After I wrote this post back in the summer, a friend suggested in the comments that I read the book, “One Thousand Gifts.” Well, she caught me in one of those moments when I was just craving the suggestion of a good book, and I ran to the library almost immediately to snatch it off the shelf.
We were going away that weekend for the 4th of July, so I had some long hours in the car to immerse myself in this story. The writer, Ann Voskamp, so eloquently wove her tale of how she set out to capture the gifts of the everyday that were all around her. By the end, she had recorded 1,000 small, but significant, blessings in her life. In so doing, she realized that she had changed. Where before she had been critical — of nearly everything — she had transformed into a person of gratitude. By purposefully setting out each day to notice the good things around her, she had become much happier and started seeing life in a more positive light.
We were spending that long weekend in southern Illinois on the farm where my husband’s extended family has lived for generations. Transported from my crazy suburban existence, I felt for those few days that I could see the world around me in vivid color. The sky seemed bigger. The cornfields were so green. The sunset was intense. And the stars. I would wake up at 2 a.m. and quietly climb out of the trailer where the six of us slept just so I could look up at the sky.
I wanted to do what Ann Voskamp did. I wanted to capture each bit of ordinary and claim it as my own extraordinary. I opened a notebook and tried writing each blessing, one per line. She could describe everything so beautifully with few words. I felt like a failure in comparison.
I needed to do it my way. So I took out my camera. I would go hunting snapshots of beauty through my lens. I thought of my husband’s family who worked those fields day after day. I wondered if the cows and the barn and the corn and the moon looked half as beautiful through their eyes. I gave each photo a one word caption. It became a game to me to see how I could sum up each image with just one word. You can see those photos here.
It became a challenge for me each day we were on the farm to see how many images I could collect. How many blessings could I capture? It felt that by snapping the photos and giving them a name and putting them in my album, they were mine. They were my gifts for the day.
When I got home, I wondered if I could keep capturing these gifts. Would I be able to see beauty in the everyday all around me? I wanted it so badly.
But instead, we got out of the van. We dumped piles of dirty laundry from our suitcases. I answered e-mail. I washed dishes. And planned meals. I took out my camera and walked around the yard, but I couldn’t find anything to capture.
Well, lately, I’ve been seeing those gifts again. I don’t know if it’s just the beauty of fall. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been intentional about finding balance in my life. I’ve been purposely trying to walk slower. Look around more. Notice things.
I started collecting gifts with my camera yesterday on our trip to the apple orchard. It takes time. People have to wait for me to get out my camera. But in the end, I feel filled up. I feel energized by noticing and capturing and naming those gifts.
Here are a few more from today and my front porch.
I always dread the end of summer, but I’m so thankful that the beauty of fall comes right after. I think I stood for 10 minutes speechless trying to choose my mums this year. There are so many colors. I wanted to buy one of each. The yellows, oranges, reds, purples and whites. I finally settled on these three and I’m happy with my choice.
This year, I wanted to not only look for pumpkins, but some interesting gourds to round out my fall decor. It was so fun to sort through the different shapes and sizes. I especially loved this little green guy who looks like a miniature watermelon.
Don’t you just love all of those colors together? Is any other season quite as beautiful?
So those are my gifts for today. What about you? Do you need to take a moment to collect some blessings today?