Back in June, I read a book by Ann Voskamp called, A Thousand Gifts. First of all, I highly recommend it, because it is truly amazing. I cannot fully describe anything she writes, and reading her book will probably help all of this make more sense. Her writing is unique, and it’s a fresh look at the beauty of Jesus. I’m not going to spoil it, because it’s a book that needs to be read and interpreted by everyone, but she brings up a subject/idea that made me set down the book and think.
Summed up, it goes like this: Charis = Grace. Chara = Joy. Eucharisteo = Thanksgiving.
It’s the idea that as Christians, we need to embrace our lives as one giant gift. Because, ultimately, no matter how hard life gets, it is a gift. In her book, Ann talks about how she started her list of ‘one thousand gifts’, and reveals the progress of her list as she goes. She’s all about finding those three things in the silliest, stupidest, hardest things. In the ugly. In the beautiful.
The idea (at least how I interpreted it) is to look at life, no matter what, and find a gift that God has placed there. To be THANKFUL. Even if it’s the way a leaf looks on the trees, or snow covering your dirty car that you can’t afford to take through the car wash. That is a gift.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,
drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath;
My arms wave like banners of praise to you. ~ Psalm 63:2-4
Our hearts long to worship the Lord with thanksgiving and joy! Why don’t we, instead of moaning and groaning about the state of the world, praise him for what he’s doing? Why don’t we, instead of dwelling on the current state of a person or relationship, give thanks for the miracle that God is going to perform, and to have joy for the grace that we will get to extend at any given moment?
So, on June 20th, I started my list. I flipped open my prayer journal, and wrote ten things down that I considered gifts. Last night, I hit number 1,000. It was a feat that I didn’t really think I would accomplish, given the fact that most of the time, I give up about a quarter way through things. This, though…I knew how much I needed this, and so I kept going.
I compiled 100 of the 1,000 to hopefully get a few laughs and nods of ‘yeah, that’s a gift’, and to give you all a little idea of how I did these. I left out ones that no one needs to see, but put in some funny ones, or ones that hold a much deeper meaning.
- When the USB goes in on the first try
- Falling into bed after a long day
- When a song has that part
- Babies talking as if we know what they’re saying
- Wiping the rain out of my eyes
- Speeding up when the speed limit changes
- A sign saying ‘end of road work’
- A fan blowing on a hot night
- The word ‘hallelujah’
- Talking about Jesus with a friend
- A semi moving over
- Hot dogs
- Cheap sunglasses
- Mosquito spray
- Warm sun, cold day
- Wooly socks
- Feeling anticipation in my heart
- Knowing how something ends but not knowing how it happens
- Getting headphones to work
- Orange sparkly water
- Watching my swimmers actually dolphin kick off their turns
- Innocent-but-not smiles and giggles
- Having toilet paper
- Being able to vote
- When Zac Efron starts singing
- Leaving a voicemail without stuttering
- Testing out brakes on an icy day and not sliding
- No warning lights beeping when I turn the car on
- Fresh avocado
- Old ladies marching across the street
- Garlands being hung around town
- When someone recognizes my swimmer shoulders
- Trying to cover up a laugh
- Paying for gas with other people’s money
- The feeling of needing to scream
- Daddy’s agenting
- Clean, un-holy socks
- Driving in the left lane and not getting honked at
- Hot lattes on a fall day
- A bun that stays in the whole day
- Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard
- Not getting worked up about something like I often do
- Lotion for dry hands
- Captain VonTrap
- A look of understanding between a swimmer and coach
- Christmas ornaments
- Waking up to wind and rain
- Sunrises when the sky is stormy
- Drinking ginger ale on a plane
- Bathrooms that are clean
- The roar of a crowd
- Seeing Brady jerseys in Boston
- The name of Jesus
- Peanut butter and chocolate chips for dessert
- Coffee with pumpkin spice creamer
- Little kids’ giggles over a sound they made
- Soft Kleenexes
- My $9 purse that looks expensive
- The way music envelopes a room
- Laughing during worship
- Snow sprinkling the side walks
- “Okey dokey”
- A crackling fire before it starts to roar
- When the Holy Spirit says ‘AHEM’
- Having a full lane of kids to coach
- Deep breaths that bring calm
- Car blinkers
- An outfit looking as good as I hoped
- Pretzel-covered chicken
- Hardcore Christmas songs
- A spontaneous night under the stars
- Hanging out at home after practice
- “It is well with my soul”
- Little coffee shops
- Writing in my Bible
- My puppy blanket
- Kiss scenes
- Different blues in the skies
- Naps in odd places
- Walking into a place that has many memories
- Planning my day off
- Hamburgers with brie and caramelized onions
- Sharing what God has been doing
- Knowing something big is going to happen soon
- Pink and blue together
- Letting my hair down after a long day
- People wearing clothes too big for them
- American flags
- A smile from someone unexpected
- A ‘good job’
- When someone calls their boy ‘my son’
- Peeling off wet socks
- Waking up and realizing there’s still time to sleep
- Twins wearing matching outfits
- Old ladies excitement over their new smart phone
- Butter sizzling
- Gospel music playing throughout the house
- Checking prices online and finding a cheaper one
Those became something that I tried to do every day (obviously not every day, but close enough), even if I felt like crap. There were times that I was laying in bed crying, but forced myself to write a few things down. There were times that I could barely contain my excitement as I scribbled things across the paper.
Maybe this post should’ve been done before Thanksgiving, because that’s a good time of year for something like this. But I believe that God and I went through this journey together, one step at a time, and the ‘completion’ ended last night. Now, a new trek has started, but I believe he wants us to pause for a moment and think. On his promises, on his love, on his grace. Everything that that crazy, hard to pronounce word encompasses.
I looked back on the little thingy I wrote in my journal the day I started this gift journey. It’s written as a prayer to Him, and also just a free-for-all, which is generally how most of my writing ends up as.
Eucharisteo. Joy. Grace. Thanksgiving.
Isn’t that you? You give us grace. You give us joy. You cause thanksgiving. Without those three things, we are opposite you. We aren’t Christ-like. We aren’t showing people YOU. We show up to church, we pray, we put you in our Instagram bios, but are we showing people those three things that are you? People notice when someone smiles. When they dance for joy. When they extend grace. When they break bread in thanksgiving. Everyone shows those things from time to time. One at a time. Not together, and not everyday. We, as Christians, need to channel Jesus, because that’s what will get people to notice. The joy in trials. The grace in hurt. The thanksgiving in everything, not just in November.
Today, I choose JOY. I choose GRACE. I choose THANKSGIVING. Because a long time ago, I chose Jesus. He saved me, he came into me, and he’s been begging to show himself. To shine through me.
And let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen…that’s what he did. It was sometimes a muddled mess of yuck, and it was sometimes days in a row of feeling like a load of horse poop, but finding the joy in just a little tiny thing pushes the devil away. He can’t latch on when a person is walking with Jesus. And that’s who Jesus is. Joy. Grace. Thanksgiving.
Since June, I have grown in ways I didn’t realize were possible. Flew to Boston and cheered on my team. Wrote stories. Raised my hands in worship (okay y’all…that’s sometimes I haven’t been comfor with ever). Taken a step back multiple times and just watched God work. Witnessed miracles. Miracles that made me want to scream and sob (definitely did that). Miracles that made me look at God and just whisper, “Thank you,” over and over again. Felt joy and sadness in ways I’ve never felt.
All in six months. Just six freakin’ months of doing my best to surrender to God, to let him point out gifts that he hand wrapped for all of us. Running into old friends. Feeling the wind rustle the streets. Having a dry towel at the end of a shower.
Hearing that one of my best friends found Jesus.
Some are obvious. That one was a clear-as-day kind of gift. Others I had to peel back the curtain to find. But they’re there, and they’re there for us to be thankful for.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and sing joyful songs of praise. ~ Psalm 95:2
Thank him! Even if something as little as having toilet paper in the house. (You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone.) God wants us to rejoice! If he didn’t, he would not have put into the world what he put into it.
May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. ~ Hebrews 12:15
There is nothing that attracts someone to Jesus more than looking into someone’s eyes and seeing joy, even in the midst of trials. To hear someone be thankful, even in disappointment. Sometimes, we forget who we serve. This God is not just a ‘fa-la-la-la-la’ God. He is how we all imagine Superman. He can stand up to any bad guy, with no fear in his eyes. He pushes everyone else out of the way and says, “I got this.” And he means it.
Our God does not shy away from anything. So let’s trust him. Or at least start to try. It takes time. But in that trust comes peace. And with peace, comes joy and thanksgiving.
And grace. Joy and thanksgiving are great, guys. But if we can’t extend grace, we will only successfully drive off a lot of people who are beginning to search. Why associate with someone or a church if all this person sees is judgment?
Give grace. Shout out in joy. Show thankfulness.
When I completed the gifts last night, I wrote a little bit under that, reflecting on not only the past six months, but also on this past year, cuz guess what? It’s almost 2019! Woo! And I like looking back and then looking forward. So I’m going to end this ramble with another ramble at the end of another ramble.
You have given me so much joy, Lord. Thank you!!! I am so loved by you, it’s hard to understand. But it’s there. Always. Tonight I sit here, with a French press coffee in my ‘faith can move mountains’ cup. Single. Not many friends. With plenty to stress about, plenty to think about. But I am at peace.
This is a gift worth 1,000 of these that I have written in here, but still, you keep giving me things that bring joy, thankfulness, and grace.
Because you are so, so, so good.