Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the gifts.

{from here}

"Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel."

- Psalm 106:12-13

Last week wasn't the best for a variety of reasons, including some very grown-up worries, worries I didn't really expect to appear in the middle of a week that had guaranteed sunny, cloudless days.

But they appeared anyway, and I didn't always handle them with that grace I've asked for and been given. And as I'm slowly but surely making my way through Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I am realizing: this constant act of being grateful? It is hard.

I started reading the book last week, and I love it. I am chewing rather than devouring; my goal isn't to finish quickly but to finish purposefully. To allow the book to change me, to open my eyes to the gifts Ann sees. At first, it was easy. On a Tuesday afternoon off from work, full of 75-degree temperatures, a clean house, great movie, a dance party in my kitchen, and lots and lots of quiet time... gifts abounded. I saw them all and I saw them everywhere.

But Wednesday? Well, Wednesday wasn't great. Not bad, but not great. Work became a little bit more stressful. The ugly thoughts returned. Jordan got home late. But still I prevailed. Gifts. Gratitude. Gifts. Gratitude. And I continued to read, to make lists, to mutter to myself about the joy that is before me.

Then Thursday came and with it those grown-up things, grown-up things not yet ready for blogging or sharing. I know this: Satan knows when we are well. And he knows how to break us again. With medical scares and downsizing and face breakouts and mean, angry souls, he shocks us out of contentment, and all of a sudden it is hard to make lists of the good things. The gifts which were once flowing so freely are gone, and I do not know where they went.

Of course, as I muddle my way through Scripture and through Ann's words, I realize: They didn't go anywhere. But I will have to look harder.

So I did. I kept writing, and I am ashamed to say that it was hard. One minute gifts were flowing from my pen like the milk and honey of the Promised Land, and the next my pen stopped working. Every gift I thought of, I countered with complaint, hardly the picture of contentment or grace.

That Ann Lamott quote, though, kept ringing in my ears. The one I read what seems like months ago. The one that said to keep doing things, even when you are doing them badly.

Friday, when things began to look up and the clouds began to dissipate, my pen miraculously healed, and the gifts came easily, quickly.

I do not like admitting that my contentment is not contentment at all, that it is dependent upon my circumstances. That this week, if the news I hear is different from the news I heard last week, my pen will stop again. I want to treasure my God's goodness even in the desert places. But it is painful, because it is easy to believe in a God who only wants good for His children. But it is hard to believe in a God who allows hurt and sickness and loss and nakedness and famine and sword.

But I am still His sheep, and He is my shepherd. I trust His hand. My gifts are not one thousand yet, but I am trying, and slowly, it is lifting me up, making me light, removing my burden.

fuzzies who i love and who love me back. cleansing tears. funny dog faces. florida sunshine and breeze. tuesday afternoons when i can breathe. smiling, funny babies. tennis shoes for comfy days. the scent of outdoors. skin that feels the sun. driving with the windows rolled down...in february. hearing a favorite song on the radio. naps after work. pretty toenails. friends who will celebrate your goofy birthday. pretty, romantic fog. warm pea coats. soaking in a bubble bath. pruny fingers. 70 degrees. friend who will pray on your behalf when your own words fail. doctors. an office with a window that opens. bird songs. glitter everywhere. long lunches that make my goody-goody heart just a little rebellious. florida breeze. hair that changes color in the sunshine and flies in my face when the windows roll down. laughing at myself. new job responsibilities. trips to party city. colorful streamers. learning to tie a belt a new way. delegating.

These are my gifts, gifts I saw in a week that was long and a little bit hard. They are not really very poetic, but that's okay. They are mine, and I could see them, and that is enough for me.


danielle @ take heart said...

i love your heart. have i told you that already? i am on chapter three. it is opening up my eyes. and tearing away layers and making my heart beat faster.

Rachael said...

I'm not religious, but I can see what you mean about it being hard to see the gifts in your life, from time to time. Hopefully your troubles that you've been having, or had, are getting better. No one's life is trouble free, that's for sure!
I'm not sure I'd be able to see life gifts all the time, but it's great that you're trying to live that way!

Sabrina said...

For some reason this post had me going online to find that song, "This is the Air I Breathe". The absolute beauty of the song speaks to me of longing and need and also hope:)

Laken said...

I'm starting to read 1000 gifts, too. Just barely. Like you, I want to chew it slowly and really learned every bit I can. But not just learn -- really start to live it.
It's hard for me, too. It's hard for me to even pick up the book when I know I'm already having a bad day or week. But I'm going to make a point to do it today. And then tomorrow. And I'm definitely going to start writing down my gifts, like you did.

Thanks for sharing :)