The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

The Best-Kept Secret for a Brand-New Life

d11.24Welcome, friends! I’m so glad you’re here.

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Today, over at Proverbs 31 Ministries, I’m talking about how the daily grind can make us blind and God’s perfect prescription for our faltering eyes. It’s a story of a stretching stomach, a precious secret, and a little post-it note. If you haven’t read my devotion yet, you can find it here at Encouragement for Today.

And if you’re ready for a second-dose of inspiration, keep reading…


 As a child, one of my favorite places to play was in a dusty plot of weeds on the perimeter of my uncle’s farm.

This “secret hideout”dotted with rusty oil barrels and timeworn tractor parts, provided hours of entertainment for my young cousins and me. Armed with unhurried hours and our wild imaginations, we spent the lazy days of summer searching for hidden treasure in the scraggly grass.

Of course, it wasn’t just the scraps and remnants that made that abandoned lot a childhood goldmine. The real jewel was the deteriorating shack perched in the middle of the mess.


No one seemed to remember the days when the shanty had been filled with life, but my cousins and I spun fanciful tales of cryptic farmhands and kind-hearted vagabonds who may have once called “our” humble house home. When we grew tired of imagining the stories of yesteryear, we’d pretend that we were modern day Boxcar Children living alone between the walls of that bedraggled abode.

By summer’s end, we’d memorized every inch of the paltry exterior, each crack and dent, every stripe and scar.

But the boarded-up door and tightly locked windows kept us from exploring the inside…until the afternoon we began stacking rocks. 

We’d been watching a spider spin an intricate web around the rusty drain pipe when my cousin suddenly noticed a broken window above the gossamer strands. A tree limb had fallen on the dusty pane, leaving jagged chinks in the filthy glass. My cousin had eyeballed the window quietly before wondering aloud if we could crawl through the newly-created entrance. 

Immediately, we’d tried to hoist the littlest cousin above our heads. But even our best attempts couldn’t boost her high enough to climb through the splintered passageway.

We’d shuffled around the perimeter of the house, kicking up dust and mumbling in frustration, and then Farm Boy had sauntered toward the barb-wired fence that separated the junkyard from the cornfield. He’d scanned the giant clods of dirt and stones strewn along the fence line, then he’d dropped to his knees and began to dig. He’d grunted and groaned as he heaved a hefty rock out of the sun-baked soil and proudly carried it back to to where we stood.

With a grin as wide as the endless stretch of farm fields, he’d deposited that slab of stone right beneath the broken window.

Suddenly, our inroad was obvious! 


With giddy excitement, we began lugging rocks across the littered lot and stacking them one on top of another. We piled stones until our arms ached and our fingernails turned a silty shade of brown. But before the sun slipped behind those stalks of golden corn, we’d built ourselves a makeshift ladder.

One by one, we scaled the craggy pile and creeped carefully through the splintered glass to get a glimpse of the treasures inside.

And treasures, there were! Brittle newspapers and rotting furniture, chipped coffee cups and dried up ink pens—the stuff of ordinary life preserved beneath a thick layer of dust, fodder to fuel our childish imaginations for countless summers to come.  

That pile of rocks opened our eyes to a whole new world. 
That stack of stones led us to new stories just waiting to be told.

Several years ago, after struggling for decades with the my own private battle of discontentedness, I accepted a friend’s gentle challenge to develop a daily discipline of giving thanks I didn’t consider myself a glass-half-empty kind of woman, but if I were honest, I was a seasoned closet grumbler. This wise comrade encouraged me to create a plan for practicing gratitude no matter how I felt.

I agreed to carve out five minutes each day to keep a gratitude journal. Each morning, before my kids woke, I would cup a hot mug of coffee in one hand and a black ballpoint pen in the other. And as the sun tiptoed across the horizon, I’d pull out a little striped notebook and write down a few things for which I was thankful. I certainly didn’t expect the habit to change my life, but I begrudgingly agreed that I had nothing to lose in the process. I didn’t realize it then, but at the heart of this simple endeavor was a question of faith.

At the time of my “gratitude experiment,” I was in a season of stuck-ness--a frustrating stretch of unanswered prayers, unrealized dreams, and unchanging limitations. I would often sit and stare at that blank page in my notebook and wonder what to write.  It was easy to thank God for miracles, but could I thank Him in the midst of my everyday mundane? 

Each morning when I grabbed a pen and settled my soul, I had to confront this lingering question–

Did I actually believe that God was the Giver of good gifts even if my dreams weren’t coming true?

Even if my marriage felt strained and shaky?

Even if my hours were a constant blur of dirty diapers, dirty dishes, and dirty laundry? 

Little by little, I began to fill the pages of that striped notebook with gratitude for the small stuff…

The feeling of my husband’s hand in mine when I climb exhausted into bed at the end of a long day.

The sound of my toddler’s belly-laugh.

A timely phone call from a friend on a lonely day.

A hot mug of coffee to sip as the sun rises.

The smell of warm bread in the oven.

 There were no giant miracles to list, no show-stopping answers to prayer,  just simple gifts tucked into the folds of my commonplace days.

But here’s the true miracle, friends—

Somewhere between the first page of that gratitude journal and the last, I began to look at my life in a different way.

I smiled more, laughed more, and treasured more. I complained less, compared less, and coveted less. I no longer wished to be living someone else’s story or impatiently begged God to change mine. I simply began to enjoy the extraordinary tale He was scripting right there in the midst of my ordinary life, a timeless tale of lavish faithfulness and grace.

I don’t pull out my little striped notebook anymore. It’s pages were filled long ago with a thousand simple gifts. But this morning, before my littlest boy padded down the stairs and my girls began to holler for help, I grabbed my sky blue journal and recorded some simple thanks for another day of breath and life, hope and grace. And tomorrow, whether I feel like it or not, I’ll do the same. Because God’s goodness is not based on my feelings, and Heaven’s gifts aren’t mine for the taking only on the days that I wake with a smile.

Just between you and me— I don’t ever plan to stop.

You see, I’ve realized that the habit of thanksgiving is an awful lot like stacking rocks on my uncle’s farm.

Gratitude opens our eyes to a whole new world.

Thankfulness is the inroad to the heart of God.


In His soul-stirring book,  The Rest of God, author Mark Buchanan  describes it this way– “Thankfulness is a secret passage into a room you can’t find any other way… It allows us to discover the rest of God- those dimensions of God’s world, God’s presence, God’s character that are hidden, always, from the thankless. But to give thanks, to render it as Scripture tells us we ought- in all circumstances, for all things, to the glory of God- such thanksgiving becomes a declaration of God’s sovereign goodness. Even more, it trains us in a growing awareness of that sovereign goodness. You cannot practice thankfulness on a biblical scale without its altering the way you see. And the more you do it, the more you find cause for doing it.”

We may not always be able to change the way our lives look, but gratitude always changes the way we look at our lives.

Gratitude changes our story, one small praise at a time.

So, go ahead, dear friend, stack some stones of thanks today. 

And as you do, I’m guessing that you’ll begin to see the treasures  in your life that have been there all along, just waiting to be discovered!

Photo credits: ©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos  © Szabolcs Stieber | ©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos



“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

Today’s gratitude give-away is a beautiful notebook just waiting to be filled with your own scribbles of daily thanks.

It’s my hope that this simple resource will help you “stack some stones” and encourage you to begin growing the habit of thanksgiving in your own life. The empty pages of this lovely journal might be the perfect place to begin naming those gift in your life that are easy to overlook. 

If you’d like to be entered in the drawing to win, just join me for a praise party in the comments!

Name one thing for which you are grateful and, together, we’ll celebrate God’s good gifts.

 Happy Thanksgiving!






30 thoughts on “The Best-Kept Secret for a Brand-New Life

  1. Lynn Snipes

    I am thankful for surviving breast cancer and the opportunity to watch my boys grow up. Happy Thanksgiving Alicia

    November 24, 2014 at 10:47 am
  2. julie s

    I am thankful for finding a low cost artificial Christmas tree, for our home, for a husband that can fix almost anything we break, for a truck that although larger and difficult to drive, it runs, for both of my parents, for my job, new church, hope, medicine to keep family members healthy, and books.

    November 24, 2014 at 11:33 am
  3. Marilyn

    I am thankful I get to get to spend with my husband in retirement. I am thankful I will be able to care for my 1st grandchild while the parents work.

    November 24, 2014 at 11:43 am
  4. Larissa

    I am so thankful for my hardworking and loving husband and for my two girls.

    November 24, 2014 at 12:34 pm
  5. Dede

    I’m thankful for God’s provision in the midst of trials.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    November 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm
  6. Sheri

    I am thankful for the journey of adoption-it has taught our family many things along the way! I’m grateful for the 3 different ways we received each of our children-both biological and adopted!

    November 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm
  7. Tracy

    I am thankful for my husband and my children and that I get to see my daughter marry a wonderful, caring young man in about a month. I am looking forward to him joining our family and watching where God will take the two of them. Thanks for this reminder! It was what I needed to hear today.

    November 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm
  8. Tammie Jones

    I am thankful for God’s constant provision for us in both small ways and large ways! I am amazed at how he sustained us recently through a major move and 2 weeks with no paycheck. Humanly impossible, but not so with God. I am thankful for memories of past days and for new adventures as we have embarked on a new pastoral ministry.

    November 24, 2014 at 1:19 pm
  9. Sherrie

    I am thankful that I have custody of my grandson & therefore know that he has a safe warm bed to sleep in at night & lots of love steadily pored out on him.

    November 24, 2014 at 1:28 pm
  10. Heidi Mohney

    So needed this wonderful reminder today…as the daily grind of mothering, newborn and two other boys school aged..keeps be on my toes…Grateful and as I very thankful for our boys who point me to my Savior daily on whom strength I depend. Grateful for my family of little men.

    November 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm
  11. regina

    so thankful for God’s love. for the gift of salvation. for my family, my husbands recovery after his stroke last DEcember, for God’s healing & provision. so thankful for our Church family & our friends. the list goes on & on! God is so good!

    November 24, 2014 at 1:48 pm
  12. Jolene

    I am thankful for a loving godly husband and our two beautiful boys.

    November 24, 2014 at 2:27 pm
  13. Shelly

    I am thankful for the warm heat of the wood stove.

    November 24, 2014 at 2:38 pm
  14. Annetta

    I am grateful that GOD has not ever given up on me! In a season of spiritual growth, there were moments of uncertainty if I would see GOD glorified in me. Well GOD’s plans and timing are truly the best. I intentionally began to seek HIS Face and encourage myself in THE WORD and boy did GOD move in me AND through me! Truth…1 Thessalonians 5:18King James Version (KJV)
    18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

    November 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm
  15. LRF

    I really needed to read your devo at P31 and your blog today. I’ve been struggling & I’ve allowed myself to get angry at times, and discontent at other times. I kept a thankful list for a while, but fell out of the habit, then a few days ago I was really feeling down and miserable, and God whispered to my heart to write out a thankful list-I did and it really did help -however, the last few days I’ve not kept the list and my spirits are flagging, I’m so weak and yet praise God-He still loves and forgives-so thankful for the loving and forgiving character of God. I am also thankful that recently some of my physical pain has been a bit less. I must add thanks that my husband has a job provided by God, and he faithfully works each day to provide for our family. Once I get going on praising and thanking God, I realize there is so much He has done and provided, so how could I not be thankful? Yes, my hardships are still here-marriage struggles and physical pain, praying for my boys to love God wholeheartedly, BUT in Jesus, all things will one day be made new and what better reason than that and the fact He’s here now, to praise My Jesus, yes even amidst tears, I can and must thank my Jesus.

    November 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm
  16. Patti

    I am thankful for reading this devotional this morning. I too, am a grateful person, but a clost grumbler- especially at work! I am trusting that starting a gratitude journal will change the way I see every new day. Thank you Jesus, for Alicia and her insight and encouragement.

    November 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm
  17. Linda P

    I am thankful for friends. We are in the military and do not live close to family, so friends are the family we have close by.

    November 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm
  18. Karolina

    God’s provision in EVERYTHING and at a portion that He thinks is right (and that I at times may learn to accept 🙂 )

    November 24, 2014 at 3:39 pm
  19. Dot

    I am thankful for God’s provision and His gift of hope.

    November 24, 2014 at 7:35 pm
  20. Amber M.

    Thank you so much for your words and sweet stories today. It really touched my heart in a time I find myself being ungrateful. I need to put into practice some of the things you mentioned here for I know that God has truly blessed me and I need to be thankful on the many, many things he has blessed me with and get over my own agenda and the things I “think” I should have and make room for what God really wants to do through me and my life.

    November 24, 2014 at 8:30 pm
  21. Martha T.

    I am thankful for a warm house on a cold day!

    November 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm
  22. I’m thankful for you! And for Boxcar Children books. 🙂 From the library so I don’t have to pay for them. Beautiful post once again!

    November 24, 2014 at 9:19 pm
  23. Megan L.

    For my children!

    November 24, 2014 at 4:30 pm
  24. Reminiscing with you brings back my own memories of wanting to make our chicken coop up into a beautiful house for me and my sisters to play like we were ladies and have tea parties. It never happened with the chicken coop, but I do so love having a home and girlfriends and coffee. 🙂

    Love the rocks as analogy to thanks-giving and acquiring a new perspective! Beautiful!

    November 24, 2014 at 11:20 pm
  25. Chintita

    I am going through a very hard trial, but I thank God every day for Jesus and I thank Jesus for humiliating Himself and became a man to paid the BIG debt I owed and could not pay. A few days or weeks ago I started thanking God that my two sons who were in the service during the first Iraq war did not go to war, they are Marine Veterans. My oldest son even got the shots they give them before they send them to the battle field. I also thank the Lord that My husband is in an Adult Family Home where he is receiving very good loving care and it is close enough to go to see him because I drive very short distances, I got my first drivers license in 1976, but never dared to drive on bussy streets.

    November 25, 2014 at 3:47 am
  26. Chelsea Dudley

    I am truly thankful for my son, Judah.

    November 25, 2014 at 7:09 am
  27. Elaine Stewman

    I am thankful for the strength He gives me to get through every day, and for my two daughters who are a true blessing.

    November 25, 2014 at 10:47 am
  28. Karyn

    I’m thankful for God’s grace, faithfulness, and love.

    November 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm
  29. Jodi

    I am thankful for your post Alicia, and the reminder to dig out my own thankfulness journal! I am so thankful for all the women in my life who have a heart for Jesus and encourage me in my own spiritual walk. Your words speak hope and God’s truths, thank you for sharing! 🙂

    November 25, 2014 at 8:12 pm
  30. I am behind on my blog reading so just getting to this now – what a beautiful post. Gratitude does change us indeed. I love reading about your exploring days as a child. I always had a wild imagination and that kind of play was right up my alley : ) Thanks for sharing your journey of thankfulness. Today I am thankful for a warm house on a very cold day.

    December 1, 2014 at 7:29 pm

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