Ann Voscamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, was one of many prompts that seemed to be coming from every direction a few years ago to start a gratitude journal. It began as a list that filled one notebook. And has now spilled into this wonderful little journal that chronicles five years’ worth of entries. I love journaling but I’ll be honest and admit that the dated pages on this journal initially made me feel nervous. I have to write every day? (Insert irony as I do tend to journal every day already . . . you would think this would be a natural outpouring, but I digress.)
I decided to make this into a gratitude journal and started filling the pages in late 2011, right before we quit our jobs and moved from our world in California to Oregon. The journal chronicles interviews and apartment hunting. The hectic packing and the prayers that we would make it safely through two mountain passes with our moving van in late January. The new jobs. Searching for a church. Finding out we were pregnant. Honestly, it is amazing to see what God has done in the past three years. I often forget all of the thousands of little things He has provided for us, and if I didn’t write them down, they would have been lost forever.
I love this particular journal but you could also make your own gratitude notebook by using any blank book or journal. You could write a list of five things you’re thankful for every night before bed or write one or two sentences in the morning. I recommend dating the entries because it is always fun to look back at them and think, “Wow, that’s where I was a year ago today.”
You could also choose to take photos of what (and who) you are grateful for—keep them for yourself or upload them to Instagram for a visual reminder. Make mini sketches of the good and beautiful things in your life. Keep your eyes open to see what God is giving you each day. So many times it is the simple things that start adding up. A hot shower. The sun shining. A sweet hug from your little one.
For me, it is a practice in worship and gratitude itself just to read the older entries in my gratitude journal. No wonder God was forever telling his people in the Old Testament to remember. We forget so easily how good He is! We forget our purpose and direction and the hope we have (or can have) in Him. This little journal pulls me back into that Reality. When the dishes haven’t been done and the day has been long, I pull out that journal and read a bit and I can hardly help but smile.
I take a deep breath and think back through my day, sifting through everything to find the (often many) moments of beauty. And then I write.
It’s been a couple of years since I wrote this post, and my five year journal is now finished. I’ll readily admit that it is way more meaningful and precious to me than all of the other books we own. Those few sentences each day over the years have ended up being a treasury of the journey we’re on together as a family.
Think about what five years could chronicle for you. What’s particularly interesting is all the small moments I recorded . . . my daughter splashing in puddles with her new boots, a quote from a book I was reading, a heat wave on New Year’s day in Southern California . . . these are the moments I would have completely forgotten had I not taken a few minutes to write them down.
I was going to buy another five year journal but when I saw the cute happiness journal (pictured above), I couldn’t resist. There are tiny illustrations throughout, and though it is “only” three years, I think it will be perfect.
Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?