I have been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts for the past several weeks. It has taken me quite a while to get through the whole book because I had to stop and digest several times, but I cannot tell you how this book has changed me.
You would think that living through what I have lived through, that I would be grateful for each and every moment. That I would breathe it all in and live in the moment, but I don't. I have always struggled with that. Despite the fact that I know that we are never promised a tomorrow, I am ashamed to admit I fall into the trap of taking things for granted and always living with hopes for the future instead of choosing joy and gratitude n the moment I have been given already.
As I have been reading and digesting I have been really taking Ann's words to heart. I have taken time and prayed and written in my journal and begun my list of One Thousand Gifts. I have always been a person who felt unrest. At some level, even in a peaceful moment I have felt some form of unrest. I tried hard to be grateful and choose joy in everything but I was missing something. I feel like Ann's words and experience have helped me to put it all together and connect the dots.
One of the most powerful things I learned from this book is to give thanks aloud even when it seems there cannot be a single thing to be thankful for. There is. It is always there, we just have to be looking for the gift and not the negative. For example:
The other night, Howard was about an hour late getting home from work. I was making dinner for our family and another family who's daughter had just had surgery. Hope and Ben were sitting in the living room watching a DVD and suddenly Ben was crying. I had my hands in bread dough so I was washing my hands when I heard Hope hit the floor, hard. Hope was crying, Ben was crying and I had no clue what was going on. Then I noticed little wet footprints all down the dark wood floor leading to the bathroom. As I got closer to the trail and Hope who was still lying on the floor I noticed that Hope was lying in a puddle. I scooped her up and as I inspected further, I noticed that Ben must have been so into the DVD that he did not take the time to go to the bathroom so he sat right there in the bean bag chair and peed. He then tried to take care of things himself and got to the bathroom where he peed again and got his clothes off. There was a trail of pee from the living room to the bathroom, Hope was soaked in her brothers urine, and Ben was crying in the bathroom.
If you know me, you know messes are something that I don't deal well with. I took a deep breath and started bath water for both kids. No sooner did I get the bath started and I heard Luke come in. Before I could warn him about what was going on he too fell prey to the urine river that was running through the house. So now I have three urine soaked kids, a mess all over the floor and the bean bag and bath water running. I get two kids into the tub and ask Luke to jump in the shower in my bedroom and put his clothes in the basket in the hall. As I washed Hope and got her out of the tub, I realized I had forgotten dinner. I realized, because the smoke detectors were blaring wildly. Tears began to fall. Mine. I was overwhelmed and screaming inside because Howard was SUPPOSED to be home. Frustration and anger began to take over and I felt the urge to yell.
I stood in the hallway, holding Hope, took a deep breath and was determined to find a way to give thanks even though not ONE thing was coming to mind. Luke had just gotten out of the shower and I was standing there, in the pee soaked hall with the smoke detectors blaring. He looked at me wide eyed as I stood there and through my tears said, "Thank you Lord, that Ben is able to pee." I am pretty sure Luke was ready to call the loony bin to come and haul me away. (Ben has had urinary tract issues. We have had trouble in this area and he has endured 4 surgeries and is finally just fine in the urinary area.)
Now, it may seems silly and insignificant, but I swear to you as soon as those words left my lips peace came over me. I honestly felt joy. Joy comes through gratitude. When we accept the good gifts our Father gives us with a grateful heart, joy follows. EVEN when we give thanks for pee. ;)
This has been life altering for me. I often find myself overwhelmed and frustrated. When this happens I get irritable and I tend to get snippy and short with those I love. I don't want to be this way. I want to speak with love. I want to carefully consider the words that come out of my mouth because they are affecting these little people more than I realize. I want to be better. I want to practice gratitude in all things. I want to know joy and live life to the fullest in this very moment, not always looking forward to the moments to come. My kids deserve for me to be present with them NOW and so does Howard. They deserve all of me not just my left overs.
I have honestly found as silly as it feels that when I give thanks aloud when I am feeling the frustration coming, it is like a release valve. I admit, it is still hard. It is hard to take a breath and CHOOSE gratitude because man it seems so much easier to just allow frustration to take over and slam pans and cupboard doors, but it really doesn't do anyone any good, nor does it please the Lord. I am a slow learner, but I truly am finding joy more often than not and living in the moment and enjoying ALL of the gifts the Lord has given me today...look around they are EVERYWHERE once you are paying attention.
I cannot recommend her book or her blog enough. She truly is one of the most honest and beautiful writers I have read. She is a fresh drink of water and just the perspective I have been needing.