Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
When my wife and I first got married, I had this wild, romantic notion to keep a secret thankfulness journal for her. Here’s how it was supposed to work. Every day for a year I planned to write down one thing I loved about her. Then I would surprise her the next Christmas with a year’s worth of appreciation. I imagined when she opened it, she would swoon, kiss me and then cook me a really nice dinner.
Women love that kind of stuff, right?
So I went out one blustery January day, bought a pink, girly journal and began what I thought would be an easy way to score major points in my marriage.
The first week was awesome. On day eight, however, I had a slight problem. I ran out of material. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like my wife isn’t great, but after about seven days, I thought I had written it all down. I am a guy, after all. We’re not exactly wired for sensitivity and emotional intelligence.
My journal went something like this:
Day 1 – You’re pretty.
Day 2 – You’re nice.
Day 3 – You’re pretty nice.
Days four through seven were more of the same. How in the world was I going to fill the other 51 weeks? Surely I could come up with something new to say. I am a writer after all. I have an English degree for crying out loud. Words are supposed to be my thing.
Maybe I could just give it to her as is. Here you go, honey. Here’s one week of wonderful things about you and plenty of blank pages for you to write about how much you love yourself.
Hmm, somehow that didn’t seem like the best idea either. I had backed myself into a corner and couldn’t see any way out. On day eight I was ready to toss the thankfulness journal into the trash.
But then I had an eureka moment that made Archimedes’ bathtub discovery look like child’s play. I realized that I was doing this thing all backwards. When I sat down to write in the journal, I was reflecting on the previous day, but nothing stood out because I hadn’t been looking for it.
What would happen, I wondered, if I went into each day searching for something I liked about my wife? What would happen if I sought out a quality to admire in her like a miner prospecting for gold? The funny thing was that as I started to pay attention, I began to see things I had totally missed before.
It was like one of those funky 3D pictures that you have to stare at for few minutes before the image appears. Not only did I discover something new to be thankful for in my wife each day, but frequently I found multiple things. Soon, my journal began to overflow.
I was learning to focus what I call my gratitude vision.
The more I discovered, the more I appreciated her, and the more I appreciated, the easier it was for me to see the good stuff. Even on the days we fought, I still came back to that journal, and it forced me to record the things I didn’t want to think about when I was pouting. It reminded me that I’d married the best girl in the world. God used it to correct my attitude over and over again.
At the end of the year, I gave her the journal. And yeah, she loved it, but I knew I’d really given myself the best gift of all, the ability to see in advance the things for which I would later be thankful.
What would a year look like if we all kept a thankfulness journal for our lives? What if we went into each day looking for the things for which we would later be thankful? What if we went prospecting for the good gifts of God each and every day? Would it change our attitudes? Would even our worst days glisten with diamonds in the rough?
I wonder if, just as my journal helped me fall more in love with my wife, each of us would fall more in love with life itself and the God who generously gives it.
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how sharp is your “gratitude vision” right now? Is it easy for you to think of things you’re thankful for or do you struggle to come up with much?
- What could you do to sharpen that gratitude vision? Keep a daily journal? Set a reminder on your phone? Spend more time with grateful people?
- Who is one person you are thankful for today? Why? How can you let them know it?
God, thank you for being so good to me. Please give me a grateful heart and help me to pay attention and appreciate the blessings I experience every day. Amen.
For more Thanksgiving and other fall devotions, check out Tales From the Leaf Pile, a Holiday Road Devotional, available now in paperback and ebook on Amazon.
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