For Christmas my parents gave me a copy of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. I started reading it on my honeymoon, and I cried the very first chapter, sprawled on a big fat easy-chair in front of the gas fire in our honeymoon cabin. The Pilot, across from me, was reading his Christmas present; I hid behind my book, shy as I wept, unable to combat the beauty and poetry of her words. Grace. And gift.
Now I gather with other pilot-wives on Tuesday nights, and (surprise!) we are reading One Thousand Gifts, to see and explore and be changed by the grace within. Last night was only just Chapter Two, and already we feel our hearts beginning to stir, our eyes to blink open, and the song in our souls begin to swell. Soul-food makes soul-music.
Ann dwells on the simple act of thanksgiving– eucharisteo in the Greek– and in her pages she wrestles with it and ventures into it and finds there deep life, welling up and over. Thankfulness for the gifts that God daily gives, thankfulness in all things, at all times. Living palm open instead of fist clenched tight. Everything is a gift.
Do we, do I, believe it? Everything in my life, my haphazard, normal-extraordinary, beautiful, messy life, everything everyone every happening every emotion every event– all, a gift from the hand of my loving heavenly Father. Is it possible to believe that? To find the gift in the grunge? An essay on Ovid's Metamorphoses is as yet just a scant outline scribbled in a notebook; the guest bathroom still remains unclean; back pain has wrenched me out of sleep too many times now; a new friend is coming for dinner on Friday and I don't know what to feed her. All that– gift?
The leader of our little group has given us the same challenge that a friend gave to Ann Voskamp– make a list. One thousand gifts. Every day, practice thanksgiving. There is always a gift. And let our hearts be changed, let the discipline of eucharisteo change complaining into gratitude, open our eyes to see the love in the gifts God gives us every single day, let our hearts be transformed by knowing that love.
So I have begun: my thousand gifts.
Big ones: the Air Force suddenly changed its mind, the Pilot's survival training dates changed, and he can come, after all, to his brother's wedding in Georgia next month! Gift.
Small ones: a warm, companionable kitchen smelling of mint chocolate, as I bake cookies and the Pilot sits and plays his guitar for me. Gift.
Not random, not God pulling out a scatterbrained grab-bag, dumping a daily piñata of assorted goodies for us to pick up as we chance. No, gift implies intention, individualization, relationship. Everything in my life, lovingly perfected and selected for my good, for His glory. It’s small moments and it’s grandeur, and God is in both, and in both He beckons, woos, whispers. “The only place we need to see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now,” Ann told me in Chapter Two. That is the desire of the human heart, and it is thanksgiving that can lead us there: see the gifts, and they will lead you to the Giver. My desire, my prayer.