Thursday, March 7, 2013
I just finished reading one of the most amazing books. I had heard people talking about One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp for awhile, and this summer my aunt asked me if I had read it. She then sent it to me, which was so nice! I picked it up and started it, but it was a slow start to get into the habit of reading again, and finding the time to really get into a book. I'm so glad I decided to bring my book with me on our recent trip. Since there were so many hours in the car, and I happened to not get too carsick to read, I had plenty of time to finish my book! I have to say, I haven't read too many books since having kids! In fact, I have never been a huge reader, so the ones I have read are all big accomplishments! Ha!
So, the book. Oh my, where to start. It's about a dare that the author received to start recording 1,000 gifts, or blessings, or things she was thankful for. She did it because it was a dare. I love how she starts the book in being completely raw and honest about her doubts in her relationship with God. Doubting His goodness. Doubting His plan for her life. Her pain. His choices. Other people's pain. I totally relate to people when they expose themselves and their true feelings and hurts and even their ugly thoughts and feelings. It makes people seem more real. Like they are like me. And it was the very thing that has been between me and God lately, I think. That doubting His goodness in the face of pain. Or other people's pain. The pain around the world. The fear of pain. The fear of loss.
But as she starts to record these blessings, these little ounces of gratitude for things so small and usually unnoticed, her heart starts to change, and the depth of her love and understand of God go to unmeasured depths as it opens up so many theological levels in her relationship with God. She goes beyond 1,000 gifts because the fruit of it is so rewarding and she sees God in a way she hasn't before.
"The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God - even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion - this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him."
I love that it's written by a stay-at-home mother of six who wants to find the deep things of God among the mundane, everyday life of laundry, cooking, cleaning, raising kids, and even the rough patches of breaking up fights, fearing for their farm, and hard things that come their way. She is real. She is honest. She is human and her realness along with her deep passion and thirst for her relationship with God is inspiring.
"I make soup and I bake bread and I know my supreme need is joy in God and I know I can't experience deep joy in God until I deep trust in God. I shine sinks and polish through to the realization that trusting God is my most urgent need. If I deep trusted God in all the facets of my life, wouldn't that deep heal my anxiety, my self-condemnation, my soul holes?"
I can find God among the little things. I can still trust Him in the "ugly-beautiful" things in life. Those things that Ann describes that are painful and hard but God uses them to shape us and continue to mold us and draw us closer to Himself. She even labels some of her "blessings" under "ugly-beautiful." That we would be thankful for all things.
"I walk in our back door to candlelight still flickering, hang the keys on the hook, and look around at the steep mountain of laundry there in the mudroom, the shoes scattered, a coat dropped. The mudroom sink is grime ringed. Fingerprints smear across the mirror. I laugh the happiest wonder. In the afternoon's drizzle, I give happy thanks for the daily mess with a smile a mile wide, because this is again my chance to wholeheartedly serve God, to do full-bodied eucharisteo with the hands and the heart and the lips. I can count each task a gift, pure eucharisteo. Grace! This work-the thousand endless jobs-they each give the opportunity for one to become the gift, a thousand times over!Because with every one of the thousand, endless jobs, I become the gift to God and to others because this work is the public God serving, the daily liturgy of thanks, the completing of the Communion service with my service."
(I know that was such a long quote, but it is one of the ones I want to remember. I live my days in the mundane. I get so frustrated by the endless messes and my list that never ends. And when it might seem to be nearing the end, it is the same list on repeat the next day. It is tiring and overwhelming. I so needed this encouragement to be the blessing to others and to let it create joy in me in God. And I try to remember when I wasn't well enough to take care of my home when I was pregnant and extremely sick. If I didn't have my health, I would be wishing for the ability to do those one thousand endless tasks!!!)
I was also challenged in her naming the smallest of things to be thankful for. When I think of gratitude, I think of my husband's job, our house, our 3 beautiful, healthy children, our health, food to eat, a warm home. But she goes beyond those things and finds beauty in the smallest of things in her life, and it causes her to see the depth of God's love for us and how He blesses us constantly with all things to enjoy. We just have to stop and slow down enough to notice.
And then, as she learns to be grateful constantly, without ceasing, she also realizes that we are to bless others and be the blessing that God has been to us. To serve without limits. To pour out, to empty, to be filled again beyond measure. It really is such a beautiful book. And completely the opposite of how the world tells us to live.
"Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him."
So, if you haven't read this book, it's time you picked it up! I will shortly be passing it onto another lady in our church, and encouraging other people to read it. It will change your perspective, and it has already begun to soften my heart and change me. I have started my 1,000 gift list, and I hope to be changed and softened and brought to deep joy in the God who loves me so much more than I can imagine. He is the reason we live. To Him be the glory.