How Grace and Gratitude Changed My Life

Grace was a life-changing concept to me.

Let me start over.

Grace is a life-changing concept to me. When teenage-me sat on the pavement at a Young Life camp, grace drastically and permanently changed my life right then and there. But grace has continued to change me every day since.

I still struggle wrapping my mind around the fact that the Lord sees us, sees me, as blameless. I still cannot comprehend the kind of grace that isn’t false humility or a forced it’s okay, but is instead this soul-altering, no-strings-attached grace.

We get that. For free. Our debts are paid. Thank you, Jesus.

A few months ago, I was heading abroad for a short spring break. In a season of little-to-no downtime, I hadn’t read a book “for fun” in months. I asked a good friend if she had any recommendations for a plane book. My friend came back with One Thousand Gifts. The book cover is a photo of a woman holding a basket of Tiffany-blue eggs.

I shuddered.

I try not to classify myself by what I am (because I feel like sometimes that can be limiting), but I definitely know what I am not. I am not the simple, sweet soul that can read a book with a basket of bird eggs on the front, complete with a title written delicately in cursive font. I am way more likely to wear a black leather jacket than a pink cardigan, and my pride wanted to scream that I would not be seen with the cover on this book.

However, remembering that I was about to be in another country and I do in fact own a pink cardigan, I thanked her, took the book and left.

In short, One Thousand Gifts proved to be, quite literally, a gift in itself. The book talked about grace – what we get from Jesus – but it also talked about gratitude – the other side of it – and what we can give and gain.

The author, Ann Voskamp, challenged the reader to start noting gratitude. Not just to say a simple thank you, but to physically write down things we are grateful for.

Shortly after arriving back from spring break, the storms of my life began to brew again. As I wanted to run away, as every bone inside me wanted to make a list how life was unfair, how I wanted the tables to change, I remembered grace. I remembered that when a situation’s unfairly good to me, I’m okay with not getting what I deserve, but when it’s not what I see as good, I want a change – I beg for a change.

And then I remembered gratitude. When we are in the eye of the storm, even though thankfulness is hard to find, it can be found there.

I believe we are all writers. I do not think that because I write online, I am more or less of a writer than someone who writes in hardback books or someone that only writes things that perpetually land in the Drafts folder. I believe we all are crafters of stories because we all have our own. I believe we all have the ability to write down three things that we are grateful for each night.

It can be small. “Ice cream” has appeared on my list multiple times, no shame. You can be thankful that the humidity wasn’t too out-of-control today or that there wasn’t a line at Chipotle. You can be thankful for your sister’s laughter or for the fact that July doesn’t tend to be allergy season. One time I wrote down “Wearing running shoes” – no, not running in them, simply wearing them. Acknowledging these things and people and places we are grateful for is claiming joy in struggle. It is searching for thankfulness in the midst of trials. I am confident that we have an immeasurable amount to praise God for in the presence of pain if we choose to.

I’m asking you to choose to.

This may seem small. However, I think most really beautiful things start small. Friendships turn into marriages, like seeds turn into flowers. I believe that if you start noting the small things around you that you’re thankful for, you won’t be able to un-see them or stop searching for them.

In the same way grace changes my life, gratitude alters my soul.