One Thousand Gifts: Chapter Three

On Sunday I search frantically for the button. It popped off right before Christmas Eve service—the other “wearing of red” season at church—all those months ago, and I distinctly remember putting it “someplace safe” so as not to lose. It’s my only decent red blouse, after all.
I find it in my button box and scramble for red thread. I don’t sew much anymore—there’s not much need and not much time, and besides, my mother-in-law is quite handy with a needle. I think these things as I promptly run the needle into my thumb. I’m sucking the red and trying not to get it on the shirt or on the chair or anywhere else and as I run my thumb under the cold water I think it: His blood. Isn’t it all over me? All this red and suddenly my eyes cannot see for the flowing.
When the boys were small, the worship committee would tie bundles of red balloons to the pews on Pentecost—they called it the birthday of the church. It seemed a strange label to me—having grown up a Jehovah’s Witness–but I could get there…the joy of the tongues of fire urging me on and all.
And on the Monday following Pentecost, the church changes her clothes from red to green—the color of life and hope. We enter what is called “Ordinary Time” on the church calendar—called so because it is not part of any special liturgical season.
As I study the red balling up on my thumb it seems anything but ordinary.
Summer is here and in the morning I go running before the house awakens and the mist waves to me from above the lake as I pass and I run into the sun—this blood-orange ball that preens in beauty above my valley home. At night, the fireflies enchant and the stars blink white from their darkening indigo bed. The earth sighs.
Anything but ordinary.
But the busy threatens to make it so and when I hurry through each day—when I don’t stop and savor…the beauty leaves me like breath.
I think about the class on preaching I attended last weekend. The Witness of Preachingthis, our text, and I never stopped to think what those words mean.
To witness, according to my online dictionary can mean 1) to see or experience directly, or 2) to take note of.
Or, perhaps both.  To take note of something, one must see it.
Our preaching professor, she calls it the “preacher’s eye”.
As you begin to write sermons, you will start to see things you would have never thought of before, she says.
“But you have to find a way to record it—a system to keep it”, she goes on. “Otherwise, pshewww…” she gestures a flying away with hands. “Otherwise, you will never remember.”
I remember Ann and her list when she says that.
“…Writing the list, it makes me feel…happy. All day. I can hardly believe how it does that, that running stream of consciousness, river I drink from and I’m quenched in, a surging stream of grace and it’s wild how it sweeps me away…” (AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
Without the writing down, these gifts are buried stones. There is no way they are going to bear fruit.

Don’t I know this story? Ever since I joined Ann’s Gratitude Community, haven’t I felt this happy? In truth, since I started jotting down life in this space…it has changed the way I see.

This conversation sends me looking. Opens my eyes to the beauty in the small. It is gratitude, yes, but it is so much more than the keeping of a list. It is noticing my life as I pass through it. This is what writing does. It names the moments of my life.
Naming is Edenic, says Ann.
And I wonder…is this the reason for the crazy joy? This naming—is it sown into the fiber of me—does it beat through my body with the thumping of my heart? Some things are so close we need to pull back to see them.
I name gifts and go back to the Garden and God in the beginning who first speaks a name and lets what is come into existence. This naming is how the first emptiness of space fills: the naming of light and land and sky. The first man’s first task is to name. Adam completes creation with his Maker through the act of naming creatures, releasing the land from chaos, from the teeming, indefinable mass. I am seeing it too, in the journal, in the face of the Farmer: naming offers the gift of recognition. When I name moments…I am Adam and I discover my meaning and God’s, and to name is to learn the language of Paradise…(Ann Voskamp, OneThousand Gifts).
I practice this gift in eucharisteo—this naming of the moments—and the empty space in me is filled. 

This is the third in a series on Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right WhereYou Are.  Join me this time next week for a reflection on Chapter four. 

One Thousand Gifts: Chapter One
One Thousand Gifts: Chapter Two 


  1. says

    Glad you found your button (not the subsequent poke). Although, the event certainly does provide meaning. Your reflections are helping me appreciate One Thousand Gifts even more. With the way you write with those fingers, I’d leave the sewing to mother-in-law for sure. Only so much time. . .

  2. says

    Just love it! Since I started writing I, too, am always on the lookout for what is happening around me, what I’m seeing connecting and the way God is involved in it all.

    I can also relate to the sewing thing. My mom is a wonderful seamstress, so much so that my kids don’t even know I can actually sew on a button. Sssh, don’t let anyone know!

    Have a blessed night listening, gathering and remembering.

  3. says

    Oh, thank you so much, Laura for your beautiful words here. I am loving your reflections on this book and am waiting to see how you maneuver through chapter 5, which is the one where I hit the wall. I am still wrestling through my own understanding of suffering, trying to pull together the teaching of scripture and the experience of life. I don’t think I land quite where Ann has landed, but I deeply appreciated her lovely writing. And I LOVE your words, love, love them.

  4. says

    Blood, His blood, green equals life, Pentecost and tongues each telling the story in languages foreign but known to those who listen. Others believe and enter into grace and joy where they too can count the gifts day by day.

  5. says

    Your post is anything but ordinary–and you have a gift for noticing the ordinary and describing and sharing it as extraordinary.

    This: “Summer is here and in the morning I go running before the house awakens and the mist waves to me from above the lake as I pass and I run into the sun—this blood-orange ball that preens in beauty above my valley home. At night, the fireflies enchant and the stars blink white from their darkening indigo bed. The earth sighs.”

    The earth sighs, and so do I. Nothing ordinary about you, even when you write of the so-called ordinary.

  6. says

    Oh! When I saw this title pop up with your comment I left at Life Overseas, I thought it was from before…but you are writing about Ann’s book now! This is so good as I am wanting/needing to comb back through and the seeing and naming as language of Paradise. A type of anchor too, in the midst of so much that changes (for me) a gift, ever a gift, to be seen as constant. as Him. sending much love and thanks for you!

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