Count One Thousand Gifts….Then A Thousand More

 I sat down last week with the spiral bound journal where I write gifts unwrapped and give thanks for the blessings. Inspired by One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I started this journal nine months ago. Some days I discover many gifts; some days one.

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After having missed several days during the move to Pueblo, I happily returned to the habit of giving thanks to God by numbering His gifts. My heart was full with the day’s blessings and I couldn’t wait to write them out: “Beginning construction on Peanut’s room; Office Depot discounts; An exercise mat.”

 

I moved my purple teeth-marked pen to the next line, but stopped before the tip reached the page. I glanced back up the line above. #999.

 

One thousand gifts. A dare to find one thousand ways He loves me.

 

For a moment, I reconsidered what I planned to write next. I had always imagined that the following number would be something of great importance; some lofty, theology-laden, high-calling type thing.

 

I embarrassed myself a bit by such silliness. After all, isn’t this the whole point: I don’t even know they are gifts until I write them down and that is really what they look like. Gifts He bestows. This writing it down – it is sort of like…unwrapping love. A child thankful for the childlike.”*

 

All as Gift

 

I lowered my pen to the page. #1000, Finding just the right camera setting for capturing a photo I really wanted.

 

There it was. Symbolic of everything this journey of giving thanks is about – unwrapping rich gifts of lavish love from the hand of a good Father. A child thankful for the childlike.

 

And so I continue – a thousand reasons, then a thousand more. “This is what it means to fully live.”

 

10,000 Reasons

 

 

Unwrapping the Gifts

 

1001. Sitting in church with my husband’s arms draping my shoulders

 

1018 Getting the trash out early on trash day

 

1016. Cooking for my family in my new kitchen

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1026. Sharing a Rib Eye steak with Peanut

 

1029. The first late-night front porch time with my best friend in our new haven

 

1028. Roasting marshmallows over the new fire pit my husband built

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1036. Spring’s first lilac

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

 

 

 

*One Thousand Gifts, pg 45

Photo Credit

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Hard Eucharisteo: The Mingled Cup

A dream died this week. New life began this week. And God was good this week.

A 10-year-old covenant ended with a piece of paper: Dissolution of Marriage. One spouse couldn’t rest in grace and deliverance. The man I called Papa chose a different life, and the Little Blonde is now free.

I asked if she’s okay. Like a sun-kissed daffodil, her face beamed radiant, and she said yes. She knows the lover of her soul will never leave nor forsake, and she stands ready to live, ready to love.

Joy and Pain

When God created the picture of Himself and His bride on earth and blessed their union, He joined two into one, never to be torn asunder. Man’s sin and foolishness have marred the perfect image of God’s love, beauty, and sacrifice. Yet Christ’s redeeming love lives, grasps, holds. The beauty of His passion is seen in those who march forward; those who reach out, take hold of His unchanging hand, and choose to marinate in His grace and goodness and offer up the sacrifice of praise – hard eucharisteo.

“The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, ‘I know, I know’…”

Just Hold Onto This

Everything is eucharisteo. Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things – take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness…

This, the hard eucharisteo. The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good…All is grace because all can transfigure.

Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

eucharisteo

        It always precedes the miracle.

 

Unwrapping the Gifts

949. A woman of strength and love to do life with…I love you, Mama!

944. A new morning and the new mercies and faithfulness I see (Lamentations 3:23)

948. He never leaves us nor forsakes us; He will not, He will not, He will not (Hebrews 13:5 AMP)

716. A day to just stay in jammies and watch movies

945. Spring’s new life

946. Choosing to feel both joy and pain, and stay open to the blessings

947. Nail-scarred hands that hold, cleanse, and restore

 

Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

*Photo Credit

Thanksgiving Thursday, My Cup Runs Over

If you learn to worship while the enemy sits across from you at the same table; if you can learn to pay such close attention to the King that you forget about the enemy staring you in the face…then you win.” Tommy Tenney, Finding Favor With the King

The imagery of Psalm 23:5 is precious, peaceful, worshipful, and altogether different than seems natural in the presence of enemies. Our loving gaze, exclusively on our King; our King’s power, protection, deep affection, and bountiful blessing exclusively on us…all in the presence of our enemy. What a picture!

Worship, praise, and thanksgiving are strong and effective weapons in our spiritual arsenal, because we have his power flowing through us as he inhabits our praises. When we bow in the presence of our King, give Him glory, and shout that He alone reigns, the powers of darkness tremble. Why? Because the powers of darkness can’t drown out one single word in the song of the redeemed!!*

And I can testify to this truth. This week, I have sat at the table prepared for me in the presence of the enemy of my soul, with my eyes fixed on my King. And power has coursed, pleasure has flowed, security has flooded, and no fear has been in his presence. This week, I have feasted with the King. He has prepared a table for me, I have prepared my heart for him.

He will break bread and I will take and the world is His feast! and He is love! and nothing will keep my hand from filling with His.”*

My Thanksgiving List 10/4/12

222. The table prepared for me in the presence of my enemy

223. Being so immersed in the face of the King that I see nothing else

225. Watermelon strawberry smoothies

242. A fun and memorable wedding anniversary

355. Broncos win against the Raiders 37-6 (Hey, all is grace, right?!)

234. Thunderstorms

244. The joy of cooking

362. Sharing a PB&J with my little Peanut

363. That God is always good and we are always loved, even when it all seems to fall apart

367. Training up a child

Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

 

*He Reigns, Newsboys

*One Thousand Gifts pg 221

Photo Credit

Thanksgiving Thursday

Hunger is a strange condition. When hunger is satisfied, it always seems to return later in even greater strength. This is especially true of hunger for God’s presence – the one true addiction of the human soul and the only vital life source he created us to crave.” Tommy Tenney, Prayers of a God Chaser.

 

I have become hungry, weary of only hearing about revival, desperate to encounter the Reviver, thirsty for more of the manifest presence of God. My heart cries out for more of him and my soul longs for sweet communion with the lover of my soul.

 

When my greatest desire is him, will he not give me the desire of my heart?

 

My greatest desire became my week’s greatest treasure found, my greatest joy unwrapped, my greatest gift given.

 

194. The reward of the Father: more of his presence, more attention, more grace, more with-ness…MORE – more of him! “Thank you, God for…the gift of yourself that you keep giving…for the wild wonder of you in this moment.”*

 

My longing has been met, my hunger satisfied, my thirst quenched. I am no longer weary, but I am still hungry; wholly, completely addicted to one rich, matchless blessing of beauty: the very presence of the Reviver, the Giver of all gifts, the Gift.

 

Communion with God, what was broken in the Garden, this is wholly restored when I want the God-communion more than I want the world-consumption.”*

 

 

My Thanksgiving List, 9/20/12

 

193. Being undone in the presence in the Almighty

 

184. A haircut that turns out well

 

192. Oxy-Clean for a stain-prone family

 

80. Classic Rock Power on Pandora

 

186. Cold Stone’s Like It Strawberry Blonde

 

198. Playing cards on the front porch

 

200. My wonderful, beautiful, glorious, matchless-in-every-way God

 

187. Getting it at Ross

 

185. An evening out with a girlfriend

 

141. Being my daughter’s mama

 

207. Sharing a hike I love with my mama

 

 

208. Fish tacos and a big margarita after hiking the Incline

 

209. Taking a nap during Peanut’s nap time…after hiking the Incline! (Special treat! I work from home, so I NEVER nap while she does.)

 

 

 

Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

*One Thousand Gifts, pg. 217

*One Thousand Gifts, pg 220

Thanksgiving Thursday, Time to Grow Up

Do you ever wish you could tell someone to just grow up? I do, and this week I have dealt with a woman, well into her thirties, who has whined, grumped, and sniffled her way through childish, unattractive tantrums.

A couple of days ago, I decided enough was enough. I am old enough to know better, and I just want to grow up.

…Control, pseudo power from the pit,” Ann Voskamp says. Yes, it had been control I was after. And it’s hard for me to see. When the desire to control others sneaks up on me, I often don’t recognize it, there is just a sinking sense of helplessness. “Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is.” Once again Ann speaks to where I am.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a [woman], I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11.

This week I am thankful for the grace that enables me to see with new eyes, empowers me to be transformed, and speaks when it’s time to just grow up. All is grace.

 

My Thanksgiving List 8/30/12

 

107. Apologies

 

118. The scent of fabric softener

 

98. Standing on the promises of God my Savior

 

102. Funny Facebook posts that make me laugh

 

101. Chardonnay

 

110. New books arriving in the mail!

 

113. Long family walks

 

111. A true parenting partner

 

121. The best workspace ever

 

120. Yard sales

 

106. Watching movies with Peanut in the living room…on a weekday…on a hide-a-bed

 

100. My faithful, trustworthy husband! Thank you, Father, for this wondrous gift!

 

119. A sweet Sabbath day in the House of God with the people of God

 

122. Dollar days at the Colorado State Fair with my family

For the Love of Books

At the beginning of this year, I set a goal of finishing one book per month. I am way behind! I have, of course, completed many over the years, but I have just read my fifth book of 2012, and I want to share these five with you, along with a short review of each.

 

Loving the Little Years; Motherhood in the Trenches, by Rachel Jankovic

This book was written by a mama with five children ages five and under! God bless her heart, but you know that when she speaks about parenting, she knows what she’s talking about!

 

Rather than being filled with self-pity over how hard parenting lots of young children can be, this book is a courageous and comical look into the deeper issues of raising kids. It deals with correcting yourself before correcting your children, producing fruit and allowing God to do with it as he pleases, seeing discipline as a means of nourishment and grace, instructing children how to properly navigate emotions, giving kids the tools to become independent adults, teaching about thankfulness, and much more. Jankovic provides insight for Christian parents on how to have fun and live wisely, and find and give grace during the little years.

 

I laughed, cried, prayed, learned, and was convicted and encouraged. This book is definitely one of my top picks for mothers, and I highly recommend reading it!

 

Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman

This book was written by an American mother who, after living in Paris for a time, began to notice how different (read well-behaved) French children were from American children. Pamela explains the “wisdom” of French parenting and shows how American parents can make their lives less stressful by taking pointers from the French child-rearing experience.

 

I first heard about this book on a news program that described it as a “revolutionary” concept in raising children. I then read about it on blogs, in articles, and heard about it on talk radio programs. Everything I heard and read, though, seemed to me to not so much be revolutionary, but something one could learn if they were inclined to read old-school child-rearing material. Since I believe in the old-fashioned methods of parenting (and wanted to see what the hype was all about), I read the book.

 

Just as I thought, the majority of the advice that can be taken from “French parenting” equals out to nothing more than what used to be called “parenting”. I didn’t care for the author’s writing style, and a couple of the pointers were overly self-serving, even at the child’s expense.

 

All in all, if you are wanting to read about parenting and discipline, pick up The New Dare to Discipline by James Dobson, Making the Terrible Twos Terrific by John Rosemond, or How to Raise Good Kids by Barbara Cook, and don’t waste your money on Bringing up Bebe.

 

The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler

Inspired by the needs of both the over-churched and the unchurched”, Matt Chandler writes a call to true Christianity, reminding us that the gospel is not works-based moralism, nor is it feel-good worship of tolerance and happiness. Instead, it is the beautiful truth of the supremacy of an awesome and holy God, the deep offense of man’s ungrateful sin, God’s merciful and unmerited favor, Christ’s brutal death and victorious resurrection, and the restoration of man – God’s image bearers – through Christ unto the glory of God.

 

You cannot understand the cross of Christ without understanding the weight of the glory of God and the offense of belittling his name and what the due punishment is for that offense,” Matt says. “The context of the gospel is the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.”

 

To understand the true gospel, therefore, is to understand that “God’s plan for redemption is scaled to his glory.” Jesus redeems our souls, our hearts, and our history. “My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more…praise the Lord, oh my soul!”

 

Be warned though, the presentation of the true, explicit gospel of Christ demands a response; it will melt you or it will harden you. It is disquieting, convicting, and disruptive. It uproots the peaceful, pleasurable, and tranquil notions of many. It is also comforting, connecting, and gives an understanding of true hope, redemption, and salvation. To truly understand the gospel is to be transformed.

 

This is truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to know the beauty of brokenness, the fullness of freedom, and the truth of transformation. If you have ever wondered what the big deal about the gospel is, this book is for you.

 

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Ahhh, how do I love this book? Let me count 1,000 ways. I almost don’t even feel like I need to say anything about this book since everyone knows my heart’s deep and abiding affection for this literary piece of heaven on earth.

 

Often difficult to read yet hauntingly beautiful in style, this book is a dare to live more fully right where you are. For my complete analysis of this book, read my blog post, Thanksgiving Thursdays, A Tradition of Gratitude.

 

 

The Hole in our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung

John Piper calls Kevin “ruthlessly biblical” in his writing of this book. Written for those wanting to understand the role of the law in the life of the believer, Kevin shows us how to “fill the gap between gospel passion and the pursuit of godliness.”

 

DeYoung became a favorite author of mine when I read his book Why We’re Not Emergent, co-authored with Ted Kluck. I eagerly pre-ordered this book before it was released, since both the subject and author piqued my interest.

 

The subject, the lack of the pursuit of holiness among professing Christians, has long been a fire in my soul. Having been raised in a legalistic environment, I have seen many people of my generation go too far and take on the belief that holiness equates moralism. They no longer see the need live a transformed life of sanctification. Few Christians today look like Christ, and far too many aren’t concerned about that.

 

This book is for those who “are ready to take holiness seriously,” and I highly recommend reading it.

 

I have several more books on my upcoming reading list, and I’m excited to get to them! No doubt, I will let you know what they are and what I think of them.

I would love to hear what you are reading! Please tell me your favorite books in the comments section. 

Thanksgiving Thursday

Beginning my journey as a “hunter of beauty” has, more than ever before, opened my eyes to the joy and blessing that surrounds me daily. But there are two sides to every coin, and where my eyes have been opened to pleasure, I have also seen pain. At times, this exercise in giving thanks and unwrapping joy has proved to be a medicinal sacrifice of praise (Proverbs 17:22; Heb 13:15).

This past week, my world has been filled with uncertainty, confusion, and questions, and the unknown has loomed large. Jobs have seemed uncertain, hard decisions have needed to be made, solemn words were broken, hearts got hurt, and the choice to trust has been difficult.

I have looked hard for my joy-gifts this week, but with seeking, I have found what I was looking for. I have sought to not only discover and unwrap the gifts, but to trust the Giver and experience life fully, right where I am. I have felt the love, joy, and peace that is present in every situation where a heart chooses to trust.

Count blessings and see Who can be counted on…Trust is a bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks. Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out planks of trust. I can walk the planks – from known to unknown – and know: He holds…Can God be counted on? Count blessings and find out how many of His bridges have already held.” ~ One Thousand Gifts

My Thanksgiving List, 8/16/12

48. Forgiveness and healing 

49. My daughter loves books (joy for a bookworm-mama’s soul!)

51. Rolling a ball on the sidewalk with Shelby 

53. God’s discipline, because it means he loves me (Heb. 12:6) 

54. The beginning of football pre-season! 

55. Our National Anthem 

56. Homemade Mojitos 

59. Early morning snuggles with my husband 

60. My magic Mary Poppins bag

             

 

 

 

 

         

62. Front porch time till 1 AM with my best friend 

63. The hot dog stand at Lowes 

66. Funniest Home Videos re-runs 🙂

67. Paul Ryan 

69. Bittersweet moments when selling baby items on Craigslist 

71. An email from an accountability partner that spoke the truth in love

79. Our front porch haven 

72. A Turtle Pecan Blizzard, hand delivered by a handsome hottie 

76. A good camera 

77. The faithful wounds of a trusted friend (Prov. 27:6) 

78. That God speaks directly to my heart through his Word (Lam.3:20-26)

 

Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?