I am undone. And praying I'll find words to do justice to what I'm experiencing...knowing for the first time. I feel as though I am standing on holy ground...indeed I am...for these are words that capture the everyday Holy Experience, where "all of life flames with significance."
Anything but a light read, Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts; A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, has left me undone...only to be reformed by the Hand of my Master. Join me as I share a small piece of how the Savior has used it in my life.
Captured immediately by Ann's incredible gift of pen, I learned that life dealt her several seemingly cruel hands. The book begins with the story of the loss of Ann's sister, Aimee, who was literally crushed in front of her family by a trucker who simply didn't see her. As a mother of young children, the sheer angst of Ann's telling made me want to crawl in bed with my little ones and hold them close to me forever. A mother's heart wants to protect...and yet with raw authenticity Ann cracks open the question we all have asked at one time or another, "How can a good God..."
Her answer comes in what I found to be a most unlikely place. Thanksgiving.
I always thought of myself as a thankful person before reading this book. I know I have been blessed...or at least I can look at my life and see good things I call blessings...and they outnumber the bad things I call something else. But Ann made me think beyond my limitations...in fact urging me to put on a whole new set of eyes to see the deep thankfulness in both the good and the bad. A task not humanly possible.
But nothing is impossible with God. She calls it eucharisteo. And I admit to letting it roll off of my lips in those sacred moments of deep thanksgiving.
And so I began, with great excitement, counting my blessings with Ann. Little gratitudes found along the way. A soft little cheek here, a song lyric there...Before I knew what was happening, I began seeing thanksgiving in things I had overlooked for a lifetime. In a recent post, I wrote these words describing this new way of seeing:
"I’m seeing them EVERYWHERE of late…picture must needs! And me with no real camera! I’m eaten inside with the desire to capture the deep thanksgiving…the things the Lord seems to be doing just for me in the sky…with those clouds…and those mountains and when, tell me WHEN, did those mountains I’ve loved all my life begin looking so glorious in the fall? Someone MUST needs take a picture!"
Indeed...the Lord seems to have given me a new set of eyes. And rather than calling only the good the blessing, I now clearly see the radical, hard thanksgiving in the bad.
Though I say that with a hint of fear.
Because a part of me still lives in fear that if I invite God to bring me wholly into Him, great sacrifice...loss...will be required of me to get there. I know that in this world we will have troubles...and I know that suffering is means God uses to draw us unmistakably to Him. I know He can be trusted. I know He is good. But the fear remains. What if God must take something (someone?) from me to bring me to Him most fully? I cannot ask that of Him.
Angie Smith, at a recent conference said (paraphrased) about the loss of her infant daughter , Audrey Caroline, "for all that her death has brought me...the understanding of God, the opportunities to comfort others and show them God's grace...I would still rather have Audrey." And my heart nods in agreement. This describes the words of my heart.
Beautifully and fully, Ann weaves comfort to my fear when she says, "It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear" (p. 203). And now I know the reason for the thanksgiving...the counting of the blessings...graces. So many times God calls us to remember and give thanks, for as we remember His good works, His salvation, His provisions, protection...we give thanks...and are built up, given peace and hope that He can do it again. Knowing this helps me take one step closer to the fullness of Him and realize it as an area where He continues to work.
His work is grace.
And I can not only count my gratitude, I can actually BE grace to those around me. "A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ" (p.184). And "to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living" (p. 192).
I am not the same. Upside down in a right-side-up world and wanting to stay there. Seeking the thanksgivings of each day with a fully devoted heart knowing that I'll have to read it again...and probably again. So many are the thoughts of my heart right now...so many are the ways I feel challenged to look beyond circumstances for the thanksgiving in life. So fully have I decided to live in this dare of the right now...that all I have to say to Ann Voskamp (and to my Savior) is:
One Thousand Thank-You's friends.
You can pre-order your copy of this highly recommended book, One Thousand Gifts, to be released in January 2011, now at Lifeway Christian Stores.