One Thousand Gifts: Chapter two

We used to play in the grave yard down the street from the bar where my dad tried to slake the thirst that is never quenched. Hide and seek was the best in between those tombstones. But I would lie in the cool grass at dusk and study the names etched in the stone…and wonder.
Who was this person? What was her life made of? Was she happy? Did she love?
And I made up stories in my mind about the lives that wrapped around the bones cradled in the earth underneath of me.
I wasn’t afraid. Death was part of our lives. We butchered the chickens for dinner—and once the cows, kittens were born still, beloved dogs were found lifeless on the side of the road, and grandmas died too.
I traced the letters on the gravestone with my finger and I knew that this name once named lips as warm and pink as my own. Even when my years were in the single digits the mystery of that made my breath slow in wonder.
You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. (Psalm 39:5)
I wanted to live.
I wanted to escape the poverty of my life and find beauty and love and see the vastness of God for once. I wanted to live where my heart beat the loudest.
Over Easter I took my boys to a cemetery. They call it a memorial garden now. There are sculptures and landscaping and it is much prettier than the graveyard I played in as a girl. We drove through and my boys were quiet.
And I felt fear. What has changed? What has changed, Lord?
…all these mornings. I wake to the discontent of life in my skin. I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always, the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I live tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes. Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough? But this morning, I wake wildly wanting to live. Physically feeling it in the veins trembling, the hard pant of the lungs, the seeing it in the steady stars, how much I really want to really live. How I don’t want to die. Is that the message of nightmares and dreams? To live either fully alive…or in empty nothingness? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
When I became a mother, I let fear take root in my heart. I let concerns about this world edge out the wonder. My heart craves for safety, for warm, for comfort…rather than the wild racing joy.

For Ann, it was a dream that she was dying. As a young girl, I felt I was dying too. Is this how it must be? Must my life hold hands with death before I truly see the beauty—right here, right now?  As I read her words, I wonder with Annwhy do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it?
Ann reads Luke 22:19 and He whispers to her heart. She begins to interrogate the text.
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks…Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Joy…That has always been the goal of the fullest life—joy…Was this the clue to the quest of all most important? Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo—the table of thanksgiving…(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
These are a threefold cord that might hold a life: grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo, she says.
In everything give thanks. And the secret to living fully begins to unfold…

This is the second 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 three. 

Related:
One Thousand Gifts: Chapter One

Comments

  1. says

    I never used to think I was living in fear. Without true joy. I never saw myself as controlling or anxious in the way that I assumed it manifested itself.
    Until I realized how I never really let myself be fully engaged in relationships . Always holding back just enough to have them already “dead” just in case.
    Once , when I witnessed my son careening down an icy hill into a tree on a sled, my reaction was not to run at full speed to get to him. But to yell to my sil to run and I stood there crying “see. I knew it. ” That’s when I knew that I wasn’t fully alive. In that moment I began to try to climb back up that hill.

    peace be with you , Laura.

  2. says

    Hmmmm, I did not choose to empty myself. God did that choosing for me. 🙂 But as I was set free from fears and bitterness…set free from the past I found myself awakened to a new me. A me I do not know. The me, He created me to be. “Physically feeling it in the veins trembling,” I long for that sense in my spirit. Before I believed….now I NEED to KNOW Him.
    A chapter a week is almost too much for me. 🙂 But I’ll get there. It’s time for this stirring.

  3. says

    I was right there with you in the cemetery, Laura. I was a child like that, lying in the grass and imagining the stories of the people who were laid to rest there. In fact, I still do the same. (CLARIFICATION: I visit cemeteries, but I don’t lay in the grass.~smile~)

    Strange as it sounds, I find life in the cemetery — a porthole from one world to another. I think about who they were, yes, but also who they are. My cemetery-visits help me to live more in the moment, rather than dwelling on the past or fretting over the days to come.

    I appreciate your story, Laura. Thank you.

  4. says

    As part of your playdates with God, you might consider a Newbery-award winning book that Marcus recommended to me: “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. It’s about a boy who is raised by ghosts. Can delight and horror co-exist? They do in this YA book.

  5. says

    I think I’m more afraid of not living than dying at the this point. I mean I hate the idea that I could be wasting precious hours God has given me to love and serve Him here. I heard someone say it something like, “How can I worship him the best with my life?” I’m afraid I have a tendency to settle for the good rather than giving him everything. Hope that made sense…it’s been a long morning 😉

  6. says

    “Must my life hold hands with death before I truly see the beauty—right here, right now?” Thinking about death, the end, can be motivating for me to live fully in the present. But “Is this how it must be?” Good question. I know that this what I want, to live fully.
    Enjoying your reflections, thank you, Laura.

  7. says

    Call me strange–wish I’d grown up butchering chickens. My great grandma did that for a living at one point. Amazes me that it was huge in her life and I’m so unfamiliar. Don’t think I could take it new at this age.
    As usual I fully entered your setting and words–leaving a comment can be hard b/c there’s too much to say, and I’d prefer a face-to-face conversation:)
    Thanks for adding your perspective to this chapter.

  8. says

    Awesome! It’s been awhile since I read the book, but that was the defining part for me. The Eucharisteo:
    Joy and Grace=Thanksgiving.

    Glad I landed here for the reminder. 🙂

  9. says

    The secret of living is to: Give thanks to God in what ever situation we find ourselves in. Not thanks for the evil or wrong good or right, but Thanks that God is with us as we travel in this life. Where He leads I will follow and when it is through the valley of death, I will know it is my time to take that walk with Him.

  10. says

    The fear struggle is mine, too, even with the practice of gratitude. I don’t think I’m so much afraid of death as of the dying process and how messy the unfinished business will be that I leave behind.

    Thanks to the commenters who have gone before. Your honesty encourages me.

    May the Lord’s love and truth cast out our fears!

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