As you may know, I am reading Ann Voskamp's, "One Thousand Gifts" and it is shaking up my already-shaken up world. But by shaking, I don't mean my usual unsteady, hand-trying-to-find-a-sure-thing kind of shaking. I mean an I-was-lost-and-now-I'm-found kind of shaking. A shaking of the head to get the cobwebs out, to let the light shine through the barn doors.
I am almost finished with the book, even though the online book club is only discussing chapter two right now. I will go back and re-read the first page the second I finish reading the last.
I want to talk about something that is at the heart of this book, however. That is, thanksgiving. Or, as Ann also calls it, thanksliving. In Greek, the word is eucharisteo. Yes, you are right in seeing the word, Eucharist, in it. The entire book is about being grateful and counting blessings. Yet it goes so much deeper than that.
Right now, however, I want to start simple. Ann writes in mazes, poetic playgrounds, beautiful drops of prayer. I could only hope to write like her one day. For now, I'm going to focus on my own idea of what gratitude is.
I started my own list of 1,000 gifts today in a blue notebook (thank you, Cindee, for mailing me the perfect notebook in which to re-write this) and realized tow things about the process of discovering things in which to be grateful.
First, I noticed that I looked around me and also thought back to moments in my life that were beautiful. I wrote down: sunset.
But I wasn't satisfied with that. What's wrong? I asked myself. A sunset is something to be grateful for. Who wouldn't be? It's a Godly experience, watching the sun set. Right? Of course! That was when I realized I was writing down what I thought I should be writing down. But I continued.
What next to count as a blessing? I wrote it down: my children. Still, I felt incomplete. What was wrong?
Then I realized the second thing: I was not inspired. Yes, these were wonderful things, but I felt obligated to write them down. I knew that, in the craft of writing, one had to be intentional and specific in details. Maybe I had to be in gratitude, too. And not had to or ought to, but maybe the experience would be all the more richer if I was specific and rich.
I tried: sunset across our white backyard fence. Yes, I could picture it. Try it again: 7-year-old jumping into my arms and hooking onto my arms and swinging. Yes! I thought. Oh, I could almost feel her swinging there, back and forth, a giggling pendulum in fast-motion.
That was it. I shouldn't write a list of blessings based on what I thought I had to be grateful for. I had to be inspired. I had to relax my mind and body and think: Beauty. Love. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Thanksliving.
In the beginning of reading the book, I had little "sympathy" for a beautiful women living in the country with a gaggle of loving, Christ-centered children, who had the time and energy to thank God for the sprinkling of cheese on a pizza:
I roll out the dough, sprinkle the ring cheese on round pizza thin. I feel how the sun lies down warm across hands and how thanks soaks through the pores (p58).
Surely, I wouldn't have time or energy to notice such minute things. And, indeed, if you continue, Ann writes, "I think how God-glory in a cheese ring might seem trifling. Even offensive, to focus the lens of a heart on the minute, in a world mangled and maimed and desperately empty."
I think to myself, yes. See, Ann? Even you realize the silliness in this.
But the poet-me, the idealist-me, okay, the Real Me, said, "Ann's right. Holy can be found in any little thing." And maybe it gets holier the smaller you go. There's a chapter further in the book about going lower... seeing with a smaller, child-like perspective... and how important that is.
God does not say, "You must be grateful for this...and this...and this..."
We say, "this...and this...and oh, I should thank Him for this..."
but do we really mean it? Are we really full of thanksgiving, eucharisteo, for this thing? This whatever we have written down or thought about?
So I dare you, just as Ann dares you on the cover of her book - "a dare to live fully right where you are" - to really examine the thing you are saying you are grateful for.
Don't short-change your prayer of thanks.
Thank you for my
Name those blessings. Name what health you are glad of. Name your children and what they do that blesses you. What about your finances thrills you? Why do you love your work?
God does not order you to be grateful. He does, however, want you to come to the place of gratitude. And if that journey was made THROUGH Him and not JUST BECAUSE of Him, all the better.
Insert eucharisteo into your vocabulary.
I dare you.