Before leaving for Uganda, I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, which is centered around the idea of eucharisteo, a Greek word meaning “to give thanks.”

In the book, Ann challenges the reader to make a list of 1,000 things that you are thankful for. 1,000 gifts that the Lord has specifically placed in your life, even if it’s as simple as fuzzy socks and warm hot chocolate.

It challenged me to begin to live fully and to find joy in everything. Not even just to find joy, but to seek it out, to make space for it, to notice it

I started my list when I got to Uganda. I felt like I was constantly writing things down because over and over again I would be overwhelmed by God’s beauty in every little thing. I started to focus on continuously thanking God for all the gifts that He placed in my path.

Here’s a little snippet of my list:

#15 waking up to crowing roosters and laughing children
#36 red dirt on chacos and feet that are never clean
#43 naked babies at Rays of Hope
#52 Michael’s monkey hugs
#75 boda rides
#81 dirty handprints on my arm
#95 Mercy’s tickles and cuddles before school
#96 jumping, laughing, and dancing with the kids in a Ugandan downpour
#101 good morning kisses from sweet Winnie
#121 drums and dancing in the living room
#151 3-year-old Vanessa grabbing our hands and asking us to pray with her, tiny disciples!
#152 sitting, praying, reading scripture, and proclaiming truth in Gladys’ tiny house

It seemed like everywhere I looked I could see evidence of God’s incredible love!

How had I not noticed it before?

All those tiny things, those little moments, that would make my heart sing with joy, were gifts from God. Gifts from the Lord, who takes great delight in his people (Zephaniah 3:17). Over and over again I was overwhelmed by God’s great love.

It truly is incredible, and it began to change the way I see life.

Even when, through tears, I wrote entry #150, ‘open hands and broken smile of a child begging in the street.’

Or when walking down the streets of Kabalagala, #160, ‘broken eyes reflecting broken hearts.’

It took me a while to actually get to the point where I could thank God for these things when I felt like my heart was literally breaking. I didn’t understand why and I definitely didn’t understand how I could give thanks to the Lord for these things. But, the Lord has taught me how to trust in His sovereignty; how to even find joy and hope and goodness in the tragedies, in the suffering, and in the pain.

So now, instead of just feeling excitement when I drive through those amazing fall-colored tree tunnels on the winding back roads or cuddle up in a super soft blanket, I see an opportunity to practice eucharisteo.

It’s opened my mind and my heart to a whole new depth of joy.

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