Besides the miracle that it is that I can now take some quiet time, which trust me, is an absolute blessed miracle, I have been impacted by the reading and journalling. I started the journalling in hopes that writing out my thoughts and prayers would help with the anxiety that keeps me up at night. While that hasn't happened as yet, I have been changed, in most unexpected ways.
My current book that I'm reading through is One Thousand Gifts (affiliate link) by Ann Voskamp. I have been loving her blog, and every time her blog email drops into my phone, I drop everything to read it. And grab my tissue, because I know that every post will bring tears to my eyes. Ann has a very poetic way of writing, and yet she grabs at the exact question I'm having, the precise point that God has been speaking to me, and every time I read, I'm moved.
This book is about the value gratitude has and should play in our lives, and how it's a tool to help us see and experience and grow in our intimacy with God. She points out that if we were to truly see all the gifts that God gives us .. grace upon grace.. we couldn't help but feel His love abounding towards us. And it's not just the "big" gifts that we can be thankful for, or the obvious ones -- the miracles of good news, jobs and money coming in, good health or even good weather, but the mundane: the way soap bubbles reflect and refract sunlight, the wisps of hair on a baby's head, or the chirps of the bird outside the window. She lists some of the gifts she notices in her poetic way, and she shows how even the most trivial of things can be the most beautiful.
I don't agree with everything she writes, though, but it's gentle enough that I can't take offense. Frankly, I don't mind a challenging viewpoint, because it helps me clarify what exactly I do believe and value. Ann describes how she's discovered gratitude even in the worst of circumstances. And one phrase, where she talks about a friend who buries a child after a tragic accident made me cry because it's not true. She says that even the seemingly senseless death of children may be a grace, because we don't know their future, and we should be grateful for the death. I will utterly, unrepentantly disagree! We can be grateful for grace in the circumstances, but we should be angry at the broken world that robs children of life and health, because that is not of God.
The mercy of God is that He did not leave us to our fate. His grace is that He has offered a way out of this brokenness, that He gives healing and hope and victory in this life, not just the one to come. And it is in this grace, in this mercy that we can have joy.
This is the part that gets me every time. I wanted to somehow, someway explore finding and choosing joy this year. 2016 is my year of Joy. And Ann's book describes the joy that I want, that I had found a long time ago in the midst of babies and housework in a sunny yellow 2nd floor apartment kitchen, before my life was shaken and turned upside down again, and the joy ripped from my life with violence and rage and difficult desperate choices.. I want that deep, full-body absolute satisfaction and contentment that I once had. Joy. The joy that gives supernatural strength, provides peace that cannot be understood, and allows for love for even the most difficult of people -- and children can be the most difficult of people! -- it's that joy that I long for.
According to Ann, gratitude and thanksgiving are the keys to unlocking joy. Because it's when we are grateful for the details, when we choose to see with thankful eyes instead of despairing hearts, that we actually see the love of God. Who cannot have joy when you know that the God of the Universe has lavished on us the endless gifts of grace? She uses a term -- divine choice -- that struck me to the core. Jesus .. chose me. He found me. He died for me. He chose me for His beloved. And gives me grace upon grace, ever-renewing mercies, everlasting love.
The best grace of all..
The best grace of all..
Gratitude for grace, looking for the love, choosing joy. I will choose joy!