In reading Lynne Baab’s new book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World (a very good book, by the way), I was surprised to see that she devotes an entire chapter of her book to asking, giving, and thanking. In the section on thanking, she writes:
[Our] consumer culture has influenced us in deep and profound ways, encouraging us to focus our attention on what we don’t have, rather than noticing what we do have. The sea of advertisements that washes over us encourages us to believe that we need something more… that what we have is not enough….
In this sea of advertising, noticing the great gifts God has given us requires intentionality and effort….[It] requires a shift of focus away from what we lack. Thankfulness is rooted in noticing what we have been given.
Those last words struck me. Thankfulness is rooted in noticing what we have been given. In other words, in order to be grateful for the gifts of our life, we first have to see the gifts.
Gratitude is an exercise in seeing, the practice of vision.
And crazy grace upon grace: the more I practice seeing, the more I am able to see. Seeing itself becomes a gift!
Sometimes, I confess, I choose not to open this gift. Sometimes, I actually want to feel angry, or superior, or envious, or sorry for myself. I do not want to see the gifts I have been given because seeing would take my focus off myself and how I have been ill-used or mistreated or overlooked.
But that is exactly when I most need the gift of vision. That is when I most need to see, for seeing shifts my gaze away from myself and what (I think) I lack and pulls my sight outward to the gifts I have been given and upward to the Giver of those gifts.
My gift list keeps my eyes open, keeps me noticing what I have been given. Writing down the moments, the gifts, the graces is an act of gratitude, my penned prayer of thanks to God.
1859. Old man reading his Bible, pencil in hand, jotting thoughts and questions in the margins, as he waits beside us for a seat in the cafe.
1860. Shanghai-rummy with the fam.
1861. Checking on the big kids and finding them all curled up with books in the back bedroom.
1862. Seeing old family friends today.
1863. My mom’s laugh.
1864. My mom!
1865. A beautiful drive up Highway 41 – rolling hills dotted with large, low rocks and spreading trees.
1866. Hot showers.
1867. Clean babies (hooboy did they stink something fierce).
1871. Clean skin.
1872. Clean hair.
1873. Clean clothes.
1874. This moment of glorious silence.
1875. Finally, a chance to journal!!!
1877. Catch-up time with Susan last night.
1879. Doug made the yummiest biscuits ever to eat with our tea this morning.
1880. Sleeping in my own bed.
1881. Pink leaves unfurling on our grapevine.
1883. The scent of mock orange blossoms.
For those of you who would like to start noticing what you’ve been given – or to make your noticing more intentional – Ann Voskamp has a lovely June gratitude calendar on which you can write down one gift each day this month. For those who are more ambitious, she also has a weekly gratitude booklet in which you can record seven gifts a day.