I love gifts. Don’t you? Tearing into the shiny paper, plopping the sticky bow on top of your head, your eyes wide with surprise as you discover what’s inside.
I love presents and holidays and colorful, metallic bows.
What I don’t love is camping.
I’m just not great at it. Growing up, my parents traded in road trips for air travel and tents for room service — so needless to say, spending three months in the bush of Africa this year wasn’t necessarily in the center of my comfort zone.
Africa is incredible. It’s beautiful and captivating and completely rewired my heart —giving me a capacity for love beyond my wildest dreams — but it was also really hard.
The days were long and hot and my heart felt heavy as I crawled through them — frustrated by discomfort and feeling like I’d be there forever.
I really needed a lifeline.
And that’s when I met Ann Voskamp.
I didn’t exactly meet her, as much as I was introduced to her book, ‘1000 Gifts, a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.’
And it was that book that changed the way I see God, forever.
The concept is simple really — you make a list of things that you’re grateful for.
It’s simple — but the implications are profound.
As Ann counted gifts, as she took the time to zoom in and notice God’s goodness and the intimacy with which He created her everyday, she found herself getting to know Him in a whole new way.
Noticing His fingerprints showed her so much about the God behind them, and before she even explained the concept fully — I was in.
I got a tiny little notebook, made by beautiful Tanzanians with special needs (out of recycled elephant ‘dung’ — I'm 1000% serious) and began to count.
Sometimes the gifts were teeny — a cup of coffee or twenty extra minutes to sleep.
There were moments in Africa that I think I would have given up — if I hadn’t been so busy scouting out His goodness.
And God knew that. He also knew that ‘counting’ was the best way for me to actually notice the little life rafts and presents He was tossing my way each day- revealing the depth of His love for me and His endless faithfulness.
These days… those gifts far behind me… I’m finding myself in desperate need of a life raft.
I find myself barely scraping by — only allowing myself to really fall apart when the lights are off and the phone stops ringing.
Sometimes I write out of the soggy leftovers of joy that were hidden in the back of my fridge, saved in some Tupperware from a happier day.
Sometimes I love out of a place of not wanting to disappoint and not wanting anyone to see my selfishness.
And sometimes I’m only running off of coffee and the fumes that I scrape together in my restless sleeps at night.
And that is just not the way that I want to live.
I don’t think that it matters at all what God’s asked me to do — what He’s made me to do — if I’m not who He’s made me to be.
He made me into a little girl who loves bright colors and wears sparkly rings just because I can. He made me into someone whose day can be made by a sweet text message, a rich cup of coffee, or a really good laugh. He gave me eyes and ears and a heart to delight in the world He gave to us, and if I’m not doing that, then I’m missing the mark.
I want to live and work and love out of the overflow of joy and peace and delight — not with bags under my eyes and pressure weighing on my chest.
So here’s my plan of attack.
It’s time to bring back the gifts.
It’s time to zoom in and look for God’s fingerprints.
It’s time to notice His creation and to delight in it — snuggling up to Him and whispering ‘Thank you’ in His ear.
And it’s going to have to be intentional.
Gratitude and zooming in and taking the time to notice doesn’t come naturally.
Stress happens automatically — not delight.
And so that’s my mission.
Will you join me?