So there this Farmer.

Yeah, he could have been an electrician, a mechanic, a vet —

and a story like this could have easily been about a salesman, a mother, a nurse, a teacher, a trucker because we’re all kin with stories that are kind of the same and we’re all the same kind of different.

So, yeah, there once was this Farmer — and the guy knew dirt.

He had dirt.

And yeah, there’s not one of us that doesn’t.


When he found out that this is the way it goes — that he had to work out his own salvation — he stood on the edge of the field and looked across it like a man trying to find his way.

He could rest in it: You don’t work for your salvation, like you have to earn it — but you have to work out your salvation, like you have to turn over the earth, like you have to work dirt.

He’d work out his salvation like he’d work out in the fields — turning over the earth, turning up his open hands. He tied on his beat-up steel-toed boots. He pulled on his bent up John-Deere cap. He did this and went out every day. He broke up hard ground.

He plowed. The sun beat down. He believed in seeds. He believed the small things would yield. He said thank you a thousand times, the earth breaking up slow under the steely glint of the mirrored edge of the furrow.


The bills stacked on his desk. The dog died. One of his boys rebelled like he was part mule, part rattler. The kick and the sting of the whole thing just about killed him. He plowed anyway, his lips chapped and burning under the sun, murmuring his brazen thanks.

His wife held him in the dark. He clung to prayers.

He was tempted, but he didn’t get in the pickup and head west in his own cloud of rebellious dust. He was brave and he stayed everyday. He went out and did his work and he gave thanks when it made no sense because his God knows no bounds. God had to be in the hard, so he’d give thanks in the hurt — that he hadn’t been left alone, had never been left alone.

When the corn came up, a late frost killed every stalk. He planted again. He counted blessings and let thanksgiving be planted deep in him. He opened his hands. He received what God gave — and he gave thanks. His eyes opened and he got joy.



When the beans started to pod up, an army of aphids ate the crop. He plowed them down. He bowed his head and plowed his field and murmured thanks in sheer defiance of everything in him and around him that said this finally proved God wasn’t good. He opened his hands. He received what God gave — and he gave thanks. His heart opened and he got joy.

When the wheat was right ripe, a hail storm laid it flat and rain came down hard and made the kernels mold, and the Farmer brushed away whatever was falling down his cheeks and he turned over his hands and he gave audacious thanks as a subversive act against the dark that tortured him to scoff at God.

He opened his hands. He received what God gave — and he gave thanks. His life opened — and he got joy.


He’d let himself be broken up like a field. He let himself be made soft and open. He’d let himself be tilled ’til there was harvest.

His wife held him in the dark.

And he lay there in black and whispered how he could still see: Thanksgiving to God is the only thing that heals our view of the world.

She could hardly wrap her arms around him, his heart had grown so large. She could see how he kept going, how he kept seeing to keep going: Without thanksgiving, the world distorts.

He held her hand every morning before he went out to work out his salvation, before he went out to work his field his life. He would pull her close and whisper what they could not forget: The one thing we must pray to be great at is thanksgiving — because it’s the one thing that makes God great in our lives.


They were simple people, but they knew it because they had lived it:

No matter what the headlines shout, the world only has two stories: bless God or curse God.
No matter what the world tries to sell, we all only get to choose from two shelves: Give God thanks or Give God the door.

No matter what we’re facing, there are always only two roads: thanksgiving to God or dismissing of God.

They were simple people but they had decided — they would let not hard times steal their thanksgiving. They would not let hard sells steal their thanksgiving. They would not let hard knocks steal their thanksgiving.

Because the people living plain and down to earth knew it — if you let something steal your thanksgiving, you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength.

The Farmer and his wife would let nothing steal their thanksgiving to God — so that in everything they could stand strong in God.


Simple people — keeping it simple. Sometimes they would pull each other closer in the dark and laugh quiet and brave, and she could feel the smile in them: we will give thanks to God not because of how we feel, but because of who He is.

No disaster, no storm, no cancellation, no termination, no catastrophe would stop them from giving thanks. Because the Farmer and his wife knew it:

No matter where they were, every thanksgiving always brought them home —

giving thanks, always bringing you home

to the heart of God.

Related Resources:
One Thousand Gifts and One Thousand Gifts Devotional

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We will give thanks to God, not because of how we feel, but because of who He is. {Tweet this!}

  • Jas

    Such a lot of knowledge in the simple, thank you for the reminder of the importance of being grateful and giving thanks to the Lord even when or especially when experiencing the hard times, the curve balls of life. Your right thanksgiving to the Lord changes our perspective on life, bringing joy and leaves happiness in its wake which makes us stronger. Great post!

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      Yes, Jas, and always grateful that Christ will catch you. Us. And forward is Home… Falling forward will get us closer to Home and Him and heaven. Much love to you today!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    “Thanksgiving to God is the only thing that heals our view of the world.” Amen. Absolutely beautiful. It is so easy to let anger slink in and steal our joy. It’s much easier to let despair loom larger than hope. So true that we have only two choices…bless God or curse Him. I choose the former and may God give me the grace to keep choosing to bless; after all it ALL comes from Him anyway. Thank you for good things to ponder this day…
    ps. To my sister readers: I highly recommend Ann’s Advent devotional book: “The Greatest Gift- Unwrapping The Full Love Story Of Christmas.” (I also got the accompanying Jesse tree ornaments). Starting Dec. 1, I read through this book last year and it REALLY help center my heart and prepare it for the true meaning of Christmas. My Jesse tree stood simply mid all the tinsel to remind me of what this season is all about. I highly recommend it and can’t wait to start it this Season. (This shout out is unsolicited…)

    • JeanneTakenaka

      Bev, I loved this book too! It’s what I read as my devotional during December. :)

    • Penny

      Thank-you Bev

  • http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.com/ ro elliott

    Amen… Giving thanks does bring us home to the heart of God… 4 years ago I soaked in the truth woven in 1000 gifts … I read it over and over… I listened to your precious voice read the words… This old heart needed to be saturated with life giving words…Words that tilled up the soil of my heart… Words that corrected my vision… Words that started me on a path of freedom. The remedy is truly in the retina… Giving thanks is what loosened my stubborn will … Thanksliving brought me to deeper surrender… Once again… Thank you for your labor of love … Xoxo

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      Beautiful words here, Ro…love your heart after His — in every way.

  • Linda Miltzow

    This life He gives us is truly all for His glory. Our thanksgiving, open handed and lifted high in praise to the One who gave His everything to us, is the only gift He wants from us. So often our praise must come from the hard, sorrow-filled places that threaten to knock us to the ground and bury us in dust of ourselves. Giving God thanks in everything brings joy, His unspeakable joy, and we know that in the joy of the Lord is our strength. His Strength is our strong; strong to sing praise out loud, even in the hard, strong to bring Hope to our hurting world. Our Lord God is the I AM. I AM right now. I AM here. I AM always. I AM forever. I am His and that is all that matters. Giving thanks and praise to God because I AM.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Sweet Ann! I presume this is a true story based on the true life of the real Farmer Darrell (sp?) and the farmer’s very real wife, Ann. It is so timely in a world where we face threat and terror, so much misery, sadness, and loss (much less virulent weather). These things are real, and there’s no denying them. (And even if we did, there is really no place to run and hide). But I hear you shout your thanksgiving to God from the treetops like a clarion call above the abyss. This brazen, yet humble, “Thank You, God!” repeated one thousand times one thousand times one thousand, doesn’t deny the hardships, it defies them! Your raise your thanksgiving shout like a battle banner, exalting the Mighty Captain in Chief, committing your loyalty to Him, knowing He will go before you and fight as you fight to honor Him with thanks. Your thanksgiving rally is a battle cry for the victory that you know is already His!! Praise the Lord of heaven!This powerful post, such an encouragement to us all, especially now, reminds me of another ancient stand for thanksgiving despite the hard earth, the failed crop, the invading army of insect plague:

    “I heard and my [m]inward parts trembled,
    At the sound my lips quivered.
    Decay enters my bones,
    And in my place I tremble.
    Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
    For the people to arise who will invade us.
    Though the fig tree should not blossom
    And there be no fruit on the vines,
    Though the yield of the olive should fail
    And the fields produce no food,
    Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
    And there be no cattle in the stalls,
    Yet I will exult in the Lord,
    I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
    The Lord [p]God is my strength,
    And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
    And makes me walk on my high places.” (Hab. 3)
    I have been grumbling a lot lately, which I am prone to do, and just yesterday, as I read Numbers 14, the Lord convicted me afresh of this egregious sin. To me, grumbling is just the opposite of giving thanks. Moreover, it’s unbelief. UNBELIEF. That’s the insidious foundation of a thankless life. That’s what the Lord said in that chapter, and He spurned the Israelites for their grumbling and unbelief. Your call for giving thanks is no less than a call to believe the One who has saved us, and to rejoice in the God of our salvation….to believe that despite our circumstances, He is greater still. How I needed this today. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving, dear Ann!

  • Loretta

    Not trying to simplify something so profound but to break it down for everyone wherever they are in their walk down the highway of life…Gratitude is an attitude. I Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God toward you in Christ Jesus.” NASB
    Have a great day my sisters, as we give thanks throughout our day for our God just doing what He does – loving, forgiving, blessing, teaching, Being THE beacon of light in a dark world.

  • http://briarcroft.wordpress.com briarcroft

    thank you for this profound reminder that we, as God-breathed dust, must “be broken up like a field, made soft and open, be tilled ’til there was harvest.” We praise the plow that turns us over and makes us new.

  • Penny

    I’m just starting to really understand the practice of thanksgiving. It used to be something I did when I felt it. Now, I realize, that it’s meant to be practiced even when I don’t feel it. Perhaps, the very act of thanksgiving itself, will bring those feelings to a dry, cracked heart. So many things have happened, that I struggle to find thankfulness in, and then I remember my thankfulness is to God, not the event, not the outside world. I will keep practicing.

  • JeanneTakenaka


    Such a beautiful, wise post. This: “if you let something steal your thanksgiving, you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength.” spoke to my heart. It’s only when we give thanks in the hard that we can be strong. It’s the act of gratitude that keeps our hearts at peace. I needed that reminder. Thank you!

  • Penny


    Beautifully spoken, thank-you. (Your) story deeply touched my heart. For everything, be thankful.
    For this I will quote my nine year old:”We are not great, we are only good, because only God is great.”

    Blessings to you and your family,


  • Beth Williams

    I wish that Thanksgiving would come sooner in November or even October. It seems to get pushed aside for the buy buy buy of Christmas! I love the older days when each holiday came along one at a time!! For me Thanksgiving is a daily prayer. I want to Thank Him for everything-especially eternal life!
    Loved the story line of the farmer! I want to be more like him-always giving thanks even in dark times!!
    Blessings :)

  • kmdakis

    Your words pierced my heart in a beautiful way! Thank you! Thank God! Your article made me see things afresh, made me see more of God’s beauty and helped me see the true meaning of thanksgiving! God bless you! I felt God’s wonderful touch, once again, in my heart.

  • http://www.bethcoulton.com Beth

    I read part of this yesterday and was captivated by it. On my way in to work this morning, I realized I hadn’t finished it and was eager to get to my computer and read the remainder. As I was driving to work, I recalled as much of the post as I could and got to thinking about the thankful, and realized how little of it I was doing. (I made a mental note to change that). And I pondered that thankfulness preceding the miracle isn’t a formula (as nothing about God can be reduced to a predictable pattern) but is rather process that cannot fail. If we are thankful, we will get the outcome God has designed for us. Our miracle might look different after our thanks than before, but it will be exactly what we’ve learned we need during our time of outpoured gratitude.

  • Gail Noe

    Love this!!!! Love this!!! Love this!!! Here it is the will of God from 1 Thess. 5:18. As we become truly thankful in all circumstances, God works in our hearts and in our circumstances. He changes us and our circumstances are suddenly different. Thank you Jesus!!!!!

  • Rosemary Clark

    Life is tough. To find and keep joy, one must look beyond this life to the One who gives life and joy abundantly. When we look around us we see death, suffering, pain, illness, grief, evil, cruelty, etc. Only through Jesus’ eyes can we see life, peace, strength, joy, good and tenderness, etc. while in the middle of the bad. His life in us, His Word before us, is the only way to joy.Truly.

  • http://livingcenter.me/ Nancy Wolfe @ livingcenter.me

    “…there are always only two roads: thanksgiving to God or dismissing of God…” I wish I could always remember that even when it’s hard to be thankful, dismissing God will always, eventually, lead to more pain. So lovely…xoxox

  • http://www.Theflawedtreasure.com Kristi

    Thank you for this simple, yet often profoundly hard truth, Ann. Thank you for reminding us all of the importance of thanksgiving and how it truly is the ticket to joy and contentment.
    I always love reading your words. ☺️

  • Missing Mickey Mouse

    Thank you for this timely reminder. Its easy to get caught up and overwhelmed with our problems that we forget to give thanks for who God is and all God has done.

  • Sharon O

    Amazing and wonderful. Always.

  • barney

    “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

  • Lovelle

    I just got a chance to read this but I love this. It is such a great reminder to be thankful in all circumstances. If we don’t go through the hard times, then we can’t appreciate the good ones and through every situation, God is able to draw us closer to Him if we choose to look towards Him. I think sometimes I forget that my relationship with God isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. This reminded me to be more thankful for the freedom I have in Christ.

  • Natasha

    Thank you so much for this reminder. I am a foster care social worker and this week has been one of those weeks that breaks my heart wide open and I’ve been thinking how do I give thanks in this? What does it look like to give thanks in the midst of so much suffering and darkness? So I love the line where you state “he gave audacious thanks as a subversive act against the dark that tortured him to scoff at God.” I also love when you wrote “he gave thanks when it made no sense because God knows no bounds” and “they would not let hard times steal their thanksgiving.” My heart needs this tonight, thank you.

  • AndiW

    Thank you. The Thanksgiving Focus on friends and family..it’s good, but it is also painful with people gone and things un-perfect. Only God. Only a thankfilled heart to God is the blessing, the real blessing of life, the joy of one who knows Him through the Son’s Gift and Lordship. Thank you, also, for offering the explanation to ‘working out our salvation with fear and trembling’. Yes. I am deeply thankful to my LORD, Savior, Friend. Thank you, Ann.