Thursday, June 19, 2014

1001 Gifts

I've thought about this post for a while. What would I say once I counted 1000 gifts? Would I know things I hadn't known before? Would I be different, changed? Would I keep counting?

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One month ago, I counted my 1001st gift. 

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We were at The Sacred Gifts exhibit - BYU's MOA, and it was this piece, Christus Consolator. I had never noticed all the different people crowding Jesus, needing him. The man who felt unworthy, the man in chains, the skeptic, the woman in mourning. We, in our varied states of want, are all these individuals, desperately in need of a Savior. 

If counting gifts is a new concept for you, you can read more about it here. I took the challenge of counting gifts from writer, Ann Voskamp. I needed it at the time. Desperately. Life was insular, crazy, and exhausting. I needed motivation to see the honest, non-fabricated beauty of our home life. I needed eyes to see. Eyes to appreciate the little things, the big things, the joys. 

For a while I started counting disasters because they seemed more plentiful, and I'm glad I did because now the list makes me laugh. But let's be serious, the gifts weren't just more plentiful, they were abundant. 

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I found them at every turn - in the sky or flora of a canyon run, in the undiluted sunshine from my child's face, in the fluorescent bubbles of dish soap at the end of a hard day, in a backyard rodeo, and in the gentle moonlight of bedtime. 

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Gifts were everywhere. And as I counted, my core changed. Discontent faded, along with frustration and wanting, even longing. I felt happy with the present, the now, the state of things just as they were.

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I looked about me and was overcome with the innocence, the wonder, the gorgeous chaos of five small children growing around me.

Would you believe I've been counting for almost three years? Our kids are older, taller, easier. And it breaks my heart a bit that we've moved out of that toddler stage.

But counting has seen me through some definite rough patches. And my journey of thanks? It has taught me this:

Gratitude is a way of living, a disposition. The more you do it, the more it becomes a part of you. It transforms how you see the world.

Gratitude is an antidote for almost every ailment. 

Counting stills time, immortalizes the gift. It freezes it on paper so you can revisit it, relive it, remember the divine goodness that constantly surrounds you.

As a catalog of recent events, I'll share with you some of our latest gifts.

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1005. yellow irises on isaac's grave.

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Memorial Day weekend was sweet, even tender this year. Spencer told us, "I'm going to give great-grandpa a hug. And I'm not going to stop hugging him until we leave." Here he is, prostrate across Grandpa Reuben's headstone. Doug's grandfather emigrated from Norway and died when Doug's father was a young boy. It was like Spencer was visiting an old friend.

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111. resurrection of the stout family party, complete with sawdust dig and swing jump contest. 

(pictured above: doug's mother with her siblings and their spouses.)

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The Stout Family party was a highlight of Doug's childhood. Especially the swing jump contest. He's been talking about bringing it back for years now.

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So here he is, giving it his best go.

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Uncle Dwight, long-time champion from back in the day, also jumped. Not many men in their late sixties can sport that kind of form.

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The contest was big business. Check out the trophy they made back in the 70s and 80s. Every winner had their name engraved on it.

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And, only fitting that it stay in the family, Dwight's grandson took it home this year.

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112. eliza's exceptional piano teacher, miss betsy

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Eliza has made such progress this year. Some weeks I thought I might put my head through the wall over the practice battle, but I hope eventually she appreciates the opportunity it was to learn an instrument.

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113. four fuzzy baby owls, perched in janae's tree

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114. this limo ride and what it meant

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None of us had been in a limousine before. It picked us up in the morning, took us to Doug's work for a breakfast in honor of Doug's promotion, then brought us home again.

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Doug was mortified over the whole hooplah, but after hopelessly trying to persuade the office he wanted to just drive in, he relented and said yes. It was a hilarious memory we'll never forget.

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115. hydrangeas, ranunculus, and peonies - a gracious bouquet from doug's firm

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116. This girl, blowing out nine candles. Nine!

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117. favorite peppermint roses coming into bloom

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110. blowing dandelion birthday wishes with my boys

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118. the perfect treat on a hot afternoon, ice cream cones as big as their face. 

(this was our first trip to Lagoon, we did it without doug and only lost sami once!)

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Now, let me tell you one more thing I've learned. Joy is a choice. So is optimism, hope, faith, and change. Every decision, how to respond, how to spin it, how to see it, comes down to choice. What will we choose? 

This gets tricky when we may not like the packaging of some gifts. Sometimes life doles out a gift we'd rather not accept, because it comes with too much pain, too much heartache, and real suffering. Sometimes this is oh so hard. And that is where I find comfort in Paul,

"And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God." (Romans 8:28)

And from Jesus himself,

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11)

Trust his gifts. Trust that no matter how they are wrapped, he will make them work for your good.

So, will I keep counting? By all means, yes. I've begun a second installment. 1000 more gifts to see and jot down. I plan to fill this journal.

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The happy is all around us. Tossed across our path to bring us joy. Held out to us by a merciful creator whose entire purpose and existence is to bring us back to him. 

I can't stop counting. Count with me?


  1. I'm starting today! Love this idea!

  2. I think I'll join you! (And I'm going to count you as one of my blessings. You do my heart and courage so much good!

    1. And you are one of my blessings Kel.

  3. This is such a sweet post, ;-). I even remember how when you started counting... Love the pictures of the Swing Jump Contest!!!!

    I think you are right -- if you really focus on the gifts, like really give them the necessary attention, it will become a life style. And it's good to carry on, even though you are already seeing how abundant the good is -- because, if you don't, after a while you start not notice the good as much anymore...

    We are starting to pack up -- we still don't know exactly when we are going, but it might be as early as beginning of August. Yikes. I'm completely confused about how I feel about it, so I might just start a Counting (Chinese) Gifts diary, too, ;-).

    Take care,

  4. Cheryl - hooray! we can count together!

    Kel - you are the kindest soul. I love you so much.

    Corinna - can't believe you're looking ahead to the big move in August! That will be here so quickly! I'm sure your feeling a mix of emotions! Prayers for you as you navigate these next two months. And I love the idea of counting gifts in Chinese. ;) Btw, do you speak any Mandarin?

  5. I can't believe it has been almost 3 years! I am with Corinna. I totally remember when you started this amazing journey. You are such an inspiration to me. What a lovely life you are creating for your sweet kiddos. I thought of president uchtdorf's recent talk when reading this post. Gratitude in any circumstances. Absolutely! His light is there even in the darkest of hours. You have such a positive, optimistic voice. Your post on men was just right. I have always loved the pictures of your sweet, sweet dad. Hugs


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