"One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. This book will change your life. Read it.
While I could end this note now, I don't think it would be blog-worthy. At a time in my life where everything within in me is stretched to outer to the outer limits of sanity, I can be suprisingly sane.
When my heart aches to be with my children more than I am away from them at work, I am oddly content.When the old Christy rises up defiantly and wants to buck submitting to my husband, I have been able to back down peacefully and resist. It has been a process.
Some may not know this, but due to salary changes and uncertainty and debt, frankly, we decided to sell our home last month and move to one half the size ( and half the mortgage) That was a stressful, yet liberating process. It was a decision we made through prayer, council and tears. The kids are happy, and we are only about a mile from where we were in Harrisburg. We hopefully are in a position to figure out how to balance our rental houses and become more debt free. We also got involved in a tax fiasco last year that cost us a small fortune in taxes and that took the wind out of our sails in a big way. But moving is not fun. It's ranked right under death and unemployment, and for good reason. And we have done it three times in 12 months. This last time was divine, however. A big step of humility for us. No hardwoods. Ugly wallpaper.. But a response to a cry for help that I heard clearly from God.
I was at a stop light in Harrisburg before we decided to sell the house and I prayed for direction and peace and clarity.. and I heard God say "Christy, I didn't get you into this mess, but I am going to help you get out of it." Whoa. So a few days later our house went on the market and a few days later it was under contract. ( Can I just say that I have an awesome, wonderful husband who didn't bat an eyelash at my crazy "divine decision"?)
So here we are in a cozy, sweet house after so many moves..and you know the crazy part? This house cost the same amount as our first home many moves ago. The one that I thought wasn't good enough. The house I thought wasn't big enough. And here we are! Oh the lessons I have learned. I wouldn't trade any of it for the place of contentment that I live in now.
Peace when things are good. Peace when things are bad. Gratitude because God is good and life is sweet. And it all came together when a dear friend suggested via text that I read a certain book...
Which brings me to Ann Voskamp's point in "One Thousand Gifts". She was profoundly changed when she started looking for God's blessings in everyday life. She made a list of one thousand blessings and gifts. Some were simple, some elaborate. Listen to what the author says as she realizes the power of eucharisteo ( meaning thanksgiving) in Chapter 2.
"And sitting there before the window, I'm struck, a comet blazing through the empty dark of my life. All those years thinking I was saved and had said yes to my God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced whole of my salvation?
Had never lived out the full expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn't taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at his feet and thanking him. I sit still, blinded. This is why I sat all those years in church bu my soul holes had never healed. Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live- this is the only way from empty to full".
This is just a window into a whole new world of living a life of thanksgiving. I have tried to make my own list, which forces a new way of living. I am looking for the things in life in which I can rejoice. And I am writing them down. Here are a few of mine from last week.
24. My dogs sitting so patiently while I wipe their paws.
25. Getting the kids to bed on time- and having them wake up easily the next morning!
26. Pinwheel spinning on the side of the road in the breeze. Clouds behind it so glorious!
27. Picking up my kids from school on my days off..those two sweaty, dirty little children loaded down with bookbags coming around the corner..they are mine.
All of these are so simple, but they are changing me. Making me content. Content with my little house even thought I sell big houses. Eucharisteo is showing me all the big things in life that I may have missed..because I am looking for them now and celebrating the gifts God gives in this life.
While riding down the road a few days ago, I silently prayed for God to show me things for my "list". It had been an unsettling day. Things weren't going as I had hoped. Yet I needed complete my joy list. My eye caught this sign on the side of the road.
I had to pull over and snap a picture. If I had not been looking for things to be grateful for, I would have missed this. This man, this Sargeant Newman, is the son of Corey's teacher. A man for whose safe return we have been praying for months. He was oversees serving our country. And this sign in a rural southern town says it all. He is home. His mother will sleep well tonight. If I hadn't been praying and waiting and looking I would have missed it! I quickly flip open my notebook and jot down the next gift.
#28 Mrs. Newman's son is home- will send her email to congratulate!
Ann Voskamp says so perfectly, " Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks. How did I ever think there was another way to enter into His courts but with thanksgiving?
He is so good, and His grace is so sufficient and I am so blessed. Which leads me to my #37
#37 Corey banged his eye, but he let me hold him for a few minutes on the couch.
Stroking his tears, I remembered the chapter of One Thousand Gifts where the author is holding her own little one.
"I wrap a thread of her curls around a finger. I stare into that face conceived in love, reflecting love, and I feel His love fall soft on me. I am child in His arms and His breath falls warm upon my face and what I feel for this daughter He feels for me, and these gifts, all these gifts I keep counting, they are His love gifts and they are slowly waking me up to the tenderest, fiercest Love of all."
Read more about Ann and her book at www.aholyexperience.com
And watch the unrelated video below, which is a song by Kari Jobe called "You are For Me"
I listened to it no less than 15 times in a row in the car, and it could be the soundtrack of all that God is doing in my life.
The song says in similar words...
God will never forsake us in our weaknesses and He is for us! He wants to write upon our hearts a reminder of who He is.
Grace, thanksgiving and joy to you.