“Encouraging Words for Today” – August 2, 2011


By Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Making a “Thankful List” is nothing new to me…I’ve been doing it since childhood when our list was the ‘ticket’ to Thanksgiving dinner. But, of course, knowing we should practice gratitude every day and even every moment, I have in recent years become more intentional about thanking God for everything – both big and small of life. Poet George Herbert (1593-1633) once prayed “Thou hast given so much to me. Give me one more thing — a grateful heart.”

     In order to cultivate my Grateful Heart this year I purchased a bunch of very small page-a-day books, printed labels with the names of my husband, kids and a few friends, and gave them out – suggesting that Every Day of 2011 we all write One Gratitude to God. The intent was to live with an attitude of gratitude and that by the end of this year we could all look back at many, many blessings (at least 365!) Well, it’s now the eighth month and I am still writing my daily blessings (as is Mike – I know that because I live with him). Don’t know if anyone else did it and it really doesn’t matter….

So when I recently began to hear chatter about a “new” and “wonderful” book by an unknown (to me) author which focused on a Thankful List of “One Thousand Gifts,” I’ll admit I wasn’t running out to buy it immediately. Still, after getting tired of seeing so many folks carrying that book around airports, waiting rooms and (gasp) retreats where I was the speaker, I finally gave in and bought the book, planning to read it during my ‘working holiday’ in Bermuda.

Full disclosure here: I am now a  huge fan of Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts.” Honestly, if I had the money I would buy gift copies for all the people I love. I really can’t explain why it touched me so much except that Ann (a farmer’s wife and mother of six) sees the world and God through amazing word pictures she is able to write with such simplicity and poetry that the reader is literally transported. Even her gratitude list makes mine look like a mere grocery list….but that’s okay, because God is glad to be praised, no matter how eloquently. Or not. I guess just knowing others out there are ‘listing blessings’ gives validation to my own need to express daily thanks to the Giver.

Listen to what Ann hears God saying while holding her sleeping five-year-old daughter:  “All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends. Did you think I end, that I will not be enough? But I am infinite, child. If My goodnesses toward you end, I will cease to exist, child. As long as there is a God in heaven, there is grace on earth and I am the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing-love-grace.

“I wrap a thread of her curls around a finger. I stare into that face conceived in love, reflecting love, and I feel His fall soft on me. I am child in His arms and His breath falls warm upon my face and what I feel for this daughter He feels for me, and the gifts, all these gifts I keep counting, they are His love gifts and they’re slowly waking me up to the tenderest, fiercest Love of all.

“Cradling this child, her eyelashes fluttering, her breath rising and falling in sure and steady rhythm, I know it in the pulsing, real, surest kind of way: ‘Perfect love casts out all fear.’ His love has done that.

“The table still needs to be cleared. The bowls washed. The bread put away. Snow falls in the dark, white on a barn roof. I can’t imagine what deep layers of my wounds eucharisteo will gently peel back to heal, but I take her sleeping hand and trace the lines of her skin and I keep on counting blessings to keep on remembering to keep on walking out into the unknown.

“I clutch soul bread and a Perfect Love that knows no end.”

(Ann Voskamp, “One Thousand Gifts” pages 161-162) 

I’m probably one of the very last people to finally read this book, as the author has a very interactive website and blog and speaking/serving ministry (somehow in addition to her homeschooling six kids and working a farm…) But if for some reason you haven’t read it yet, I hope you will. And I hope we all will continue to list thousands and thousands of gifts we experience every single day as God’s Beloved children.  In fact, you can even Click to download an August Gratitude List Calendar from Ann here   Or you can do what I did and spend a dollar for a little 3×4 booklet that lasts a whole year.

I’m so glad I got over myself and finally bought and read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I would certainly like to meet her one day. We seem to enjoy all the same authors.  I totally agree that I have been given far, far more than I deserve. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote:

                Here dies another day

           During which I have had eyes, ears, hands

         And the great world round me;

      And with tomorrow begins another.

                   Why am I allowed two?

under the mercy,


©2011 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
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2 Responses to COUNTING GIFTS

  1. Michael McDowell says:

    Dear Cindy,

    I grateful for your giving me a copy to write “One Gratitude to God” each day . . . I have been writing more than one! 🙂

    With love and gratitue,

    Your husband Mike

  2. maggierowe says:

    Beautiful post and great photo illustrations, Cindy. And I appreciate the Gratitude Journal you gave me personally. I have heard of this book but have not read it yet either. I will have JOrdan buy one for me from his store. The quote from Chesterton is wonderful. It is crazy but I am struggling with guilt that I am alive and my friend and former co-worker Esther is not. Yet my faith tells me she is more alive than ever. Still, I grieve the sudden severity of the loss for Mel. Lord have mercy on us all.

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