How a Cynic Met a Gratitude Journal – Thanksgiving 2013

It’s 39 pages and counting. It’s sometimes written in black ink, sometimes blue; there’s an occasional pencil entry and red ink dots a few of the pages. Some of the entries are scribbled, others are printed carefully, some hold explanations in brackets. “It” is a gratitude journal and I am a cynic. 

For a full year after Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was released I had people tell me I should read it. “You need to get this!” said one emphatically. “You will love it” said another.

Oh.Really. I thought. It sounded so boring. It reminded me of Nicky Gumbel’s view of Christians before he became one “They were sooo boring. And no matter what” he told his friend “Never let them into your room!” 

On a whim one day as I was idling, I happened on a website where you could download the first chapter of the book at no cost. This was perfect. I would now be able to confirm my opinion with authority. By page three my throat was catching, by page five I was sniffling, by page seven tears were pouring down my cheeks. All my cynicism, all my ignorance of the book and its premise, all my skepticism about best-selling books by Christians — all of that was washed away in a tearful apology that Ann would never receive.

My cynical heart was moved. The words in the book pierced with the challenge of “Eucharisteo”.  The author notes that every time Jesus performed a miracle, he first gave thanks. “In everything give thanks” the words of scripture tell me. Seemingly an impossibility, words written by someone who didn’t live in my reality, and yet there it was. And a deeper look at the man who penned the words, the Apostle Paul, made it clear that his reality was far more difficult than mine could possibly be.

As I read the book, I began to get the gnawing sense that I needed to do this, that I needed to begin a journal. I didn’t want to admit it, so stubborn am I, but I was deeply affected by the importance of thanks – the truth that Eucharisteo precedes the miracle.

So I began.

At first it felt silly. I would sit at dawn as per my routine, looking out a window at a sky not yet ready for morning. I would hold my pen and my journal, lost in thought. And then I would begin to write.

Warm home-made bread with honey on it.


Hurting heart.

Pain and healing.

Day after day, page after page, this cynic’s icy heart melted with the warmth of gratitude. 

At 39 pages I reached one thousand. I look back and see miracle on miracle. This conflict resolved, this child in college, another with a heart restored. The list is a story that only God and I would understand. It would make sense to no one else, but I think that’s the way it is supposed to be. I marvel at the way just listing thanks, inscribing gratitude in ink on a plain page, is changing the way I see life, the way I view my reality. It is healing my mind and changing my vision.

So today I remember this journey and I thank God that he saw fit to change a cynic’s heart and begin to fill it with gratitude.


The turkey has brined since early yesterday morning with a savory concoction that my daughter created. Pies are everywhere, and our refrigerator has vegetables, fruits, olives, and cheeses in such abundance that each time we open it, we fear the door won’t shut.

This afternoon our home will be filled to capacity with people from Israel, Iran, and Russia. As Christians, Muslims, and Jews we will share the holiday together with traditional Thanksgiving foods that include turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing.

I am so grateful to you who read and share in this writing journey. Ann in Cambodia, Jill in New Mexico, Petra in Phoenix, Pari in Kuwait, Janet in Minnesota, Rachel in Djibouti, Lara in Somerville, Carol in Istanbul, Donna in Chicago, Stacy in Dubai, Judy in Moscow, Bruce in Gardner, Jayna in San Antonio, Leslianne in Washington DC, Dounia in New England, Bettie in Macon, Sophie in Australia, my mom in Rochester. There are so many more of you who have emailed or commented, letting me into your world. It is a gift.

So from me, sitting at my computer trying to write out thoughts that make sense:

 *  Thank you *  شكرا  *  danke  *  آپ کا شکریہ  *  спасибо  *  merci  *

* teşekkür ederim *

20 thoughts on “How a Cynic Met a Gratitude Journal – Thanksgiving 2013

  1. Thanks Marilyn. I really like the idea of keeping a THANKSGIVING journal. I can fill one up in a hurry as I’m grateful for so much. Your celebration sounded awesome. We had friends from Mongolia, Goa, and Vietnam to join our family celebration.


  2. I had the exact same response to the book – cynicism and then tears. I loved it and keep my gratitude journal on my instagram account… it’s a great way to look back on all the big and little things I am grateful for.


    1. It’s humbling, no? I love the idea of connecting it to Instagram — visual reminders of all around. Also, in honesty, glad to have the understanding of another person who’s skeptical of Christian best sellers. :)


  3. Thank you Marilyn! For being real on these pages, for honest questions and encouragement. You have spoken things I thought only my heart felt and formed a community across the miles. So from your readers and friends we are thankful for your servant heart!


  4. Happy Thanksgiving, Marilyn! We are in northern MN looking out over Lake Superior thanking God for rest and relaxation and family!


  5. I wish you joy this Thanksgiving! It brought tears to my eyes to see “Jill in New Mexico” on your list….! I love the connections we’ve been apart of for each other. What joy!
    My Thanksgiving list includes what I’m making to take out to the farm where we’ll celebrate with Lowell’s family but it also includes last minute packing jobs! I’m thankful for so much! It’s been a year of a 1000 miracles for sure.


  6. Happy Thanksgiving, Marilyn! One of the things I am most grateful for this year is finding your blog and the gift you make of every entry. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t always comment but know that I am always reading and appreciating the thought, time, effort, talent and grace that goes into each post. You make me think, you make me laugh and, often, you make me cry. But all in the name of honesty and openness and being real. I love that about you. You are who you are and you share that with us through your eloquent words. Many blessings to you and your whole family, Marilyn. One day we will get to meet in person and that, that will be a great day!


    1. I would LOVE to meet you in real life! It’s been amazing learning more from and of you. You’ve also made muffins part of my weekly world. By the way — I made the cranberry with real cranberries chopped up and they were amazing. Just the right amount of sweet and tart.


      1. I am delighted to hear that! And the meeting may just happen this coming year. My elder daughter just received a job offer we’ve been praying for – her dream job – in Boston!


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