Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Count Your Blessings!

"Be careful for nothing; but in EVERY THING by prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known unto God." 
Philippians 4:6 (caps mine)
A little over a year ago, God placed a book in my hands that has changed my life, but the journey had actually begun more than eight years before that.  In January of 2004, my husband had emergency surgery and was on a ventilator for several days after the surgery.  The first thing he said to me the day they took the ventilator out, was how thankful he was for the life God had given him, how thankful he was for me, our marriage and our two children.  He went on and on about how blessed he felt!  While he was sick, whether he was in the hospital or at home, the challenges we faced were many.  One night as we were getting ready to pray, he said he felt we should begin our prayer time by telling God what we were thankful for.  That was a habit we would carry out until he died.  Shortly after he died, I was in bed one night having my devotional time.  As I was writing in my journal, I happened to glance up at the wall to a picture hanging there.  The picture was of a church located on St. Simon's Island in Georgia.  My husband and I had vacationed on that island twice and I fell in love with it.  It is one of my favorite places on earth.  As I was looking at the picture, I lamented that I would probably never visit that island again.  The Lord spoke quickly to my spirit and said, "Don't lament over what will never be, but give thanks for what was and is."  That was the beginning of my journey of thanksgiving.  I began to thank God for the 33+ years of marriage I had, for the great husband I had, for the fact that we were able to visit that island twice and then many more offerings of thanksgiving came forth.  Over the years since then, I have endeavored to cultivate a thankful heart.  

About 2 years ago, our pastor preached on a grateful heart and challenged us to begin a journal listing at the end of each day five things we were thankful for.  I began to do that and continued it for about 6 months.  At that point in time, I realized that I was doing it by rote and not from the heart, so I stopped.  Shortly after, I found this book - "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  What a gift this book has been!  It has expressed everything that I felt God was doing in my heart regarding thanksgiving.

Ann talks about living eucharisteo thanksgiving.  The kind of thanksgiving that challenges you to live in the moment, to recognize God in the moment, to give thanks in ALL things believing that God has given ALL things.  It's learning to abide in Christ through every moment of every day and give thanks!  Scripture says, " His presence there's fullness of joy." (Psalm 16)  How do we enter into his presence?  With thanksgiving in our heart. "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart.  I will enter His courts with praise." (Psalm 100)  Cultivating a thankful heart produces such joy, genuine joy, the fullness of joy that Scripture talks about!

Ann also shares in the book the challenge that she was given by a friend to count "one thousand gifts" that God gives her on a daily basis.  Her book was born out of this challenge and she shares what God did in her heart as a result of meeting this challenge.  I started my own count last year but have been doing it more regularly the last few months and this fall we have been going through the Bible Study video series Ann offers based on this book.

I can't begin to tell you the difference this has made in my life.  Finding God in every moment has definitely been a challenge, but it has opened my eyes to so much that I've been missing in life.  It has brought a fullness to my life and joy to my heart.  Recognizing the gift of God's love extended to me in all things as I go about my daily life - even, oh, especially, in the mundane and rote activities of daily life.  Suddenly, they don't seem so mundane at all!  And He is found in ALL things when you are looking!
Today is my husband's birthday; he would have been 66.  While I think his years on earth were much too short, I know God's plan is perfect and I accept that.  I celebrate his life today, giving thanks to God that in this life, I was loved by Phil.  I rejoice in the blessings God gave me in the years I had with Phil and I rejoice in the many blessings He is giviing me today and those he has yet to give me.  Part of Phil's legacy to me is, I believe, the legacy of thankfulness; the gift that was born out of his death.  I rise to the challenge of finding those 1000+ gifts in the days ahead!!

Join me and count your blessings, too!


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