I needed to find 8.3 things to document daily in order to make my goal of December 25th. I spent the first few entries looking at the ceiling. (There's a lot of inspiration up there!)
#1 - The warmth of the sun on my face simultaneous with a cool breeze.
#6 - Beautiful journals for writing.
#14 - The animal/human connection.
#26 - Clean, cool sheets to slide into at bedtime.
This self-assigned task grew into a genuine search through both the mundane and uncommon parts of the day. Gifts were found in everything!
My gift awareness was on hyper-sensitivity.
#175 - Eyeliner done right, the first time.
#206 - The rotation of the earth, so I can enjoy dusk.
#348 - Stashed money, once forgotten, since found.
Some days were more productive than others in gratitude-chronicling. It forced my mind to think through my day, from feet touching the floor in the morning to bedtime. My vision was changing. I looked at every detail for which I had to be grateful.
#439 - A confused rooster, doing revelry at 9:00 at night.
#544 - Parks and breezes and kites and kids.
#608 - Giving yourself permission to smile after a horrible event.
Entries came a lot easier now. Why? Because my gift awareness was on hyper-sensitivity. My perspective on the ordinary, everyday little things ranked nearly as high as the extraordinary, once- in-a-long-while type of big things.
#710 - Holding hands while sitting on the couch.
#899 - When you can't tell if something is blue until you put something black next to it.
#992 - Watching dogs and kids enjoy bubbles.
#1000 - Being in the middle of my husband's hug.
Twenty days from the thousandth entry, I lost my father to chronic kidney disease. He had an extra nine months than what the doctors said he would have. I pondered that. 9 months. The amount of time to prepare a baby for life outside the womb. Could it be Daddy needed nine months to prepare for eternity? Maybe it was for us, we needed the time. To love, discuss, let go, pray. Maybe God was being gracious to us, allowing Dad's smiles and singing fill us to the full before he stepped into forever. What a good, good Father, God is. What a good, good father God gave me. Dad was ready and he said it many times before. "I thought I was supposed to die!" I heard him say more than once. He was the delight of his nurses. Visitors upon visitors came to say hello, even though in their minds they were probably saying goodbye.
At 11:45 p.m., December 7, 2018, Dad crossed over into eternity. His favorite nurse left the room very quickly for whatever reason and when she returned, Dad was gone. No fanfare, no crying bedside mourners. In the still of the night and the quiet of his heart he took his last breath. This was exactly how he wanted to leave this earth.
#1035 - Shared grief.
#1042 - Hugs from a daughter who sees your tears.
#1048 - Memories of mom and dad singing together.
Ann Voskamp reflects, "I pay tribute to God, by paying attention." In other words, by taking notice.
The result? The eyes widen, actively looking for what to thank God for next. Not only searching for the next gift but "seeing" that gift differently. Every morning began with eyes opening and feet touching the floor. The next morning, as I opened my eyes, I praise for the breath that comes easily. The next, the rested joints that support my weight. Same part of my morning, different gifts within that routine. The savoring of an everyday occurrence. There's unique gifts wrapped up in similar moments of the day.
Ann states, "This writing it down -- it is sort of like...unwrapping love." What we are doing when we document these gifts is actually recording all the ways we are loved by God. So true, Ann.
#192 - Breeze on the face. The "whoosh" of wind past my ear.
#225 - Dark chocolate in the morning. Before breakfast.
I am alive to feel the breeze activate the receptors on my skin, to hear the wind whistle past my ear. I am alive to melt chocolate on my tongue, guising it as the most important meal of the day.
#604 - When people love on my kids.
I get to watch my children blessed by others. They learn kindness and generosity in tangible ways and I feel my eyes well up as they reciprocate. The molding of pretty amazing humans by other amazing humans.
#816 - Not knowing what time it is.
Alive. Being so lost in a beautiful life moment that time slows to a crawl and our senses drink in the here and now; unaware of time's passing because we are basking in the pure deliciousness of making a memory.
#817 - Knowing what time it is.
Recognizing seasons, its beginnings, endings and its purposes. Making the most of the moments that tick by. Numbering our days so as to walk with intentionality and mindfulness, savoring every experience to the full. An awareness of time and choosing to spend it living well and loving well.
Taking notice is about seeing the many ways that God loves us, how He gifts us moment by moment with breath, a beating heart, a clear mind. How do we praise Him?
G R A T I T U D E
A mouth and heart set on thanking God for the miniscule and magnificent, the trivial and the tremendous, the small and the significant, cannot stay unchanged. Confessing and writing gratitude adds value to each gift's existence. Acknowledging these gifts helps buffer your heart and mind during devastating times. You see differently. This thanking molds us into different people with renewed eyesight. We see the reality of our blessings from the hand of the Creator who loves us.
Are you up for the challenge? Are you ready to start taking notice, perhaps a little each day?
O N E T H O U S A N D G I F T S.
You won't be the same.
Let me be to you like THAT friend of Ann's.
I DARE YOU.