One of the things that totally changed my life was keeping what I call a “gifts journal.”
Some people call them “gratitude” journals. That’s accurate, but I like “gifts journal” because it helps me recognize that what comes into my life is not just some random blessing, but is meant to be received as a gift from a loving, personal, gracious Giver.
I believe that as you take a few moments each day to recall and record the things that felt like gifts to you that day, your life will slowly but surely be transformed.
This practice is what pulled me out of postpartem depression, and what has since reoriented me to wholeness time and time again. Whenever I regularly jot down God’s good gifts, it refocuses me more on God and his character—goodness, grace, generosity, mercy, kindness, wisdom—and less on my own problems.
Some people believe that what you focus on expands in your life. I would take it a step further: What you focus on is what you become. Paul the Apostle exhorted his readers to dwell on whatever is positive and true (Philippians 4:8), promising that if we do that, the God of peace will be with us.
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly tells his people to “remember.” Remember his wonderful deeds, his kindnesses, his miracles. When they remembered, they were blessed. When they did not remember, they fell into sin and often judgment followed.
In fact, the entire Bible is a history of how God acted in the lives of his people as a whole. When you keep a gifts journal, you begin the record of how God works in your life as an individual.
When you remember and record God’s goodness in your life, you can go back to it later, during the times when God doesn’t feel so near or active or real. At those times, reading your own history of God’s goodness to you personally will bolster you to believe that he is with you even now, though at the moment a cloud might block his warmth and light from reaching you.
I invite you, too, to begin this process.
I provide two different ways to keep your journal. Here are your options.
1. The Abundant Gifts eBook Journal. This is designed to be used for one month to begin with. There are thirty-one pages with a quote on each page (just like in the Abundant Gifts book), and a place to put the date and the kind(s) of gift you’re recording. Then there are lines you may use to write on.
The Abundant Gifts eBook Journal is available in two formats–Microsoft Word document (you can write in it on your computer, and/or print out at any point), and PDF document (print out and write on). Try one or both. You can come back to this page and download it as many times as you wish.
You can even customize it in the future, by substituting your own quotes for the ones given. To customize it, download the MS Word doc, make your changes, and print it out.
2. The Abundant Gifts Digital Personal Journal. This is really cool. It opens up like a book on your computer (like the ones you see on amazon.com when you want to “look inside the book”). Its pages turn like a real diary — and you can write on it like a real diary — but it resides on your computer (not online) for your security and privacy. Sprinkled liberally throughout the journal pages are inspirational passages , quotes — and even music clips you can listen to.
Whichever format you choose, here’s what I suggest to make the most out of keeping a gifts journal.
1. Choose your format. Do you want to keep your journal on the computer? Then use the eBook Journal or the Digital Personal Journal and keep adding to it. Or you can print out the eBook Journal pages, 3-hole punch them, and put them into some kind of binder, either before or after you’ve written in it.
2. At the and of each day, take 5-7 minutes of quiet time to reflect back over the day. Jot down the date, and think: What was difficult? Did God help you with that difficult situation in any way? What joys pop out at you? Was there anything that had seemed difficult at one point, but now you see that it was really a gift in disguise? Were there any simple pleasures you savored? Any gift you gave another person that brought joy to their heart and yours? Was there something you heard, or read, or something someone said to you that seemed especially meant for you at that moment?
Whatever blessed you, jot down the kind of gift it was, and describe it in just enough words that you will remember it later. This is totally subjective—that’s okay. We’re talking about your heart and your personal relationship with God, your loving, heavenly Father.
3. Added suggestion: Sharing the gifts of the day is a wonderful way to connect as a family as well. Explain to your children that you are going on what Karen Mains called a “God hunt.” You’re looking for ways God shows up in your lives, and you want to share those as you gather for a meal. You can easily create a “family gifts journal” as well by adapting the Abundant Gifts eBook Journal and adding a place for the person’s name on the top of the page.
I promise you that if start recording gifts, as an individual and/or as a family for even one week straight, that will be enough to change your perspective. Once you begin to look for God’s gifts, his tokens of that generous spirit that loves to bless his beloved children, you will begin to feel loved unconditionally.
And that, my friend, is what God intends: that you know just how generous your heavenly Father is, and how much he loves you.
Remember, and be blessed!