13 September 2011


I’m still thinking about Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. (I’ve long gotten over my malingering inclination to be snarky about it since it’s so popular. Actually I think that the first three pages are enough to knock the snark out of anyone, and I mean that in a very complimentary way.)

If I were living the more birth- and otherwise- controlled life I’d anticipated back when I made my blissfully ignorant hike down that long, long aisle, I’m not sure what this book would have meant to me. The painfully lovely writing would have moved me, to be sure, but in perhaps a less personal way. I’m sure that I would have spent a few weeks, maybe even months, being a more grateful person, remembering to look for the silver linings in the thunderclouds, and all that.

But. Here I am. Instead of stretching out to soar (that was the plan, you know: stay home till the 2-3 kids start school, then work my way back into the real world), I’m hunkering down to home.

If I weren’t here, I would still be seeking to give thanks in every circumstance. I would probably be succeeding in that to a superficially greater degree than I am now. I might look more put together (I might have an actual wardrobe!). I might have fewer dark nights of the soul (I might get to sleep through the night!).

And--I might fail to realize the extent to which in Him I live and move and have my being. I might think it poetic rather than practical that in Him all things hold together.

It’s obvious, but I’m molasses-slow: In the depth of the darkness, I remember to cry out for the Light. When my spiritual fruits wither and sour, I remember to abide in the Vine. Stretched beyond what I am capable of giving, I remember, This is my body, given for you.

I am thick-skulled and hard-hearted. A carefully contoured life would not suffice to save me from myself. God graciously brings me to the very brink where I can feel for myself what is always true: that the Father’s hand alone restrains and sustains me as I teeter childishly over the gaping abyss.

The conscious thanks-giving that I’m attempting to live unwraps a beautiful surprise: the grace in every vexing moment, if only I have eyes to see. God, grant me eyes to see! And He does: the hilariously literal earnestness of three-year-olds; baby-silk hair curling damp in the humidity; the ice-cream sparkle in a kindergartner’s blue eyes; the freckledness of a boyish nose…

The list is endless and deep-joyful, sometimes lighthearted, but never trite. This wild earthly adventure, overflowing with more life than I can begin to control, is God’s crucible-classroom for my dross-ridden soul. Some lessons burn especially bright: I can take God at His Word—even when the life in question is that of the impossibly tiny baby I never got to hold. Yes. I can take Him at His Word!

Every morning, daily manna, He sends this truth, His mercies, anew. (Lord, grant me to receive with gratefulness not grumbling the manna that sustains me!)


Leah said...

"...I might have fewer dark nights of the soul....
a carefully contoured life would not suffice to save me from myself....
that the Father’s hand alone restrains and sustains me....
more life than I can begin to control is God’s crucible-classroom for my dross-ridden soul...."

Each of these truthful and beautifully put phrases reminds me of a line that is indelibly marked on my heart ever since I read the book On Being a Theologian of the Cross, by Gerhard O. Forde:

"God can only be known through suffering."

Motherhood has so far caused me more suffering than anything else ever could come close to doing, I believe. So yes, I take God at His Word and I am comforted that He is creating faith and trust in me through and in this very uncontrollable life where I live. Daily.

Rebekah said...

At the top of my list: that they are so determined to be happy and like me. Phew.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, friend!--Marie

Melrose said...

I try so hard to be happy for them. To be calm. To be the soft spoken sweet mommy that is smiling and glowing at them all day. ohhhhh how I fail. An entire morning will go by where I snap at them all morning speaking to them as if they are the most annoying little creatures ever, even when they're just asking me nicely for something or just trying to talk to me, and they just patiently talk to me as if they don't notice. Oh how snotty my tone can be with them! Then I realize what I've done and repent and go to work being happy and sweet and they change over to whiny and rebellious. :( sigh. Thanks for this encouragement.

Gauntlets said...

Well, I guess I'm going to have to get another book. :D And I think freckled noses are very good, too. :)

Reb. Mary said...

Leah, you read the best books :) And moreover, have excellent recall.
Daily, yes, yes.

Rebekah, I'm often astonished that my kids still seem to like me. :P

Marie, thanks back atcha, for being in all this with me!

Um, Melrose, I think I gave up on perfectly sweet and glowing awhile back. I give you credit for even trying to reach that high. ;)

Gauntlets, her writing somehow reminded me of yours. Read it and tell me if I'm right :D. Then you can also come back and talk to me about the apparently somewhat controversial last chapter. I think it's down to,what, eleven bucks on Amazon now?

Melrose said...

:) Well, I wouldn't go as far as "perfectly"...I just don't want to be a grouch all the time...and right now all the time seems like the new norm for grouchy.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading the book and thank you for the recommendation. I'm not a journal, list-keeping type but I am thinking of doing it for a while to develop the habit of seeing all the gifts. Interesting comment on the last chapter being controversial. I could see why some may think so. I'd be curious to see what others are saying about it. Thank you again.

Michelle in NY(formerly NM)