Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Did in 2012 (besides make a baby)

On January 2, 2012, I started something I'd never done before. Inspired by Ann Voskamp's book, “One Thousand Gifts,” I began writing out a list of gifts that I'm thankful for. The goal? To make it a daily practice so as to have a list of “one thousand gifts” by the end of the year. Honestly, I kind of expected this to go the way of all my other New Year's resolutions and peter out somewhere near the end of January.

But here's what happened instead. The more gifts I penned down, the more I wanted to do it. It's like eating homemade guacamole. Once you start, you gotta keep going back for another dip and another dip. Only instead of ending up with that bloated shouldn't-have-done-that feeling, I felt an overwhelming sense of wholeness and satisfaction, an awareness of completeness. Now, when I miss a day (or two or three), I feel a sense of loss. Because I've surely missed some gifts, and now they're gone into the abyss of my forgetfulness, passed by without a whispered “thank you for this.”

But the gifts that I do capture onto paper, they have become my treasure. On this, the last day of 2012, I penned down my one thousandth gift.  It reached the bottom of my fifty-third page.  Before all this, if you had told me I'd type anywhere near fifty pages of anything this year, I'd have laughed, out loud. Ain't nobody got time for that! But turns out I did, with just a few minutes each day.

It is my thank offering to the Giver of all these gifts. And as the Giver does, he gave back beyond my expectations. This list has become a journal of sorts, a record of our year, a remembrance of all the little things that have touched me deeply and made 2012 what it was. So as a recap of our year, here is a smattering of excerpts from my one thousand gifts.

4. The silkiest softness of my son's white blond hair. Jan 2

10. The longing of hearts apart. Aaron in Thailand for three weeks of classes, my heart missing him with a longing that hurts. Jan 2

38. Ellie still asking for her bedtime song to be “Hark the Haver Angels Sing.” Jan 4

60. A gift in the mail, precious people wanting to tangibly show that they believe in what we're doing. Jan 10

95. Aiden toddling along outside, soaking in the world, when suddenly, urgently he turns back to me and shouts, “Mama! Kiss!” My heart is a puddle on the ground. I bend to touch lips to his puckered fish mouth. Jan 30

107. Aaron: “Come here, birthday girl.” Ellie: “You can call me 'Princess.'” Feb 12

113. A short night, a long week ahead, meeting my love in the kitchen for a soothing embrace. Feb 13

167. Swelling with new life. Baby bump for all to see. March 13

196. A fro-yo date with my daughter. April 2

212. A husband who knows when not to go the extra mile in his homework so he can be there for his family. April 20

228. Making birthday cake art for my two year old, him shouting in delight, ““Beeball! Bootball! Babeeball!” April 26

276. My truly gorgeous sister, radiant as a bride. June 8

291. There was no confusion that first night of big boy bed-ness. No, “Hey, I belong in my baby bed.” Just pure confidence that he had entered big kid-dom. When I went to cradle and coo my nightly song to him, he shushed me with an emphatic finger over his mouth as if to say “I don't need that baby stuff now.” June 13

342. Our family on two chairs, snuggled under a blanket watching the sky light up with American celebration. July 4

439. Ellie spooning ice cream into her brother's eagerly waiting mouth. Aug 7

441. My children's endless enthrallment with sand and waves. Aug 7

453. An empty baby bed next to mine, just waiting to be filled. Aug 13

478. The moment I grasp my slippery new son to my skin. Aug 16.

484. The shocking tininess of a newborn diaper. Aug 16

496. Each day the bond growing stronger.  This little one that was unknown, becoming known. Aug 19

499. Friends and family around us, graciously giving and serving. Aug 19

532. How Aiden says “mamich” for “sandwich.” Sept 2

575. Dinner on the edge of the sea, celebrating 8 years of this soul bonded life. Sept 18

594. Hearing my grandma's last words to me, “I love you.”

672. A husband that took care of the 4am sickness while I slept through Oct 16

692. Hearing the story of our Chinese friend. The father who threatened to disown her and the mother who threatened suicide if she was baptized, are now paying for her seminary study in America. Oct. 20

774. Flying round and round on spinning swings with my daughter, our arms outstretched, heads thrown back, shouting wild and fearless and free. Nov 12

814. Kissing my baby's pillow-plump cheeks, him giggling with glee. Dec 1

 925.  When Mary and Joseph enter the stage, cradling the baby in their arms, Ellie whispers as loud as can be, “I WANT TO SEE BABY JESUS' FACE!” People all around chuckle.  May you never, ever lose that desire, baby girl, to see Jesus' face. Dec 24

929.  The first Christmas with my family in 9 whole years.  Dec 25

956.  Ellie: “Daddy’s always joking me. It dangs me crazy.” Dec 27

985.  Reflecting on the goodnesses of this year, and feeling that my eyes are more opened, my heart more tender for all the gifts, both sweet and hard that will come in the year ahead. Dec 31

1000.  Penning down my one thousandth gift and knowing I have only just begun.  Dec 31

And now I say a whispered “thank you” to YOU, dear ones, for being among my one thousand gifts. Thank you for journeying alongside me this year.  Thanks for letting me speak a bit of my life and heart to you.  Love and blessings to each of you.  Happy New Year!    

(3 Things about this pic:  1.  Yes, that background is for real.  2.  Sorry you don't get to see Titus' face 3.  Yes, Aiden is trying to make me eat my own hair.) 


  1. Alright, that does it. I've had Ann's book for a couple of years, loved it, thought counting gifts was a fantastic idea, but somehow never quite got round to actually writing anything down.
    I'm going to do it! Right this minute, I'm going to find a spare journal and start writing... gift number one is the way my baby (who will be 3 next month) still tells me 'Me up here' as he climbs up to sit on my lap.
    Thank you Danielle, for the push I needed!