Monday, February 14, 2011

One thousand gifts...

I've been putting off this post...intimidated somehow. I've read a book that is so poetic and so life-changing that writing about it makes me feel completely inadequate.

The book is One Thousand Gifts - A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp and it has taken my breath away. In a nutshell, Ann, a Canadian farm wife, accepted a dare to record 1000 things she loves - 1000 gifts from God. The process became a hunt for the beautiful in the every day - and a deepening awareness of God's love expressed in the microscopic and the magnificent.

The heart of the book lies in discovering and understanding
eucharisteo - a word used to describe Jesus' giving of thanks hours before his death. "He gave thanks" - eucharisteo. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning grace. As Ann writes, "Jesus took the bread, and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks."

Ann continues, "
Eucharisteo - thanksgiving, includes the Greek word for grace, charis, but also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning it that simple? Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?"

The entwined threads of grace, thanksgiving and joy form the refrain of the book - a deep searching for deepest communion with God by simply receiving all as gift - the beautiful and, sometimes, the ugly-beautiful, because...well, life is hard.

So, I accepted the dare, took up pen and began my own hunt for the gifts - not always profound or poetic or spiritual - but gifts -- all gift, all grace. It's a discipline, this search for grace, this giving of thanks. Ann quotes Erasmus (as do...) "A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit." The habit of ingratitude - or just inattention -- must be driven out by a habit of

I love her repeated refrain, backed up with Scripture after Scripture - "Eucharisteo precedes the mirace." So, in the middle of a mess, in the middle of chaos or tragedy, can I look for the gift? Can I accept all as grace and expect the miracle? The miracle of joy...of love? Recounting the gifts is receiving God's love and returning it in thanks and praise - the joy results because this is what we were created for.

Far too often, I have (as Ann says) "slapped a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life, which left me deeply thankful for very few things." In the
naming, the counting, we experience the joy.

"Do not disdain the small. The whole of life - even the hard - is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole," Ann writes.

Okay, I could quote the whole book, but I won't...I encourage you to read it. These are just glimpses of the first three of eleven startling chapters. I leave you with one more passage, then a few of the gifts I'm thankful for...

"And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time's swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.
I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment...Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with the weight of full's not the gifts that fulfill, but the holiness of the space. The God in it...thanks makes now a sanctuary."

My list (now at 87) includes...

warm bread, fresh from the oven (and real butter!), prepared by Jesse...

...flannel pajamas...and a freshly-made bed... family photos, sweet company in an empty nest...

...a favorable wind...texts from my kids...rain-soaked fields...stars in a clear, black sky...empty laundry baskets...a fragment of time to read in the truck...rain on tin roof...leftovers...

My Scripture memory for the first two weeks in February reflects this season of learning:

"Pray diligently.
Stay alert with eyes wide open in gratitude."
Col. 4:2

For the rest of February, I'm also focusing on thanks:

"At all times and for everything,
giving thanks
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
to God the Father." Eph. 5:20

I find myself literally adopting a posture of hands lifted, open, as I look with new eyes for the gifts all around me. I'm accepting the dare to live fully, right where I am.


Lisa said...

What a beautiful post filled with beautiful gifts! I have also started to count my many gifts too! Don't you just love Ann's book, I can't seem to put mine down!!!!

Bec said...

This is so beautiful. I love love love it! Thanks so much for posting this. :) It's so true how seemingly blinded we are to the simple, everyday blessings and grace that God gives us. His mercies are new every morning. I am thankful for His faithfulness. I pray that I will follow your example in the daily search for God's gracious blessings. And blog posts by Mrs. Leslie are definitely on my list. :)

love you!

Bec said...

ps, I use pure grace perfume, too!

(and random side note: I like your quilt. :)

First Communion Gifts said...

As a mom, I am so excited for my kids first communion.

Nora said...

Such a great post on the book!! I am looking forward to Friday night, fellowship with friends is definitely on my list!