Friday, June 24, 2011

Gratitude in the Midst of Nitty Gritty Life

I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, but the title alone intrigues me, and the book pops up everywhere I look on the internet. Plopped down in a city of 4 million Muslims, I am worlds away from Ann’s Mennonite farming country, but her One Thousand Gifts website has touched me with its message of gratefulness and wonder over God’s gifts.

Petty complaints and giant obstacles

To be honest, when life gets tough and things go wrong, my tendency is to complain, worry, or feel sorry for myself. I love the unique cross-cultural life and ministry God has given us, but it’s easy to get bogged down if I focus on daily frustrations like:
  • No central air conditioning with summer temperatures of 40 Celsius
  • Equipment and furniture that break frequently due to a lack of quality control
  • Trying to organize my time among people who do not plan
  • Occasional water, electricity, phone and internet cuts
These are petty complaints I’m almost ashamed to mention, but the greatest challenge is slow work that often seems like three steps forward and two steps back in a hard land.  Response to our message of hope is slow.

I don’t want to miss out on God’s gifts

Even though we face obstacles, I don’t want to miss out on the joys of the life God is giving me now.  Ten years down the road, I don’t want to look back and realize that I can’t remember the myriad grace gifts of God and the joys of raising a family because I was focused solely on the challenges of serving in a Muslim country. I want to be present each day to receive God’s love and grace and to give him thanks for His gifts. 

Years ago someone challenged me to thank God for 5 things every night before bed, and last month again God convicted my heart about cultivating gratitude.  I’ve been encouraged by the 1000 Gifts dare: “Ann invites us to embrace every day blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts.” (her website) I see bloggers everywhere are making lists of things they are thankful for, so I decided to make one myself.  Every morning before my quiet time, I write down 5-7 things I’m thankful for.  Here are some examples:

109.  My 14 year old son playing guitar as we worship together as a family

110.  My daughter, who styled my hair the other day and did a great job

111.  My husband, who serves all of us in so many ways

112.  Dear friends and a sister who generously gives her possessions, money, and spiritual encouragement

113.  The garlicky deliciousness of Turkish green beans cooked in olive oil, tomatoes and onions

114.  The chance to put my feet in the Aegean, squish my toes through the cool sand, and listen to the waves come against the shore last weekend

115.  The daily presence of God, whose love and mercy never leave me

116.  The slow but steady advancement of God’s grace touching lives here

I’d like to say that making this list is transforming me into a more grateful person, but I’m not there yet. I have to confess I still complain, but my 1000 gifts list is helping me to open my eyes and reminding me to enjoy my blessings.

Have you read One Thousand Gifts?  What did you think? If you haven’t read it, leave a comment about what you’re thankful for today.


Anonymous said...

This is a good word right here! Thanks for sharing your heart--both the frustrations and seeking to be thankful in the midst of them. That's what it's all about, hhhmmm?!
Legal Alien

Linda said...

Bless you for recognizing the grace-gifts in the midst of challenging circumstances! You have encouraged me to do the same!


OliveTree said...

Yes, I need to remind myself of this constantly!

Karin said...

Oh Betsy it is a great book. It touched my heart so deep. It helps me in the evening when I water the garden to not forget to smell the water on the dry ground.. and wet my feet and smile. I started making a list and keep reminding myself to keep it going. Especially now....

OliveTree said...

I'm glad the book encouraged you. I can't wait to read it myself. I've enjoyed opening my eyes to God's gifts like you describe.

Josh and Kelly said...

Yes- her book, and her blog have been transformational in my life! I don't know that we would have made the transition to Uganda with such grace and ease and joy without it!