3. What books did you read?
First of all, you should know that I am listening to the SEC Championship as I write this. GO DAWGS! :)
Alright, I admit it. I have a love affair with books. I have mentioned this love affair before, and I continue to live in the wake of its draw. I did a quite a bit of reading this year, much more than I had in recent years past. Reading allows me to escape into another world and also to self-examine and find purpose within my daily life. When I was younger, I would read and re-read books repetitively, continually going back to the worlds I found so much more fascinating than the world in which I found myself.
Through the years, however, I have come to love memoirs. I find so much encouragement through the pages of others' stories- their trials and triumphs. And this year, there is one book that I have read that has stuck with me. I keep coming back to its theme and am continually challenged by its message. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is one of those books that will not allow you to stay the same.
The challenge to be grateful in every circumstance is one that I have carried with me through 2011. To know how to offer a sacrifice a praise and give Him glory in the hard things, to give Him the eucharisteo He deserves, is simply hard. But it is oh so good. And once you have started counting the ways He demonstrates His love, you just can't stop. Because finding examples of His great love in the otherwise mundane everyday is addicting.
Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning- now; wherever, meaning- here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here. Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be- unbelievably- possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now. - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
This is one of those books that I want everyone to read. I just want everyone to know the life that comes through genuine gratitude. I recommend this book to just about everyone who tells me they are having a hard time, and I want them to "learn to live fully right where they are." I started counting my 1,000 gifts in February and ended in March, and have since continued and lost count.
This school year, we have a prayer journaling time each morning. It is five minutes that I give the kids to write in their prayer journals, which is one thing that I do not read. It is simply between them and their God. I introduced them to the idea of hunting for gifts, and challenged them to see how long it would take them to get to 1,000. A couple of them have made it! And it is one of my greatest joys to watch them come alive to gratefulness.
I was privy to a conversation that went something like this one morning: One student has said to another, "How do you do that? How do you find so many things?" To which the other replies, "It's so easy! You just look around you! I thank God for a pencil, which leads me to school, which leads me to my teacher..."
If my kids don't remember anything about history, grammar, or math, I really don't care. But if I can teach them to be grateful, I've done my job. And I am grateful for that privilege and so glad that One Thousand Gifts was the catalyst.
Other books I really enjoyed this year:
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith
Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers
Christy by Catherine Marshall