The Practice of Gratitude

Earlier today I finished reading Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts.” Her book is pure, beautiful poetry and to attempt to summarize it would be the equivalent of taking a box cutter to an oil painting to make it fit in a smaller frame. I’m not going to do it. I’ll simply say that I highly recommend her book. As a result of reading it I am trying to find all of the gifts that God has given me, all of the small graces which are poured out in the everyday moments, even the difficult ones.

Trying to sleep tonight has been a marathon. I have been awakened at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30. It is now 3:00am. The girls have had a range of issues: lost pacifiers, wet diapers, stopped up noses, hungry again… My exhausted mind goes through the list of problem solving when the baby is up crying yet again- does she need a diaper change? Is she hungry? Is she cold?

Coming up empty, my mind turns to the next automatic response of repeating scripture, the words, so well loved and repeated they fit like favorite jeans, and breathe life back into me. Tonight it is Romans 5 running coursing through my tired limbs,

“but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” Hope does not disappoint. What comes next?

I’m too tired to remember the rest. Why doesn’t hope disappoint? I cling to the words, knowing the promise is there. Why doesn’t hope disappoint? I grab my phone and look it up, I have to remember.

“because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Ah, yes! That is why we rejoice in our trials, that is why we find joy in the difficult moments, no matter how small and trivial. Because of God’s love. He loves me infinitely in this moment. These steps between my bed and the crib, well worn tonight, are hallowed ground. These are the steps in which I decide who to trust. Do I trust God’s love enough to find joy in this momentary frustration.

I am worn thin, but I start to count my blessings. I count each gift in this long night, and I come up full. Thank you for my nose nestled in warm baby hair. Thank you for baby tears, her wet cheek pressed against my cheek. Thank you for rocking chairs, swaying in a familiar rhythm of comfort. Thank you for my bed, waiting for me, because this time awake is temporary.

When the baby quiets for a half hour, instead of rushing back to bed with a self-righteous indignation that I have been denied a well-deserved night of sleep, I find myself at the computer typing out these words, because I have to remember. I have to write down these blessings, this moment of grace, because of God’s love. While the trials are small tonight, there will be larger ones in the future. If I can practice gratitude tonight, clinging to the promise of God’s love and hope that does not disappoint, then I will remember this path when the stakes are raised and gratitude is all that can sustain.

Thank you God, for these moments. Thank you for nights like this one, when I can learn to practice dependence on you. And it is true- hope does not disappoint! How could it when your love has been poured out into our hearts?