On New Year’s Eve, my boss, Dorothy, laid a bright blue spiral notebook on my desk. I slipped my thumb under the front cover and turned to the first page, the quiet crack of the card stock separating from the paper it protected.
“A new notebook for a new year,” she said.
This was a challenge.
Several years ago, Dorothy read a book called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. Recently remembering it sparked her to buy the entire staff a notebook and a copy of the book. The challenge was this: to chronicle 1,000 God-given gifts, no matter how big or small, by the end of 2019. It could be a good meal or beautiful flower, a credit card paid off or sweet baby laughter. The first chirp of a bird when spring arrives. Family. Common things. Uncommon things. Silly things. Serious things. Any good gift from God.
Honestly, at first, this sounded cliché. It’s so easy for me to gloss over those sticky-sweet quotes — the ones that friends on social media post almost daily. I mean the quotes dressed in beautiful fonts slapped on a well-edited photo of some snow-covered trees. You know ... those graphics that say things like, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” or, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.”
Ugh. Give me a break. The quotes never really have anything to do with the background they’re plastered on, and they kind of make me want to throw up, but I digress. If those kinds of things help you, that’s great. More power to you. For me, it’s “thanks, but no thanks.”
However, I think there’s actually something to this “Gift List.” In the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life before he was crucified, he did a strange thing. In Luke 22 we find the account of the Last Supper, where Jesus brings his disciples together to have a meal together. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.”
Originally written in Greek, the word for “he gave thanks” is “eucharisteo.” The root word of eucharisteo is “charis,” meaning grace. Jesus took bread, saw it as grace and gave thanks. Also found in eucharisteo is “chara,” which means joy. Isn’t that what we all long for? More joy? It seems that deep “chara,” or joy, is found at the table of euCHARisteo – the table of thanksgiving.
Voskamp writes, “So then, as long as thanks is possible, joy is always possible ... Whenever, meaning now. Wherever, meaning here.” In every circumstance, in every season of life, joy can be found if we can focus on giving thanks. To say it better, joy is found when we see God in the here and now.
So, I’m making a list called “One Thousand Gifts in 2019.” I’m filling it with things that Philippians 4:8 talks about. That verse says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I definitely want more joy. I definitely want God’s grace. I will definitely be intentional in giving thanks.
Dorothy, if you’re reading — challenge accepted.