In November I posted on Facebook about a phrase that stood out for me from a devotional. The writer was referencing the story of the five loaves and two small fish (John chapter 6) and said that she had previously missed an important detail in the telling. Jesus took the loaves and then the fish and, each time, he gave thanks for them and then distributed them to the more than 5000 people. Her revelation was that Jesus gave thanks “before the miracle.”
Several friends commented on my post and suggested I read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The devotional I read was also written by her. At the time, I was unfamiliar with her work. I eagerly purchased her book hoping there would be more pearls of wisdom in it. I am five chapters in and it does not disappoint. Her writing draws me in. I could easily sit on the porch swing all day and devour the whole book in one swallow. But, I am trying to savor it by reading a chapter each morning.
If you haven’t read the book, I won’t spoil it for you with too much detail. But, she weaves her personal faith and lifelong study of God’s Word into her story of her daily family life. The one thousand gifts of the title come from her challenge to keep a journal of 1000 things she has to be thankful for. One thousand givings of thanks for gifts from God. She starts to pay attention to small gifts that come during everyday life, such as watching her children play or how light is refracted on soap bubbles as she washes dishes. Sure, it’s the same advice we’ve all heard to stop and smell the roses. But, there is wisdom to be gained even from clichés.
Don’t roll your eyes! Life is not all laughing children, rainbows in soap bubbles, and more than enough homemade chocolate to satiate six hungry young-uns.
She has had her share of loss and family tragedy. On the same day one of her sons survives what could have been a fatal injury, a neighbor’s son dies in a farming accident. She wrestles with where God’s grace is in these incidents and how He decides to give or withhold gifts at seeming random.
Sweet grieving parent, haven’t we asked this same question? Why my child? Why did someone else’s daughter narrowly (miraculously?) survive a horrible accident and mine did not? No, no, no I don’t wish their daughter had died instead of mine! But, why did God spare one and not the other? Is He capricious? Is He random? Does He only pay attention to His earthly creation when He’s bored with Heavenly activity?
How can we be sure His overall plan is good? How do we find things to be thankful for when we aren’t yet privy to the miracle?
It’s not easy, my friend. I am not and never will be thankful that my daughter’s life here on Earth was cut short. That she was killed in an instant on a sunny April morning in a freak traffic accident on her way to work. A 30-year-old newlywed of two months excited about her new job. Where’s the gift in that? I could write a hundred thousand gifts in a journal and none of them would say “thank you for the gift of my daughter’s death.”
I am thankful, though. I am thankful that there is a bigger picture that is not all revealed to me. I am thankful for faith and hope and patience when I try to see the miracle and I can’t yet.
I am thankful that I know the ending – even if I can’t fully comprehend it – is eternal life.
I haven’t finished Ms. Voskamp’s book yet. She has already made me cry several times and I’m only on chapter 5. I don’t know if I will cry some more. But, I do know that there will be gifts and reasons to be thankful. Not because her book tells me so. Because His Word tells me so.
“How did I ever think there was another way to enter His courts but with thanksgiving?” Ann Voskamp, “One Thousand Gifts.”
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