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one thousand gifts…

God created the world out of nothing,
and as long as we are nothing,
He can make something out of us.
~Martin Luther

I started reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp over six months ago.
It has never taken me that long to read a book, but I can say now that it has been worth it.
Ann’s style of writing is fancier than mine,
so at first I thought that might be the reason it was taking so long.
{I kind of felt at times like I needed to take a poetry class to understand some of her eloquent language.}
But, as I finished it up, I knew the real cause.
Her words, her story, they forced me to chew for a while before I could move on to the next chapter.
This meal book was meant for me to digest slowly and not just rush through,
 like I do so many other meals books.

When I started reading it, I also started working on my own list of one thousand gifts.
Some days the list came easy, but other days I had to seriously stop and ponder on it.
This should have been my first clue that the book, her words,
were going to pierce me and open up parts of me that needed to be cleaned out.

I’m six months into this, and I’m only on #393 in my list of one thousand gifts.
There have been many blog posts where I’ve even forgotten to mention things that I was grateful for.
This was my second clue.

Do you know why it has been such a struggle for me?
I’m home all day long most days.
I get up before the kids because I know that as soon as they’re up, my day starts.
Most of my days look very similar to one another,
which makes it too easy for me to not see them as anything extraordinary.
I’m not trying to be a party pooper,
and I promise I don’t need you to remind me that these very ordinary days are indeed gifts.
I’m just saying that in my day to day operating, I struggle to see the ordinary as extraordinary.

It was actually the thing about the book that kind of annoyed me the whole way through.
{If I’m to be honest.}
Paragraph after paragraph and chapter after chapter, Ann would describe the gifts she saw
 in her everyday occurrences.
She gave thanks for the opportunity to teach children in the midst of fights and quarrels.
She gave thanks for a sink full of dishes and baskets overflowing with laundry.

There were hundreds of things she was thankful for in her life, a thousand to be exact.
I could relate to being thankful for a field of flowers, the bright moonlight, a starry night,
fresh squeezed lemonade, family game nights filled with laughter & lunch with friends.

It was the things she was thankful for that I couldn’t relate to that found me completely annoyed.
She found a way to see the hardest parts of her day as gifts, too.
Say hello to my third clue.
I’ve learned enough about life to know that the things that annoy us the most are meant to teach us.
So, I set out to allow Ann’s words and her list to teach me a thing or two or a hundred.

Ann wrote on page 194 of the book::

“But, when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains.  Passionatly serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all.  When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone—the bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to its purest state: echaristeo.  The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.”

Mother Theresa said, 
“The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action.”

I can cook a meal for a family and invite them over.
I can serve food at a homeless shelter.
I can teach a class at VBS.
I love helping a friend work through issues.
I love serving people for a week or two on foreign land.
Keeping a friend’s kids while she goes to the store or a doctors appointment is easy as pie for me.

These kinds of service are easier for me than the day in, day out mundane tasks.
Everyday work at home or in an office doesn’t always give us that “feel good” feeling.

This book showed me how much I still have to learn about serving others, especially my family.
 I have been refusing to see the gift in breaking up fights between my kids.
It annoyed me because I was refusing to see the gift in hardship.
It annoyed me because I didn’t want to see the gift in chronic back/hip pain.
Explaining to your kids why they shouldn’t complain at the dinner table doesn’t feel like a gift.

I’ve been serving my family for a long while now out of my own strength.
{Which explains why it hasn’t seemed like a gift.}
I haven’t been serving them out of my love for Christ and his service to me.

Love God.  Love Others.
And, it always starts at home.
Thank you, Holy Spirit… {& Ann Voskamp}
The book was amazing, and I hope you’ll take two weeks or six months to read it!

{thankful for}
394. math with the boys this morning and the teaching moments that it brought.:)
395. time with a friend this afternoon.
396. leftover chinese chicken lo mein with Lydia.
397. the ten games of UNO that I’ve played in the past 6 hours.
398. a good walk in the neighborhood before the rain came.
399. remembering to take my vitamins today!
400. Jesus, my perfect example of servanthood.
401. a surprise candle in the mail from Kourtney!!

Michele - this in one of the thousand reasons I love you, found my next book to read for the summer. :]

paige - beautiful xo

Farmgirl Paints - I count my blessings at the end of my posts too. For some reason sitting there trying to remember what to be thankful for takes me forever. It’s hard. Especially when most days are the mundane. Beautiful post girlie. I know God sees our heart even if it doesn’t always make its way to our keyboard.

Alisa - I love this. I spent 6 months of last year reading that book and I echo your sentiment about the reason it took so long… but when it was over, I was sad. It became like a little friend and I learned so much. I finally made it to 1000 gifts by about month thirteen. I went back and found this post in my blog that in a small way reflects exactly where you are. Thanks for sharing.

http://alisalamb.blogspot.com/2011/05/working-for-him.html

Laura at By the Bushel - The artistic nature of the book… but it’s convicting. I loved the chapter where she talked about the boys fighting at the dinner table over the bread, and her realizing her son’s pain, feeling he was never considered (I think I remember that right). Her ‘stardom’ won’t change her because as she says ‘all’s grace’. Her book & her influence in those who read shine bright. Thankful. because she’s pointing to Jesus.
Printing ‘hundred acre woods’ schedules for next fall… 1 at football camp, one digging up the backyard as I work. :) <3

Rachel - This was one of my most favorite books. Really made me stop and see the incredible blessings surrounding me all the time. Even through the ugly times, God is with us and if we are looking to see the blessings – they are always there.

Christy - Ouch! Maybe those are the same reasons I have had the book since it was released but still haven’t finished it today. Thanks for sharing.

Lissa - that is such a hard lesson, isn’t it?? You would think that gratitude would just come naturally but it turns out that it’s a choice. And a hard choice somedays at that. :)

LLH Designs - I’m so with you on this book. A total game changer for me, but despite being a writer, I had to chew on it SLOWLY. I tend to speed read…darting from one nugget to the next. She has a way of making you slow down. What a gift! And I get what you mean about ordinary days. Mine are all very much the same, but I love routine, so that works for me. It just takes a little extra looking to find the extraordinary in each day.

I have LOVED your words and have felt so encouraged by you during the move. Talk about a gift! Thank you a million times!

xo,
Lins

Heather - Wow! Your honesty is so encouraging. My husband is in the military which means frequent deployments that leave me and our son home alone for extended periods of time. Being a SAHM is such an awesome gift but during deployments it can be extra challenging and the mundane becomes more mundane. It’s easy to value the gift of time my son and I have when we visit family during deployments but while we’re home is equally easy for me to lose sight of the many gifts I receive (only) while my husband is away. I have been following your blog for quite a while and always enjoy your posts but this one is particularly heart-stirring.

Sarah - I have been the same way with that book! Maybe for some of the same reasons. Another good book along the same lines is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. It is really more about always being in the presence of God, but it also reminds us to give thanks in all things b/c God is in all things. I do love Ann Voskamp’s writing though. It is beautiful.

Lemonade Makin' Mama - I loved that book too… it’s like a few meals rather than just a snack. LOL

I love the quote by Mother Theresa… she inspires me so much. Have you ever read “Finding my Calcutta?” It was amazing…

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