“For years, I have pulled the covers up over my head, dreading to begin another day I’d be bound to just wreck….I wake to the discontent of life in my skin. I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always, the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain…I live tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
The book One Thousand Gifts was given to me a few years ago by my beautiful friend Marie. A few friends gathered once a week to do a book study, it was life changing. I remember reading the above exert and totally relating. When caring for a child who relies on you for everything, life can sometimes feel like a series of meaningless days. Kind of like the movie Groundhog Day, the same monotonous day over and over again. Voskamp describes these emotions as just going through the motions of life, not really living. So she presents the question, “How do I live more fully in this life on earth?”
Is it creating a fabulous Bucket List and making sure I experience all that this earth has to offer? Must I see the Grand Canyon before I die or could it be simpler? Can’t we find this beauty here and now? “Today I will embrace the skin of a boy child that my body grew from a seed.” Voskamp writes. Isn’t this miracle so much better than the Grand Canyon? So why don’t I get it? How do I find that beauty in my own mundane life?
“And he took bread, GAVE THANKS and broke it, and gave it to them.” Luke 22:19
The Greek word for GIVE THANKS is Eucharisteo. When you break this word down Charis means grace. “Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks.” (p. 31) Broken down even further Chara means joy. Isn’t joy what we are looking for in that bucket list? “Where can I seize this holy grail of joy?…Was this (word Eucharisteo) the clue to the quest of all most important? Deep Chara joy is found only at the table of Eucharisteo- the table of thanksgiving…The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here!” (p. 33)
Voskamp goes on to say that in the Bible thanksgiving always precedes a miracle. And think about the reason for original sin. It all came about because Adam and Eve couldn’t see how wonderful their lives were. They were ungrateful and wanted more. That is me! Katie is the most incredible gift God could have ever given me. She is perfect and I continue to ask for more, I want her healed of this horrible affliction, but God made her perfect. Why can’t I see that?
“Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives.” (p. 35) Think about the last time someone gave you a gift. Did you say thank you? You may have even taken the time to write a special note to say how much the gift meant. If you don’t say thank you, the action is not complete. Everything we have is a gift from God. Yes, everything! Laundry, chocolate chip cookies, the feeding tube that makes our lives so different but allows me to nourish Katie, bedtime routine with kids screaming, ankle braces that help Katie walk holding my hand, the wheelchair I struggle to fold up and lift into the car every time we leave the house, the Ipad we use to help Katie communicate. So if we fail to say thank you, we are not completely accepting His gift.
So what about the ugliness of life? How do we say thanks for hardships? Could I actually say thank you God for not rescuing Katie from this neurological condition that has stolen so much. Voskamp says there is beauty in everything, the beauty is found in transforming the ugly to beautiful. That was an “Ah Ha” moment for me. I finally got it. No, I’m not going to say thank you God for her sickness, but I am going to say thank you God for the new perspective on life Katie has shown me, for the relationship she has helped me build with You, for the invaluable lessons she teaches her siblings, for the amazing side of her daddy I see, for this blog that is helping me grow and SO much more. In thanksgiving I am able to see the gift that is Katie because if she had been born as a typical child, who would I be? “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 joy that fulfills all emptiness.” (p. 53)
The title “One Thousand Gifts” comes from a list that Voskamp starts, adding all the ordinary and extraordinary things in her life. The list changes her completely because she is recognizing and naming things, in turn validating everything. She becomes aware of the scent of jam on toast, the sound of a blue jay outside her window, the creak of her knees, the feel of the wind blowing her hair into her face. When she slows down and pays attention she says thank you and then sees the beauty in her mundane life.
So as we enter this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s all take the time to unplug from the things that are distracting us from the beauty around us. Let’s recognize the gifts that surround us in every moment of our day.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful that my family of 5 is exactly where we are supposed to be, living this very “Special” ordinary life that God planned for us. Thank you God!
I’m also thankful for you reading this post right now, Please share your ordinary “Thankfuls”!