Got Joy?

My friend and I started intentionally including more thanksgiving in our prayers a few months ago. We got the idea from Ann Voskamp in her book One Thousand Gifts. Voskamp’s premise is that when we receive God’s grace with thanksgiving, we experience joy. I knew that too often I take God’s lavish gifts for granted, and I wanted to show Him more gratitude. And who couldn’t use more joy? My friend felt similarly, so we bought each other pretty new journals, and took Voskamp’s challenge.

On our own, quietly, we asked God to help us be more observant. What were those everyday graces we were overlooking? Voskamp sees them in simple things like shaved cheese and soapy dishwater. I don’t see the world as poetically as she does. Still, when I asked God to help me live in the present more, to be more fully aware of His tangible demonstrations of care, I was surprised by what I started to see. Here are a few of the things I recorded in my journal.

  • An unscheduled Sunday
  • Dark roast French-pressed coffee
  • Central heating
  • An elk sighting
  • Sandpaper kisses from a cat
  • Snow tires!
  • A room with a view
  • Thai coconut peanut sauce
  • Young people who want to change the world
  • Joy in worship
  • A friend’s visit at just the right time
  • Heart conversation with my son
  • Specific answered prayer
  • A thoughtful neighbor
  • Les Mis and dinner with a friend
  • The breadth and beauty of the body of Christ
  • Special traditions
  • Fresh snow
  • Kindness from a stranger
  • Bleach that removes coffee stains from white shirts
  • Forgiveness that removes sin-stains from my heart
  • Inspiration
  • Belly laughs

As I wrote down each of those gifts, I thanked God for them, and I felt His pleasure—the same kind of pleasure I feel when a loved one enjoys a carefully chosen gift from me. Ah, so that’s the joy Voskamp is talking about, I thought.

But as it turns out, there was still more joy to come.

My gratitude-journaling friend and I often pray together—usually about pretty heavy issues. We had planned to get together last week to pray about yet another heavy issue when God gave me an idea. “Why don’t we bring our gratitude journals tonight?”

We did. Instead of praying about the hard stuff we’d planned to pray about, we shared our records of thanksgiving. And as we read them to each other, I realized the truth of the proverb, “A joy shared is a joy doubled.” Somehow, hearing all of God’s goodness to my friend over the past few months made me almost giddy. And getting to share mine with her, deeply encouraged my heart.

Need joy? Need a faith-builder in a season of heavy intercession? Consider taking the challenge with me: Count blessings. Ask God to make you alert to the gifts He lavishes on you each day. Thank Him for them. Enjoy His pleasure as you receive them. And if you want to double that joy, share the experience with a friend. You are pretty much guaranteed to bring joy to God, your friend, and yourself!

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