One Thousand Gifts.

I love to read. I’ll read almost anything I can get my hands on really…and I’ve done *lots* of reading since October’s diagnosis & November’s decision to adopt.

However, in a quite uncharacteristic move for me, there is one book in particular which I’ve been putting off reading…for well over a year now. I’d heard talk of this particular book, read a few blog posts & an advent devotional by the author, and even had a friend lend it to me after a women’s conference we attended together. {I actually tried to give it back to her over the summer because I felt so bad for keeping it for so long, but she wouldn’t hear of it until I actually read it.}

I guess the main thing that kept holding me back is that I knew it would take a lot of brain & heart power to read this book, in large part because of the author’s writing style, but also because of the way I knew it had challenged the lives of others who had read it.

Or perhaps the timing just wasn’t right. 

Regardless, I finally decided Christmas break was the perfect time to tackle it. And…I’m glad I did. A lot to digest, but God definitely spoke to me & revealed a refreshed focus for the new year. {As I have entered into this ebb & flow of waiting through the adoption process, I also really feel like this will help me to stay focused & joyful for the present, for the manna God  has for me today.}

So, without further ado, here are my notes  from the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. There were far to many words sticking to my ribs to retype them all here…instead I’ll try writing down the big ideas that captured me. Anything in { } is a quote from Ann.

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{The face of Jesus flashes…With an expiration of less than twelve hours, what does Jesus count as all most important? “And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them…” Luke 22:19 NIV…In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.” The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be a gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo – the table of thanksgiving. … As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.}

As Ann begins to wrap her mind around “eucharisteo,” she begins to realize that, in scripture, thanksgiving always comes before the miracles. She also points out that humanity’s fall from grace was a direct result of ingratitude toward what God gives. Thanksgiving then, in everything, is what helps us to work out our sanctification.

{Maybe I already take up eucharisteo‘s hard meaning every time I take communion? In a very tangible, physical act, aren’t I enacting my thanksgiving for His pain? In a very real way, in a digestible, consuming-oneness way, I’m celebrating greater gain through great loss.}

{But awakening to joy awakens to pain. Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living…life is loss. … Every step I take forward in my life is a loss of something in my life and I live in the waiting: How and of what will I be emptied today? … What in the world, in a world of certain loss, is grace?}

Ann goes on to describe that as our perspective shifts, as we begin to see God in everything, to trust that he is {tenderly, tirelessly working all for the best good of the whole world} we begin to understand that God’s grace is in ALL. {Sometimes we need to answer the hard eurcharisteo.}

“Always give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:20

{It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace. And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering.}

As Ann observes and thinks about all of the suffering in the world and among those around her, she begins to see the “ugly-beautiful” {That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful. … The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace.}

{What in the world, in all this world, is grace? I can say it certain now: All is grace. God is always good and I am always loved. Everything is eurachisteo. Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things – take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo. the hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it to beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good. The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace. All is grace only because all can transfigure.}

Wow. I had to quote that directly because that is the path I have been walking. The hard thanksgiving. The ugly beautiful.

Thank you Jesus.

Ann also talks a lot about how when you take on thankfulness, you are forsaking fear and anxiety. When you mentally name God’s graces in each moment / verbally give gratitude, stress and anger are overcome.

In a conversation with her son about how Jacob wrestled with God, Ann explains the significance of God touching Jacon on the sinew of his thigh. {And the doctor told him, ‘The sinew of the thigh is the strongest in the human body. A horse couldn’t even tear it apart. These are the words I have never forgotten, what the preacher said: ‘Ah, I see. The Lord has to break us down at the strongest part of our self-life before He can have His own way of blessing with us.}

I’ve written before about how I feel like this is what the Lord has done to me through the circumstances surrounding our decision to adopt…He had to break me down.

{Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings…}

{If God didn’t withhold from us His very own Son, will God withhold anything we need? If trust must be earned, hasn’t god unequivocally earned our trust with the bark on raw wounds, the thorn pressed into the brow, your name on the cracked lips? How will He not also graciously give us all things He deems best and right? He’s already given the incomprehensible. Christ is our crossbeam. The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One. All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ.}

In this, Ann was talking about the ‘trust issues’ she has had with God…isn’t that what we’re all doing in our moments of stress and worry? How even in the hard times, when we want to ask “Where is God in this?”…what we are missing is the perspective of time….time to fully see that everything God gives us is good. {Trauma’s storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie.}

Ann references Moses in Exodus 33:22-23, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back.” What she says next is just so amazing to think about…

{In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams. But maybe this is true reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is present in us, I-beam supporting in earthquake. The He will remove His hand. Then we will look. Then we look back and see His back.}

I read once, in another bible study, about a group of Christian men who had been taken captive and persecuted for their faith in God. Later, when they had been rescued and returned to their homes, several of the men talked about missing that place…that time in their lives. The missed it because they had so clearly felt the presence of God with them during their captivity…

I’ve felt this same way, though I’ve never voiced it because to many I just don’t think it would make sense. (And because I’m still working out in my mind how all of this weaves together…)

October was a dark month for me…the darkest I’ve known in this life. But, as it was, I have never so strongly and evidently seen and felt God at work at any other time in my life either. So to read Ann’s words…to connect them with what Moses experienced…to understand that when my world and plans were shaking and I couldn’t see through the darkness, it was because my God was passing by, working His glory into our situation & my life…that’s just incredible. And it explains why, when He opened my eyes and let me see, as He called me out of my mourning…I was left feeling a little let down.

It sounds crazy. But during that brief time of darkness, I felt closer to God than ever before. And in the days since, I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to recover that same level of closeness. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that I don’t cry at the drop of a hat anymore, that I can function & think about things other than infertility and it’s consequences, that I have a hope & a future in the plans God has for me. It was good…right for me to come out of the darkness. Heaven is where I will get to bask in God’s glory indefinitely. But that taste I had…hard as it was…was sweet.

I guess that’s what Ann would call the hard eurachisteo.

In the final pages of Ann’s book, she explores why the fight for joy is always so hard and finds that it’s because we must be willing to die to self and tell God “They will be done.” {Joy is in the acquiescing.} Joy is fueled by God…and we can only be receptive to Him through a willingness to receive what He gives.

The good and what seems bad. The ugly beautiful.

God is grace in all.

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In the new year, I’m going to take the same challenge that Ann did….to look for one thousand blessings from God. To try and find Him in all.

Because He’s there.

Blessed am I.

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One thought on “One Thousand Gifts.

  1. Wow! I love this post and will definitely be reading Ann’s book (I’ve heard about it and just haven’t gotten around to actually reading!) This is exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you for sharing!

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