I write this for my friends and my dear sister...who couldn't be there with me Sunday night...but I know they were praying for me....
This is what I was able to share with our GVBC ladies:
A month ago, I was asked to talk about this book....this book that I love...that has changed my perspective on life...and with that lesson....I came armed and happy and elated to share this book with you....but the lessons....had not been all learned...and haven't still...there is more to learn...and I find myself a little wiser, a little more weary...but still...I come with this book...for after this fight that I have had I now know that Satan does not want me to share it with you...and with that knowledge I come before you...hoping and praying that it will be balm to your weary soul...as it has been to mine. So, even though I'm a little weary and feel a little bloody from the battle...I am still so excited I could scream to share this book with you!
I was raised in a very strict Christan home where I was not allowed to pierce my ears, show my knees, go to movies or listen to secular music. I went to a private Christan school and graduated from Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. My view of God growing up was...if I obey God and do the things that He expect me to, then I will have long life and bad things will not happen to me. Those that go through trials are being discipline by an Almighty God. This view of God was how I approached the throne each and every time I went to Him. I constantly was searching my heart for any sin that could be present and trying to purge it from within so that there would be nothing between my Savior and myself. I feared God, I loved God, but I lived in complete and total fear. I could not understand what He was doing when my first husband was killed in an auto accident and left me as a single parent to raise our son. I was filled with much regret that I had done something wrong and that God was punishing me and my late husband for past sins...I walked very close to leaving the church...if this was God...I wanted nothing to do with HIm.
I spent the next several years learning about GRACE. A word I had heard but never understood the meaning....GRACE....GRACE...and learning that my Savior loves me...all of me...every part...every part.
I have spent the last eight years trying to become a good stepmom, a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good servant...a good clown:), a good teacher for my children and piano students. I was getting lost in the mundane...I was becoming depressed....JOY? Where was it? I had lost my zeal...I knew that the Lord wanted me to be happy....I assumed that I wasn't reading the Bible enough...I needed a new study...I needed to be rejuvenated...but I needed something that would stick...not an emotional "Glory Jesus!" and then go back to my normal way of thinking. I needed to have my whole outlook changed. I could hear the Savior whisper to me "I offer you so much more!" How do you find joy in the cooking, cleaning, wiping of little bottoms, laundry, errands, schooling, taxi service for children...where Lord do you find the joy in the mundane?
My sister who is eight years older than I and wise in all things:) called me and told me to this book and get it right away...so I did...and life hasn't been the same ever since.
This book is called "one thousand gifts" and it is written by a wonderful woman named Ann Voskamp. I do not worship the woman but I do love the way that she has re-introduced me to my God...and show me all the things that I was missing.
In the beginning of the book she takes you through the tragic loss of her sister and how that changed her family and her outlook on life and God...and all things. The first couple of chapters i bawled so loud I was sure that I would wake everyone sleeping in my home...I trudged on knowing that a breakthrough was on the horizon.
She introduces you to the word Eucharisteo
Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo
"Joy is always possible, Whenever, meaning---now, wherever, meaning here" I was blown away by those words. Joy? In laundry...in cooking? In teaching piano. JOY? Yes, the Savior seemed to whisper...yes!
"The fall came about from "non eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall, humanity's discontent with all that God freely gives. Ungratefulness." I try so hard to teach my children not to be that way...but how often is my week ruined by a dishwasher that seems to need more repairs than I think are possible. How often do I complain about little things...ungratefulness....how could I expect them to change if I couldn't?
"Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! To His grace."
"Thanksgiving-giving thanks in everything is what prepares the way for salvation's whole restoration. Our salvation in Christ is real, ye the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks. In everything?" As I read those words I was so greatly convicted...I had not given thanks in all things...in fact my tongue cursed at HIm for taking away the man I loved, for changing my life...for making me walk this path alone...what had I done to Him to make Him do this to me? WHY?
For Ann it was a dare from a friend...to write one thousand gifts...and she wondered if she could do it. She began the list...not of things that she wanted but of things that she already had.
I started this list in January and these are just a few of the gifts that I have written since I began this journey:
1. Pink front doors
2. Babies snuggled against Mommies all wrapped up against the cold
3. Unexpected visit from friends
4. Warm fuzzy blankets
5. My son can vacuum well.
6. Mrs Meyers candles
7. The color turquoise
8. Blue speckled eggs
9. Clean laundry warm from the dryer
10. Clown noses
12. The smell of fresh cut grass
14. Room Service
I notice that as I begin this list that things come to me easier...I'm looking and I'm seeing things that I never would have taken the time to notice. I'm "living in the moment" taking all that I can from that moment...instead of letting it pass...not noticing the gifts that it is. There in is the brilliance of what God has been trying to show me all this time...my gifts have been given to me daily...continuously...but I haven't seen them...to busy...to caught up with the next thing on the agenda to really SEE...what He has for me.
A few quotes from Anne's book that have taken time for me to understand:
"wherever you are...be all there."
"Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention."
Now for the hard part....learning to give thanks for the good things is easy...its fun...its amazing...but now to let go and really let God work in me. Letting go of the fear....
"And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything. I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy---and seeing shows the way in."
Do not let your heart be troubled, Trust in God; trust also in me.
I have read that verse many times...but struggled with it every time.
Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow.
How much do I trust? How often do I let go of the fear?
I remember sitting in the cemetery and watching the sun set...pleading with God to make me understand what I was supposed to do now...I really didn't want to get up...I didn't want to go on..I had followed, prayed, done everything in my power and my marriage ended here? In the cemetery? WHY? How could I trust in what He would do to me in the future if I couldn't trust what He was doing to me now? WHAT ARE YOU doing Lord I shouted? Why did you let this happen? In my darkest hour I felt His arms...I felt His love, His supernatural strength. To get up, to continue on...without fear!
"Without trust in the good news of Jesus, without trust in the good news of God saving work even in this moment, without an active, moment by moment trust in the good news of an all-sovereign, all good God. How can we claim to fully believe? This is the trust that I lack to know that if disaster strikes, He carries me even there."
I'm learning to release the grip of fear that is on my life...I'm learning to enjoy the freedom of letting go. To understand that my Heavenly Father will do nothing for me that is NOT for my good...to know that He loves me even more than I love my own children...and will not have me suffer needlessly.
More quotes from Ann:
"Can God be counted on? Count blessings and find out how many bridges have already held."
"Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks."
I still get chills when I read this quote from Ann...this to me was life changing:
"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."
How can I question? I do, but when will I let go...when will I realize how much my Savior loves me? My greatest fear? I can barely utter it...my children! My children being hurt, not following Christ, marrying the wrong mate...fear,fear,fear! However...when I count the gifts I learn to let go of the fear, the worry.
I have only scratched the surface on this book and the journey that you yourself will go on as you read about the love of God through the gifts that He has given each of us.
If I could leave you with one quote from Ann it is this:
"The quiet song of gratitude, eucharisteo, lures humility out of the shadows because to receive a gift the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerably open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give."
"Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control...let go of my own way, let go of my own fear, let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of the will."
Joy will come when I let go and live in the freedom of His will and surrender all to Him.
This past week I finally let go of something. Something that was good, but I needed to let it go. It hurt, I was scared and sad but I gave it to God and even though I'm shocked at the outcome I'm amazed by the freedom I feel. I realize that any good that comes from it is not because of my doing but because of God. Sometimes He says "let it go!" only He can work in that situation, only He can fix it! So with tears and frustration and dread I let go. Now I'm sitting on the sidelines, waiting and watching, praying and looking forward to the miracle that only He alone can do.
I pray that this book will be a blessing to you as it has to me and that the grace and joy of our Savior will become more and more real to you each day as you count the gifts that He has given you and you let go of fear...and embrace joy!
May His name be praised!