Monday was a beautiful day. A much-needed day of rest after a string of several challenging shifts at the hospital.
The weather was incredible. Rainy and windy and cold. I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof….lingered in bed as long as possible, soaking in the sound.
As I stirred and began my day, the wind hurled leaves and branches and made the trees sway. I could stand it no longer. I had to be out in this glorious display of God's might.
I took my hot tea, wrapped in a warm blanket, curled up on the patio and looked. Simply looked. And listened.
Up. All around. Up again.
The clouds were moving fast. The trees bending and bowing in a noisy display of splendor. The wind. Oh the wind!
He was really showing off now. The stark contrast of the blue sky with the white clouds was stunning. And the colors of fall - of all things in this world. So much color.
And so many sounds if but we would listen.
I tried - always try - to stay silent. It never lasts long. I began to mentally list things for which I'm thankful. It's an attempt to live fully. Because to not fully live is to miss what God has for me (which is one of my biggest fears). And I'm learning how to not miss it...
I've been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts - a beautifully raw and eye-opening book about Ann's journey to gratitude through listing 1,000 things she was grateful for. Through words that resonate deeply, she expounds on the meaning of "eucharisteo" - the Greek word meaning "he gave thanks." Jesus used this word at the Last Supper, when he broke bread and gave thanks for it (Luke 22:19).
She breaks down the Greek word even more…
And she asks, "Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks? So then as long as thanks is possible…Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning - now; wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now."
Recognizing His gifts. Innumerable. And unique. And deeply personal. And I miss them in a statement of sweeping gratitude. When I give voice to a general thanks for a day, or for God, or for life…am I missing the gifts? The thousands of gifts He gives - there is joy in the naming. The specifics.
She goes on, "We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks...Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace."
It's a way of not missing what He has for me. Facing the fear, embracing faith, I name the gifts.
Thank You for the sound of the wind. Thank You for meeting me here. Thank You for the way my fingers feel wrapped around this mug of steaming tea. Thank You for the blue sky. The white clouds. The colors of the leaves. Thank You for death.
Wait, what?! Death?
Did I really just thank God for death?
My head challenged my heart and questioned it's loyalty. Was this betrayal? But my heart, strengthened by truth and understanding, rebutted that it was - is - actually thankful for death.
Death of old habits. Death of expectations - of self (the hardest to let go!) and expectations of others. Death of pain and old wounds. Death of failures.
Because only in death can there be life.
He reminds us of this each autumn. As leaves change color and fall to the ground, leading to a cold dry winter…the death that brings life and beauty rich in spring.
The death of God's Son. Blood shed to cover the sin of every man. A love so grand to go to the deepest depths…death. So that we may have life…and have it to the full (John 10:10).
Oh that I would recognize what I need to let die! My stubborn will. My desire for control. My negative self-fulfilling prophecies. My ingratitude.
May I learn how to embrace this beauty of death so I can make room for the new. The new gifts He has for me.
And may I keep my eyes open to always see the beauty of His gifts as I name them, as Ann did...one by one.