Grateful Notes

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Gratitude doesn’t always look like a day full of things to be thankful for.

Thankfulness is not always a list, not always conscious.

Some days I write two pages straight of things I am thankful for. Other days I don’t write a single word.

Gratitude when you can’t think of things to be thankful for, is worship. Worship is a step of faith. It’s a faith that says I believe in His goodness even when it feels like I am not experiencing it.

Worship doesn’t come out because things have gone well. Worship is given because He’s always worthy, and because I have learned that when I am full of the gratitude of worship, I position myself to see rightly again.

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What was Wonderful about September

Few books have impacted the way I live my daily life like Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I picked it up several summers back and it felt like she had composed an illusive song in my head. Appreciating the small things has always been a way of life for me, but Ann seemed to rub it into my soul till it really meant something. Her book is a journey to collect the ways in which He loves, documenting 1000 pieces of thankfulness. She shows us that joy is “always a function of gratitude, and gratitude is always a function of perspective.” The way she writes about thanksgiving is not as a quaint idea, but as an essential piece of life.

I dug into a journal the first day I cracked the spine of her book and began penning my own list of 1000 gifts that come into my life every day. By the end of the summer, my journal was fat:

18. Permission to not have to be good at everything
93. The smell of white toast and orange marmalade in the morning
101. The sound of gravel beneath my feet
143. Strolls at dusk with fresh apricots

I’ve had to fight for this celebration of life. In No Small Wonder, I wrote of losing the big picture:

I had let it become all hollowed out, all wrong way round. These little things will never give life. They are merely another way of seeing and appreciating the life everything is infused with because of Him… But when celebrating life becomes a part of celebrating and enjoying the God of all life, it is then that it becomes true gratitude. Then there is life and authenticity to it.

Now, 1556 pieces of thanksgiving later, it’s become a part of my daily life. Nothing makes for a moment of gratitude like starting a new month, so in celebration of October’s arrival, here is some of what I have loved in the past seasons, and a few of my photographs of what was wonderful about September:

copyright Amy Watson

copyright Amy Watson

148. The satisfaction of being able to put feelings and experiences to words and music
175. Wearing PJs to the breakfast table
186. The soggy, drenched inside bits of garlic bread
192. The crackling sound your ice makes when you pour water over it
195. The way cake gets better after a couple of days in the fridge
201. Counting down how many “sleeps”

copyright Amy Watson357. Relationships that are bigger than the mistakes you make
370. That first spoonful of Greek Honey yoghurt
430. People you are comfortable in simply being quiet with
460. The way commas allow you to extend your sentences
742. Watching golfers at the 10th hole outside our kitchen window
754. Filling the last page in a notebook
792. The feeling of a paintbrush on your cheek
808. The way a Dr. Seuss Book comes off your tongue
965. The echoes and acoustics of covered parking buildings
977. The sound of a teacup returning to its saucer
997. Three snuggled on a small red couch

copyright Amy Watson

1485. The way sweetened condensed milk in my coffee takes me back to mornings in Africa
1519. Remembering that people don’t have to change for me to forgive them

Enjoy October, and discover all that is wonderful about it!

No Small Wonder

My Converse All Star shoes are kicked off to the side, every drawer of my writer’s desk is open, and brown paper bags deconstructed lie across the floor below. Simple joys. A plaid shirt borrowed from my roommate is still giving me as much satisfaction as it did this morning, and I’ve finally found a ring to wrap around my thumb (I love the way the right kind of rings feel when you type!). Dinner so far has consisted of rice krispie treats–perhaps not a great choice, but a fun one. I invited a friend over the other day to make a pan with me, since it was an experience I surprisingly hadn’t had before. I’m now on my second pan, and enjoying the childlikeness of it all.

“They should use you in advertisements!” a friend exclaimed to me the other day. “For sunglasses?” I had asked in surprise. “For anything you enjoy!” We had been walking the Sacramento River Trail together, my gaze turned upward or outward–toward anything that fascinated me. She humored me as I punctuated our steps with appreciations for pink blossoms (which by the way, look extra spectacular against the storm clouds we’ve been having–the contrasting overlap of indecisive seasons!). I made an emphatic speech on how my vintage tinted sunglasses made the world look like my favorite time of day (last orange glows) all day long. It was only when she proposed (not seriously I think) that I take up advertising, that I chuckled at myself, and then was glad for how this agreed with me–this fascination and appreciation for the small experiences of life, even if a tad overdone at times.

You see, nobody had to teach me to find joy in the small things. It’s a quality I was born with. “Huge blue eyes,” my parents tell me I had. I look in the mirror. They don’t look any bigger than normal. My suspicion is that they only looked so big because they were open wide all the time–open as wide as my mouth, full of questions and exclamations, always excited. It continues that the tiniest delight or the “first” of anything, is deemed worthy of celebrating, experiencing with “full soul” contact. It parallels that a significant portion of the moments when I sit down to write, I simply want to go on and on about all the things that are right with the world–small things, overlooked things, things that can bring an everyday joy we are so prone to missing out on.

But there has been a piece of life lately when the flow seemed to be stopped up, held back, like a wounded, insecure actor backstage in life. My appreciation for small wonders was looking for reason to play its role on stage again. Not that it’s inexperienced, or ill-versed, just second guessing purpose. When I greeted 2012, I knew that it was going to be a year of great joy. “Joy comes in the morning” was the promise He spoke as I came out of some nights of tears and sorrow. That promise is scribed on a chalkboard above my bed as a 2012 daily reminder that each day is new joy. I liked this theme for the year. I was ready to go. I was ready to come alive at small wonders. I was not ready to sit back confused, second guessing them. An entire notebook of over 1,000 small things I had practiced gratitude for, lay before me as I reasoned with why it seemed that all these things were disqualified. “What’s the point?!” was what I was thinking but not wanting to admit. “Why is it that something so natural to me, something to theme a year by, appears as if it is in strained pretense of being meaningful?”

I took some time to align myself with the only thing that could draw a big picture in which little pictures make sense–the only One who could restore lost purpose. I didn’t have something to be fixed, just something that needed to be given place. So I walked until I came to one of the many white fences that verge our neighborhood’s dead-end streets, and the golf course that lies beyond. Fences are always a meeting place for me and God–a symbol whose explanation has small chance of making sense to anyone but myself. There I let Him tell me things. There was so much grace in that moment. Grace to see, to remember a faithful God, and to find bigger pictures. He didn’t speak to my questions about the little things, He just reminded me about the bigger ones. And yet I stepped away, and what He hadn’t spoken to, He had answered. Suddenly every bird song, the water running across the pavement, and every “senseless” observation, became an authentic joy.

I realized that the practice of enjoying and being thankful for the small things, aside from the One who gives all things meaning, is trite, and contrived. I had lost my big picture, and when that’s missing, everything simple is only frivolous. Attempting to find great joy within them begins to feel hypocritical and downright ridiculous. But when celebrating life becomes a part of celebrating and enjoying the God of all life, it is then that it becomes true gratitude. Then there is life and authenticity to it. It bubbles naturally out of a filled heart. I had let it become all hollowed out, all wrong way round. These little things will never give life. They are merely another way of seeing and appreciating the life everything is infused with because of Him.

I no longer feel quite so ridiculous when grasping a vintage mug of coffee gives me unexplainable joy in the morning, or feel hollow when I find a new use for brown paper bags. Once again I am appreciating the way peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can make you feel like you’re going out to explore the day as a child, rather than heading to work’s early start. Once again, when I sit down to write, the first words that come out of me are bound to describe some aspect of what was wonderful about today. Simple joys. For these delights are not alone and unfilled. They are today’s mini presentations of a much larger goodness. They are today’s opportunity to celebrate and enjoy God. In this they have the purpose of true gratitude and bring authentic joy. They are no small wonder.