We can all point out things we’re grateful for—but have you ever given thanks for a thousand things? Join author Ann Voskamp as she shares with host Mike Farris how she began her journey to count a thousand gifts. That’s today on Home School Heartbeat.
Mike Farris: Today I’m joined by Ann Voskamp, who is the author of the delightful book One Thousand Gifts. And she’s also the homeschooling mom of six children. Welcome to the show, Ann!
Ann Voskamp: No, thank you so much for grace. It’s a privilege to be with you!
Mike: Ann, in your book, you describe how you chose to count 1,000 things to give thanks for. What inspired you to do this?
Ann: Well, actually, it was just before Thanksgiving, and a friend dared me to write a list—a list of 1,000 things that I loved. So I grabbed a scrap piece of paper, began jotting down things that I loved just during the day.
And I realized that it really was a dare to write down a thousand ways God loves me—just through common grace: the gift of sunlight across the floor, blue jays calling high up in the pines, and through Christ’s grace, the gift of salvation through the cross alone, the comfort of His presence, that never leaves nor forsakes. There’s just all this crazy love, this crazy grace.
And research actually indicates that if you write down what you’re grateful for, it increases your happiness by 25%. And who doesn’t want that? And God’s word says (1 Thessalonians 5), “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Who doesn’t want to know exactly what God’s will is for them?
So it was this dare that was really worth taking—a dare to fully live.
Mike: Ann, in addition to blogging and writing books, you’re also a full-time homeschooling mother. How do you find a balance between your service to your family and your service to others? And I’m going to ask you the question, but I know the answer anyway: do they ever collide?
Ann: I think there’s really three things about that balance, Mike. Number one: simplicity is never a matter of circumstances; simplicity is a matter of focus. So in the midst of educating and parenting our children, we can’t necessarily go ahead and make everything fit into neat, controllable, simple schedules. But the point is, simplicity is: how do we keep our eyes fixed and focused on Christ, no matter where we are?
Number two, life isn’t an emergency. Christ is in charge of every moment of the day; nothing catches Him off guard.
And number three, grace, is the most amazing of all. Because yes, Mike, parts of our lives do collide. We live in a broken world, and for the life of me I can’t get it all right. But we serve our family and these amazing children. This is our gift back to Christ. And, then with this family, we go out and serve the world together—us all reaching out. And then we take our service, our very best offering of obedience, to our Savior, and we offer it up to Him. And Jesus takes all our broken messes and He makes them, by His grace, into a mosaic of grace.
Mike: Ann, you’re one of those really profound people that can influence anybody who listens to you.
Ann, homeschooling parents can get discouraged as they try to juggle daily life. Both of us can relate to that. How can practicing thankfulness encourage them?
Ann: Actually, Mike, we had a university study happen through my blog, AnnVoskamp.com, and they found parents that would go ahead and participate in this study, and each of the parents were asked to compile a list of 10 things that they were grateful for. And when the parents then experienced moments of stress throughout the day related to parenting, they were to reset their thinking by verbally expressing gratitude.
And by the end of those 40 days, the results of the study indicated that there was a startling 53.2% decrease in stress. Not only did the stress decrease significantly, but the more the parents expressed gratitude, the less stress they actually experienced.
So when God goes and asks us to “give thanks in all things, for this is His will for us,” what He’s actually asking us to do is—thankfulness is a proven stress intervention for parents. So going ahead in the midst of the stressful circumstances and giving thanks in that moment—you can’t simultaneously feel stress and gratitude at the same time. So as a parent, to go ahead and start to give thanks to God resets the whole family.
Mike: Ann, I give thanks that you’ve shared that with us.
Ann Voskamp, who is the author of One Thousand Gifts and just a delightful person to talk to. Ann, you now have a devotional book to help those who want to see God’s grace all around them. Will you please share how you recognize God’s gifts to you?
Ann Voskamp: Oh, three things, Mike, and it’s really simple. Number one: pick up a pen. John Piper says, “I know not how the light is shed, / Nor understand this lens. / I only know that there are eyes / In pencils and in pens.” Can you pick up a pen and begin to see all God’s gifts—the laugh of a child, the light in the trees, hot apple cider after dinner? Number two, pick up a pen! Martin Luther said that Satan hates the use of pens. Satan doesn’t want you to pick up a pen and begin to see all the everyday common graces of a good and sovereign God. Number three, yes, pick up a pen!
These days with our children are pure gifts from the loving hand of our Father. We write down the grace of these moments as a record, as a testimony of all the ways God has provided and blessed. This is the way we leave a legacy—1,000 gifts written out as a testimony to the unending, unfailing goodness of God. So it’s just simple: pick up a pen, and begin to declare His goodnesses right where we are.
Mike: The greatest desire for many is to teach their own children how to give thanks to God for His gifts. How would you share how you teach your children thankfulness?
Ann: Oh, Mike, there’s five reasons why to teach kids to be grateful. Research says, number one, children who practice grateful thinking have better attitudes. Number two, they have better relationships. Number three, they have better grades. Number four, they have better attentiveness. Daily gratitude intervention with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of states of alertness and attentiveness. And number five, they’re better sensitivity. Children who kept gratitude journals were more sensitive to situations where they could be helpful.
How do we do it as a family? Three ways: number one, we have this little booklet that folds up—one piece of paper that folds up—they stick it in their pocket, called “Seven Gifts (Good & Perfect).” All day long they’re looking for seven gifts they can write down and share at the dinner table. Number two, we have this daily “joy dare” that we put on the fridge that has prompts. Can they find three specific gifts that God gives during the day and tell us back at the dinner table that evening? Number three, we keep a family gratitude journal laid out on our coffee table all the time. Collectively, can we as a family write down a thousand gifts and give thanks to our God?
So we have those three downloads. They’re all available at AnnVoskamp.com as a free gift from our family to your family.
Mike: Ann, thanks so much for joining us. I’m Mike Farris.