joy through gratitude

I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal on and off now for years. It wasn’t until the end of last year, when I read Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts, that this practice started to become a discipline.

The first week we received our “shelter in place” orders due to the Coronavirus, I kind of lost it. Overwhelmed by anxiety, and a bit of depression, I dropped all the things that had become part of my morning disciplines, including my gratitude journal. And I felt really lost. A few days in, I rallied, and realized that this time was what I had been training for. In her book, Ann talks about the “hard eucharisteo”, the hard, messy, difficult things that are hard to be thankful for. I didn’t love the shelter in place orders. I didn’t love that the appointments outside my home, that had become a lifeline since starting homeschool, had been canceled. I didn’t love that for the foreseeable future, the three people within the walls of my home were the only people I’d likely really get to see in person or get to hug. I didn’t love that date nights had been canceled, and that shopping for groceries and toilet paper had become significantly more complicated. But I could be thankful for this time and for all of those things.

To “love the bomb” is a different way of expressing this concept. I went hunting for this phrase one night, wanting to reread its explanation, and I stumbled upon an interview with Stephen Colbert. The interview ends with this:

It’s our choice, whether to hate something in our lives or to love every moment of them, even the parts that bring us pain. “At every moment, we are volunteers.”

Stephen Colbert, GQ article

I decided I wanted to love this moment. And I needed people to walk this journey with me. I started sending out a text every morning to a small group of women. This was over a month ago. A couple weeks in, the group grew and the challenge now involved a Marco Polo group. The challenges included an action item such as “listen to a song that makes you happy”, a theme of gratitude to write down, and a reminder to share at least one item with the group.

I did not expect it to have such a huge impact on my days. These amazing women began to share with the group what they were thankful for, and we began to fill a community gratitude bucket. On difficult days, the gratitude they shared made me smile and filled my heart with joy. And it reminded me of the things I had to be thankful for. I was/am able to do the same for them on their difficult days.

The responses to this challenge have been beautiful. I’ve received several texts telling me how much this challenge has helped during this time. Several women have said they’ve been asking their spouses and children the questions too.

In 1 Thessalonions it says to “give thanks in all circumstances”. Some translations say “in all things”. This challenge has become a lifeline for me during this time. I am learning the life discipline of giving thanks “in all things”, and it has and continues to bless my life with joy.