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31Days to Keep a Tender Heart: October 11

 
I was having a hard time this spring and my mom encouraged me to read her copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
It was a beautiful and stirring book. Ann Voskamp tells stories of her life as a farmer’s wife, she paints pictures in your mind of what her experiences are like and she chooses sophisticated words to express her ideas. She also shares her pain with authenticity. That actually caught my attention more than the quality of the writing. I thought: here is a woman who has really suffered. But, she isn’t hard and bitter. She is tender hearted and gentle.
Ann Voskamp has a phrase “All is grace” and she attempts to live it. She opens wide her heart and her life to receive everything that God offers her, the blessings and the ugly-beautiful of pain and grief, with joy.
I was struggling with despair over my singleness at the time that my mom handed me that book. I think that she knew how much I needed the joy of the LORD to be my strength. And, I really did. I still do. The natural tendency of my heart is to harden to the aches and pains of this human experience. Giving into the hardness keeps me safe from further hurt, but it also protects me from the gentle rush of joy, the quiet filling of love and the pressing upward of hope. These are fruits of the Spirit that I want to make welcome in my heart and feelings that I enjoy experiencing.
I decided to start counting gifts in June and to write about them in my blog. I wanted to count to 1000 gifts like Ann did because I believe that she is correct and the practice of gratitude really does reduce feelings of depression and despair. I have counted 514 gifts so far and I have noticed a significant shift in my heart.
My perspective is different. I am looking for where God has hidden blessings especially for me instead of focusing on what’s not working for me. I count gifts when I’m driving in the car, when I’m running in the forest preserve, and as I’m drifting off to sleep at night. I get excited to tell my family and friends about the different gifts that I am discovering in my daily life. When I’m having a sad, angry or scared moment, I chose to count gifts until the feeling fades and a more comfortable feeling of connection with God and peace takes its place.
I have been surprised and pleased by how well this actually works. The practice of gratitude and counting gifts doesn’t ignore or minimize my pain. In fact, I think that the process of choosing to receive every single moment and circumstance as a gift from God for me affirms my painful feelings in a meaningful way. It gives them great purpose as I feel pain and decide to move toward my God with praise in response. My hurt feelings and disappointments are becoming the fuel for my worship. And, I know that my worship is real because I’m not doing it out of obligation, guilt or fear. In those moments, I am worshipping out of my intense need and desire for God. I know that His nearness is for my good and I need good when I feel pain. I am desperate for His comforting word of love and His fullness of joy which can surpass my injury. I feel better on most days and I recover more quickly on my challenging days.
I am becoming more convinced every day that praising God through the practice of gratitude is a joy-inducing habit.
Still Counting Gifts:
·         #515: Mom made us breakfast and strong coffee
·         #516: Leaning on God when I feel unable
·         #517: Receiving grace when I was at the wrong place and ended up arriving late by the time I had located the correct place
·         #518: Curling up on my office couch for a nap
·         #519: How God keeps giving me things to write about during these 31 days
·         #520: The arrival of my new and exciting Arbonne products

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