While I was still a classroom teacher, about 23 students and myself would sit cross-legged on the old, blue carpet in the corner of my room- the corner near the window. The students would take turns reading aloud a certain piece of writing. For those teachers out there, a.k.a. Author's Chair. After reading aloud, the student would call on two classmates. The classmates' purpose was to share two things they appreciate about the writing and one thing that could be changed to make it better. Every year (with some classes it felt like every day!), a student would comment on the shared writing in this manner- "I appreciate all of it." I would quickly intervene, "Now 'Paul,' you need to be specific. What is one specific thing you appreciate about 'Rebecca's' writing? One thing I appreciate is how she described her brown dog- 'as brown as hot chocolate.' Her descriptive words clearly paint a picture in my head! Ok, Paul, let's try again. What is one specific part of her writing that you appreciate?" Paul's response, "I like her beginning sentence because it makes me want to read more because I want to find out how she lost her brown as hot chocolate dog." "Excellent! Now Rebecca knows exactly what you like about her writing! Hopefully she will continue to use these techniques in future writings."
How does that simple story relate to God and One Thousand Gifts? My mom reminded me of a passage in Ann's book that discusses how easy it is for people to paint a big, sloppy paintbrush stroke of thanks over their entire life - "Thank you, God, for everything." This does nothing to draw us to the heart of God. We do not form a deeper understanding of the love of our Savior with this mind-set. I imagine that God feels like I did as the teacher - "I want to hear specifically what you love that I created and gave you!"
What did my paintbrush strokes look like prior to reading One Thousand Gifts? Wide. More or less I focused on the large blessings in life. As I mentioned earlier- a loving husband, healthy little girl, safe home, financial blessing, etc. I feel like I have always been an overly thankful person, but not for the microscopic details of my daily life (and especially not the difficult times). Beginning to write down 1,000+ gifts with a narrow paintbrush has opened my eyes to the gifts right in front of me that I may have previously overlooked. Is it tedious and do I sometimes feel silly? A little. However, I see the big picture and I desire to grow closer to God as He is constantly inviting me to Him.
James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." By specifically counting His gifts, I am on the road to drawing closer to His heart.
And finally, let me leave you with a quote from Ann Voskamp, found in One Thousand Gifts,
"This act of naming grace moments, this list of God's gifts, moves beyond the shopping list variety of prayer and into the other side. The other side of prayer, the interior of His throne room, the inner walls of His powerful, love-beating heart. The list is God's list, the pulse of His love- the love that thrums on the other side of our prayers. And I see it now for what this really is, this dare to write down one thousand things I love. It really is a dare to name all the ways God loves me. The true Love Dare. To move into His presence and listen to His love unending and know the grace uncontainable. This is the vault of the miracles. The only thing that can change us, the world, is this-all His love. I must never be deceived by the simplicity of eucharisteo and penning His love list."