This photo of the city of Jaipur, India, is my view through the window of my hotel. It’s what I see right now as I write. I think it’s lovely and I want to share it with you!
There was a time when I had difficulty seeing the lovely in life. It was at a time of great disappointment. A time when I thought I had found my “thing”…my life’s purpose…only to have that door slam shut.
Actually, there were multiple events that were disappointments. These were the things that were not as they “should have been.” Things like unexplainable infertility, miscarriage, divorce, and chronic pain. A single trauma could be difficult to get through, but collectively they were crushing my spirit. I began having feelings of hopelessness.
In those dark days, I thought I just needed to “get over it” or try harder at diverting my attention from the growing sadness inside. Sometimes I had a little success. However, I couldn’t figure out what it was that was making the difference in those moments. It didn’t stick.
Then a mentor friend recommended a book called ”One Thousand Gifts.” Author Ann Voskamp shared her battle against depression in this beautifully and poetically written book. In the book, she tells of being challenged to create a log of one thousand ”gifts” or things she was grateful for. Based on her testimony of success I decided to give it try.
You can guess what the result was…
I found I had so very much to be grateful for!
This list was quite easily accomplished, actually. I made it a part of my morning ritual, keeping a physical list in a small spiral notebook.
With time, the practice began to leak into other parts of my day. I found myself carrying that notebook around with me. It was no longer the thing I was doing to push back depression, it was the thing I was having fun doing! Fun!
If that wasn’t plenty, I also learned that I have a choice in what I count.
Do you remember me saying that it was the collection of the disappointments that was crushing my spirit? That’s exactly what I was doing…collecting pain like a bouquet of dead flowers. I had developed a habit of looking for pain! Why would I do that?
I believed I could avoid pain if I spotted it first.
There is no truth there. Pain is a part of this life. You move through, not around it. Please hear me! Counting your blessings in no way discredits pain. It might feel as though the suggestion to look at the lovelies is a “buck up” attitude. Not so. I am suggesting that we can choose to focus on one or the other.
Why take an accounting of the ugly when we can fill lists with lovely?
At the same time I was filling my journal with ladybugs and steam curling off my coffee, Jeff, my husband had a scripture he was keeping in his car.
Philippians 4:8 says:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
The scripture Jeff was meditating on tells us to fix our thoughts on the good stuff! Did you know your mind can be fixed? Hear my double meaning? When we fasten our thoughts on truth, on lovely, on all those praise worthy things, our minds get well. Fixed.
I can personally attest to that healing!
Yet getting something to stick…forming a new rut in roads already worn… takes effort. Consistency.
For several years I worked as a bookkeeper, tallying debits and credits, reconciling the columns to the penny. Let me tell you, withdrawals are painful, but the quantity of deposits we receive from God far outweigh the other! And God never meant these two lines to balance out.
Once I began to focus…to fix on true, right, lovely things, I couldn’t help but note that there was imbalance! The good far exceeds the bad.
Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)
Like Author, Ann Voskamp, who took photos of her one thousand gifts, I enjoy photography. Every picture captures a moment in time that I want to remember.
You know, though, I don’t save bad pictures. I delete them. What an illustration! There are plenty of images from my past that need either some serious editing or to be deleted altogether. Continuing to look back over how something or someone has hurt me continues to fixate on the pain. Only every time I choose to replay those events it’s me who is hurting me!
It’s hard getting real with myself, acknowledging mypart in pain. But being healthy and joyful and untethered to all that is so worth it!
Like you, I am on a journey, figuring this stuff out along the way. In no way have I “arrived.” Nor do I want to. I want to continue becoming a new person.
Time has passed and the lighting has changed on the view out the window.
Where are your thoughts fixed?
As a new day begins, count a blessing. Take a photo. Share a smile with a stranger. There is lovely everywhere!
To check out the works of Ann Voskamp on her website: https://annvoskamp.com