How to Know God’s Will for Your Life: The Art of Fully Living [Giveaway for DSLR Camera]

When you are a musician and you stop counting — it’s like running around in the forest in the dark without a flashlight.

That’s what the piano teacher said to the kid at the keys.








Without counting, keeping the rhythm of grace,  life gets a bit like smashing into trees in the dark without a flashlight.

And a whole year like that? Can leave you beat up and bruised and a bit like the walking dead. Don’t ask all my years how they know.

That’s what the piano guy with the rumpled hair and the wrinkled cargos was trying to stammer out loud over ivories: Unless you count — you can’t see.

Unless you count, you can’t hear the rhythm — you can’t hear the lines of the song that will lead you out through the woods.

When you’re still breathing and you stop counting gifts — it’s like flailing mad in the slamming waves — and letting go of of the rope.

Everybody gets to decide: doxologyor drown.

Yesterday, Levi, he finds batteries for the flashlight at the back door. I lay out another fresh journal, fresh lines for a new thousand.  It’s what to do every January.

And yeah, last January 1st, somewhere over 5, 000 gifts now — I began again… to count another 1000 gifts. Because Every Single Day is Day 1, Begin Again Afresh.

Doxology — or Dark. Decide.







In February, these four farm boys peeled squash in the kitchen for their mama trying to rustle up something for dinner.

I stood on a sticking floor with peels all over the counters. I saw them.

Farm Boys with shoulders broadening into future men. I heard them. Farm boys with deepening voices, ribbing each other. I memorized them. Here. In the Kitchen. A witnessing of grace. I didn’t take it as a given — I counted it as gift. #72 to be exact.

By May, the Farmer’s planting corn seeds.

I’m scratching out words about The Greatest Gift, falling hard for Him and His love story that is our story. I listen to a spring rain fall on the cabin’s roof. All I can think, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Counting one Thousand Gifts is summed up in counting Christ alone as the greatest gift.

I scratch that down: Rain on the cabin roof #433. Christ alone #434. 

Thanks is what multiples the joy and makes any life beautiful  — how can I not keep hungering for this?



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I fly to Uganda in June.

I come home and am shaken wide awake to blatant gifts I’ve arrogantly assumed: #527 Hot showers. #528 Flushing toilets. #529 Children with tummies not bloated. I slip between my clean cotton sheets and see their faces and you can cry without making a sound.

Come the end of July, depression stalks, her and I on too familiar terms. I can see her shadow everywhere. She lurks at the edges, lunges from corners, threatening to get into my face, breathe too close in my space.

So I set the timer for three times a day and press depression’s audacity back with the sharp tip of a pen. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” #659 I write down verses, count His Word, that kind of Love, as supreme gift.

I see the sweet peas growing wild in the ditch. #684. Malakai carries a robin into the kitchen #689.

Picking up a pen isn’t painful and ink can be cheap medicine. My lungs remember how to breathe. Trust is the only thing that can really fill your lungs and keep you breathing.

In September, I write down whole long pages of: “hard eucharisteo — thank you, Lord, for…. ” and I murmur thanks to God over and over again for the hard things.

The things that flashed out, grabbed me by the jugular, snapped my neck back hard and locked my chest so I couldn’t heave breath for the pain. Kid scenarios that were ugly. My own responses that were worse. Loud and ridiculous drama. Nagging health messes that just cling like a leach. I get bold and dogged in thanking for the hard things. I’m fool enough to believe this is paramount. That which we refuse to thank Christ for — we refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

In November, when I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, and she says “I just want to grow up and adopt orphan babies from around the world” — I blink back fresh grace and write that down — #929

When Jesus is more than merely useful — when Jesus is ultimately, supremely, beautiful — who doesn’t have time to slow and see and thank Him?

Are we Jesus-users?

Or Jesus-adorers?

When Jesus is beautiful to you — how can your life not be thankful to Him?






Come the messy still of the end of December, in the middle of a snow storm, I write down #1000 — seeing in storms.

And a year of chipped and cock-eyed gifts frames just that — The art of Living Fully:


Gratitude is not only a response to God in good timesit’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times.

Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.

This is brazen. In a cynical world, this is blatant and bold and subversive. This is Truth.

The best artists discipline themselves to practice their art. The best life artists practice the discipline of gratitude — which makes their life art. It is an aching miracle — how true masterpieces are always painted in the dark.

New year, No Fear, New You? This gets real simple. Start here: Gratitude is the mother of all virtues — because it is the will of our Father in all things.

It always begins small.


Change always begins with the eyes. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matt. 6:22)  

No change happens until there is a change of perspective. 

The good life always wears the habit of gratitude. Its eyes are trained to really see reality. 

It does not wait and wonder if the the good will happen someday. It’s in the habit of seeing the good happening right now.

The good life is as simple a function of good eyes. As simple and painfully hard and as profound as training eyes in the habit of seeing the good in life. Counting gifts trains the eyes.  Wear the habit of gratitudeand you get to wear the good life.  

Live like life’s an emergency and your soul ends up dead. Life is not an emergency. It’s a gift. Why race past the gift? What else are you trying to get to — the presence of God is in this present moment.

Slow and see and unwrap the gift of your life — or your life will unravel.

I throw out 3 dry, dead pens before finding one to set out with the fresh journal. This is worth the effort. Doxology — or dark. Decide.


Seeing then slows into the savoring. Only when you slow and savor the moments, do you taste and see that the Lord is good. Bacon sizzling. Stars over frozen ponds. Kids peeling pomagrenates.

If you don’t slow to count the gifts in the moments, God in the moments — when exactly will you taste and see that the Lord is good? The losing of every battle begins when there is no time to taste and see and savor that the Lord is good. When you don’t have time to taste and see that the Lord is good — you begin to taste and believe that life is bad.

Whatever is going to happen this year — and who knows what is up ahead and how we need to be prepared — it is guaranteed to come down to this:

The enemy of your soul only has two battle plans. 1. Blind you to who God is. 2. And blind you to who you are.

And that’s the miracle that picking up a pen and listing gifts:  at the end of a year, over crumpled pages counting One Thousand Gifts — I can choke it back, brave and defiant straight into the wind, because my very cells know now for certain who God is… and I know for certain who I am: God is unwaveringly good — and we are unfathomably loved. That slays demons.


Real seeing and savoring, it always widens into the sharing. Because ultimately?

Real gratitude cannot be contained — it can only be shared. Real gratitude can not be contained. It. can. only. be. shared.

Real thanks giving always means giving expression to the thanks — on the lips, on a page, in a community, with your hands, your feet, your life.

There is no thanksgiving without thanksliving — it’s just thanksnothing.

Sharing the thanks — sharing the gifts — this is what divides the sorrow, multiplies the joy.

[Download The Art of Fully Living here]

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Hope keeps playing hymns at the off-tuned piano, her fingers keeping count to this steady beat of grace she hears in her heart.

And her mother keeps a count of her own, the days lifting like this beating of wings.






In every thing give thanks:

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus

concerning you…  1 Thess 5:18.


To Celebrate Joy Dare 2013 and 2014: Camera Giveaways

I only do a little something like this once a year, but wouldn’t sharing a bit of joy be a good way to look FORWARD to a No Fear New Year?

So let’s crank open the rusty comment box and cheer each other on — FORWARD! This is the year we FLY!



And a Little Giveaway today to launch #1000gifts2014?

[scroll down to enter for the camera]

Enter today to win:


a signed copy of One Thousand Gifts,
a signed copy of the new One Thousand Gifts devotional & numbered journal to record 1000 gifts in 2014

and One Thousand Gifts: A DVD Study with study guides for your own gathering [This is the year we FLY!]

a turquoise nest pendant with necklace offered by our son Caleb

just wave in the comments box today with one thing you are thankful for (yes, the comment box is OPEN!)

Reading via email or in a reader: click here to join our Comments Celebration
For another entry (or two):
Tweet or share this Facebook status update:
Dare you: Count #1000gifts in 2014. Who doesn’t take a dare to Joy? {the free camera would be bonus} #JoyDareand then leave another comment here for each share?

Entries for the Books/giveaway package will remain open until January 10th, 8 AM EST.

To Enter for 2013’s Nikon D90 DSLR camera:

Did you take the Joy Dare and count your own 1000 gifts in 2013? If you counted 1000 Gifts in 2013 — {all 1000 gifts counted in 2013} — enter for the same model of camera that’s sitting here on our counter — a Nikon D90 {& 18-105 mm f/3.5-5.6G Zoom Lens included.}

{To enter, thanks for all 1000 gifts must be counted in 2013.But don’t worry if you didn’t get to 1000 — we’re going to do it again in 2014 and share the joy of another camera by December 2014. Scroll down for more info. This is the Year we FLY!) If you counted 1000 gifts in 2013, enter for the camera like this:

1. Post a photo of you holding up your entries of 1000 Gifts over in the Facebook Gratitude community  (it could be a photo of you with entries from  your 1000 Gifts Journal, a screenshot of your blog, or you holding up your mobile device with the 1000th entry from the free 1000 gifts app? Just any photo of you (or screenshot) with the way you recorded your 1000 gifts)

2. After you’ve shared the joy of counting 1000 gifts and the dare to really live on the Facebook page….

come back and leave a comment here with the Subject heading: CAMERA … and what the Joy Dare has meant for you…  

Entries for 2013’s Nikon D90 {& 18-105 mm f/3.5-5.6G Zoom Lens will remain open until January 10th, 8am EST.



Annnnnd… to enter for 2014’s Nikon D90 Camera!
Are you ready to make this the year you FLY? Count your own 1000 gifts in 2014 … How?

1. Check out the whole year’s Joy Dares! 3 prompts everyday adds up to more than #1000gifts!

2. or… Blog your 1000 gifts, or tag #1000 gifts on Instagram, or join us on Mondays and link up to the list on your blog, or record a legacy of your 1000 gifts in the new numbered journal, and, if you’d like to be entered into the monthly draw for a JOY BASKET mailed out to you (including a $100 Amazon gift card), share your gifts everyday in the Facebook Gratitude community  (everyday we post 3 prompts of what gifts you could look for #JOYDARE!) … and next December (after recording only about only 3 gifts a day) …  be back here to enter for the camera!

What do You Get when you Count 1000 Gifts?

Write 1000 gifts and keep a gratitude list and the research proves this is what you really get:

1. a relative absence of stress and depression. (Woods et al., 2008)

2. progress towards important personal goals (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)

3. higher levels of determination and energy (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)

4. closer relationships and desire to build stronger relationships (Algoe and Haidt, 2009)

5. Increased happiness…. by 25% — (Who wouldn’t want 25% more happiness!) (McCullough et al., 2002)

Who doesn’t want all that? Begin counting — just 3 gifts a day  — This is year we FLY!


{Consider turning off music by clicking the speaker bar near the bottom of  the left margin?}

Doxology — or Dark? We Decide: This is the year we FLY!

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
The 60 DAY DEVOTIONAL with 1000 numbered journal: 
One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflecting on Finding Everyday Graces
Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters
One Thousand Gifts: A DVD Study
One Thousand Gifts Gratitude Journal 

Entire 12 month Joy Dare collection
Favorite blankets pictured: Hand and Cloth
Nest Necklace from our son, Caleb — This is the year we FLY!

Join the Comments Celebration Here! Farm’s front door is wide open!