Do I have enough support coming in this month?
Will I survive the next 214 days until home assignment?
Will these people interested in becoming a disciple continue to follow, and will they multiply?
Will this be the year of a dream fulfilled, our family grows, or two become one?
Our hearts can be consumed with the numbers, counting up worries and staggering under the weight of them all. It is hard to stop analyzing, figuring, running it all over and over in our minds.
I don’t know about you, but for the sake of my soul and my mental health, I need to start counting something else. I need a worry reset, lest I get mired down in the pit of anxiety.
In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes, “Joy is the realist reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”
Several years ago, before I moved overseas, I grabbed a little notebook and started numbering. 1) Hymns in the wee hours. 2) Gratefulness for things done unseen. 3) A flight arriving on time (always and forever a gift!). Slowly all the complaints that had been building in my heart during that season started fading; I was more aware of the good so I could write it down and capture the gifts. Some weeks, it felt like these grace gifts didn’t stop. I smiled more as I saw God’s hand in the beauty of the sunrise, a surprise email, creamy chocolate or a hug from a friend.
Some days and seasons, I didn’t pull out my notebook. “I don’t want to find any gifts because nothing about this is good”, I would think. But putting pen to paper even when I wasn’t sure it was possible opened up my heart for healing to flow in. Water that never ran out, hard words of truth spoken, peace in the waiting. These were not the gifts I would have asked for in the painful seasons. But, grace.
“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.” (One Thousand Gifts)
Most of the time I want to dictate what the gifts look like. I make an Amazon-esque wish list of requests for the Father, with details and timetables all according to my plan.
But then I miss them. I get so focused on what isn’t coming my way, counting up unanswered prayers and comparing what I’m getting to someone else. This only leads to emptiness.
“Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I am full of His love. I can trust. I can let go. Surrender that gives thanks for what is given- this is joy!” (One Thousand Gifts)
The long, hard fight for joy comes from counting the gifts and not the lack. It comes from eyes wide open for the gifts we didn’t ask for, the ways that grace comes wrapped up in pain or brokenness.
Do you keep a gift list? How have you fought for joy by counting gifts? In what seasons has it been a struggle to find the grace gifts?
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