It’s early March. I have just returned from an eight-day trip to England, and one of the first things I do when I get back home is to call my mother. We talk girl things, she tells me about home, I tell her about England, where she’s always wanted to go.
“I’m sending you a book,” she says. “I really think you would love this.”
And then she tells me about this book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. As she talks, I hear something new in her voice, something more alive, more joyful than I’ve heard in a long time. This last year has been hard, hard on both of us, but especially on her. I know. Oftentimes when we talked I would just listen as she poured out everything she needed to say to someone. And I am grateful for that privilege to be the girl-friend she needs.
But today things are different. And I am intrigued. What’s in this book that’s given my mom the fresh perspective she needed after the long, desert-dry, heart-scorching year of 2010?
A few days later, the book arrives. I dive in and almost immediately I know what has given my mom such great joy.
In the Greek, it means “he gave thanks.” It’s what Jesus did before miracle after miracle, and what he did his last night on earth. At the last meal he would ever eat, knowing it to be his last, knowing what was to come, he gave thanks.
And because he did, so can we.
The beautiful thing about this Greek word is that it wraps three words, three concepts, into one. It’s related to the word χαρά (chara), meaning joy. Embedded in the middle is the Greek word χάριs (charis), meaning grace.
Grace and joy in thanksgiving.
That’s what living this life is about…that’s how we find meaning in the mundane, purpose in the pressure, chara in the chaos.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann shares her journey into grace, the discovery of God’s everyday giftings in the little things, the overlooked, and even in the sharp things, the hard things, the ugly-beautiful. She shares the challenge of praying for the sight, of counting the gifts, all the way up to one thousand – and beyond. She pours out on paper what God has been whispering to me ever since I came away to this Northern Virginia country: “Thanksgiving is the key to joy.”
I feel like I’ve found my mentor.
I found Ann’s blog, www.aholyexperience.com, and saw the tagline: “Because all of life flames with God.”
“The earth is charged with the grandeur of God,
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed…” (Gerard Manley Hopkins)
It’s funny, re-discovering the lessons you’ve learned and tried to teach through your life, to anyone who is watching, listening. I remember sticky notes I used to post on my desk, reminders of the common grace of living. And the jar full of graces another friend told me about, encouraging me to count, to catalog His love.
And now…I have a new journal, a blue one with little brown birds on the front, and inside is a list…growing to one thousand and beyond.
I think, that if I turn this into a habit, letting it sink in deeply, lastingly…it just might change my life, too.