One Thousand Gifts Book Study, Part 3

This past week has been filled with emotion for me; sometimes it’s really hard to be a parent—whether your children are toddlers or young adults. It’s incredibly easy, one might say almost natural, to take on their pain, their hurt, their disappointment, and make it your own. You wonder where you went wrong when they make poor choices or cringe when they display an unpleasant character trait that resembles that flaw in you. Sometimes it can be hard to see past the difficult stuff to remember that your kids are one of life’s greatest gifts.

In chapters 7 and 8 of the book One Thousand Gifts, we dig into the ugly—the things that often blind us from beauty and separate us from being grateful. We let stress and anxiety overshadow situations and we forget to focus on the joy that can be found in every situation. Author Ann Voskamp quotes another in chapter 7 when she says this, “Learning slowly to not be reactionary while inserting verbal gratitude into stressful situations is almost like being healed of mental blindness. I have begun to ‘see’ again.” Reading this quote was an awakening for me; I don’t want to be overburdened with stress, I want to experience joy in every situation. I want to be able to “see” beauty—see Jesus—even in the ugliness life sometimes brings.

The Ugly Beautiful
We all know what the ugly things are in our daily lives: a sink piled high with dirty dishes, a teenager who comes home with a speeding ticket, or a test result that confirms an unwanted illness. Every day has its share of the ugly; the things in life we’d rather not face, deal with, or ask for. Yet even in the midst of the ugly, God is there. If we look for the beauty among the unpleasant things of life, we can see and experience God’s grace. Dirty dishes reveal a family with food on the table, a speeding ticket teaches a lesson in the law and safety, an unwelcomed diagnosis confirms the love and support of family and friends.

The ugly, and we experience it every day, can be transformed into beauty when we give thanks. Voskamp says it’s not that we have to change what we see, only the way we see it.

Trust In Me
I’ll always remember a life example our pastor used in a sermon one Sunday. He placed his two-year-old son on the highest choir riser on stage and began talking about trusting in God, the Father. In a split second, he turned to his son and told him to jump and without hesitation, his little boy leaped off the riser and into the arms of his daddy who was standing off to the side. No hesitation, no doubt, no fear. That little boy knew his daddy would catch him—he had absolute trust in him.

Then came the lesson—that we need to have the same kind of trust as a young child. After all, don’t we have a heavenly Father who is always there to catch us?

So, why is it so hard to have that childlike faith and trust? We let the ugly take over—the stress, anxiety, and disappointment in life clouds our hearts and temporarily blinds us. But when we look through the lens of gratitude and give thanks in every situation, our hearts are opened to that childlike faith and trust.

Think On This
What are the “ugly” things in your life today that can blind you to beauty? Why do we often let stress and anxiety rule in our lives? How can you insert more verbal gratitude into stressful situations this week? What area of your life do you need to “jump” and learn to trust with a childlike faith?