The Infinite Scroll of Praise

There is no greater use to which I can put my sketches or notebooks than that of giving thanks. When I think of the catalog of complaints that can make up my daily round, it is an act of the will to instead catalog the blessings. But that act shapes the will and I find myself tending towards praise instead of complaining; patience instead of impatience; blessing instead of cursing. It is a change worth making.

Ann Voskamp's bestseller One Thousand Gifts tells the story of tragedy transformed by keeping a record of the small graces of life. I tried it in what turned out to be a deep time of trial for our family, and it was more than a nice idea. It saved me from the pit. I did it again. Another 1,000 small graces, listed, jam-packed, into a small notebook, tumbled together in no particular order. And again. It kept me afloat. Rereading those pages makes me marvel, now that life is lived on less of a knife-edge, at how I could possibly have done it. But I keep on, not so fervently now, though still listing the blessings, the things I'm grateful for.

When the American Thanksgiving holiday rolls around again, praise trips naturally off the tongue with the practice. Giving thanks is not a foreign substance. I've seen those grown bitter with complaint try it. They almost choke on the unfamiliar words; even over some tremendous truth in their life. It is too much. Their tongue has calicified into an arch of upset. 

Try it. List your thankfulnesses, however small, however bleak the reality of all that weighs on you. There is a grace that is greater than your burdens. Keep your tongue supple. The circumstances don't force you to complain.

Can you do anything more important with a journal than to give thanks?

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
— Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, 1050