I have never been as eager for a year to end as I am for 2016 to be over. On the list of life stressors, we have hit several big ones. It has felt like I’ve spent most of the year in survival mode, and I am finishing it exhausted and depleted.
When I look back, I realize that a lot of the challenges have been good ones – two surgeries that completed my treatment plan and reconstruction, buying a house and moving into it, and beginning a new job. I wonder how I would have experienced 2016 had I made a habit of noticing and keeping a record of the many, many good things that happened. This year was chock full of grace, and too often I wasn’t paying attention.
As I was clearing out old files on my computer this morning, I rediscovered two random gratitude lists from several years ago. Reading those phrases unleashed the same small bursts of joy I felt when I first wrote them down. I spent most of 2012 counting “gifts” in journals and online, inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book and blog. The further I got into the practice of being thankful for even the smallest things, the more I could feel it changing the way that I experienced life and the world. Each time I paused to write something down, I was able to savor that moment of joy. My heart was often filled with appreciation toward the Giver of every good and perfect gift – and I was more aware of His presence.
I let myself fall out of the gratitude habit once I reached my goal of 1000 gifts. I have tried to pick it up again here and there – especially in desperate moments – but it was the regular practice that was so sustaining. We were designed to live grateful. I am longing to live in that space again – watching for flashes of grace every day and saving them in the pages of 2017.