One Thousand Gifts: Seeing Through the Glass

She tells me before I go—several times she says it: “Try to settle for a couple days…stay quiet. Be gentle with yourself.”
And I nod my head and make my plans and drive home with my heart full, carrying peace. It all seems so clear in the silence, under the white pines looking up, in the still cafeteria where the food is prepared for me. It seems so doable as I pass bashful retreatants in hushed halls and beam my God-smile at those who will see. 
So how—after such an encounter, after such beauty—how do I lose my peace so easily?
“…Why? Can I just go back to the moon and the brazen glory? Wind and trees and sky wake me and I’m Peter on the mountaintop, stirring to see The Glory in all its God-radiance, stammering out that it’s good to be here…But there’s always the descent from the mount. The meeting of the crowd, the complaining, the cursing. Obvious and immediate transfigurations exhilarate the faith, but the faithful can forget transfigurations, faces that once changed appearances. We betray Who we know. Didn’t Peter?” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
Always first the eyes,says Ann. It’s a matter of focus.
I come home to the dirty floors and the mounds of laundry and a misplaced Sunday school lesson and a room full of wild kids on Sunday morning. I come home to the transport of twelve dogs—a two hour trip to save their lives—and I ride with a 60 pound baby on my lap because he chewed his way through the crate.
At the end of my first day back home I feel like crying and I scramble for the peace that was so tangible just hours before. I carried it, remember? It rode home in the van on my lap—I remember—it rested against my skin, beneath my ribcage, behind my eyes.
Ann tells me:
“…All the world is window. No material is opaque. If we are willing to see—people, circumstances, situations, relationships—all is transparent.
All of this globe is but glass to God.” (Ann Voskamp, OneThousand Gifts)
It’s nothing big that happens—no major crisis. It’s just the contrast I am feeling and this of out of control chaos.
Why do I have to step outside of my life to find peace?
Wrench the socket of the hip, the tough grizzle of the heart and heal the socket of the eye. It takes practice, wrenching practice, to break open the lids. But the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
Ann’s story of fighting boys is one I know well. She teaches me how to give my sons water.
Can I tell you a story?” she asks.
And as she tells her boy the story of Jacob, I am wrestling with God. It’s my hip that has been touched—my limping stride.
And I refuse to let go until He blesses me.
There is always, always a story. Beauty is always there. It’s only a matter of the eyes. It’s only a matter of focus. And I am learning. I am learning how to give thanks for the mundane–for the chaos of life. Eucharisteo takes me back to the retreat and gives my eyes the focus I need to hear the story God is weaving into my life.

This is the seventh 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 eight.

Related:
One Thousand Gifts: Chapter One
One Thousand Gifts: Chapter Two 
One Thousand Gifts: Chapter Three
One Thousand Gifts: The Now Sanctuary
One Thousand Gifts: The Hard Eucharisteo 
One Thousand Gifts: The Great Beauty Hunt

Comments

  1. says

    Laura,
    I admire the honesty you share here, about how that peace can evaporate. Even more I love the suggestions for how to restore it…behind the eyelids, where it belongs.

    Thanks.

  2. says

    I just asked a friend a similar question the other day… Why does a person seek a vacation for peace? Can’t it be had at home? When the contrast you speak of is strong in the world, we need to blur the lines between the two in our heart.

    For me, laying on the ground with all those puppies crawling over me and gnawing on my fingers and pulling my hair, now that would be peace. 😉

    Blessings.

  3. says

    Echoing Sheila’s comment and remembering Matthew 14:13-14…when JESUS heard about the awful murder of His cousin John, HE withdrew by Himself to a secluded place…understandable.

    But then…crowds followed Him and HE doesn’t react as I might have…

    instead, He “felt compassion for them”…just as you did, dear heart, for the puppies and for all that was needing your attention…you carried His Peace within and did “the duty that lay nearest.”

  4. says

    What a beautiful truth here. Why can’t I find peace in the everyday? Why do I have to retreat, be alone just to feel the peace? At times, yes, I need the quiet, the rest, but can’t I find peace in the noise, the filth of life, the spills all over the floor? What a lovely reminder to ponder.

  5. says

    Keep telling the stories, even when tired you are holding precious lives that will bring you joy and peace. Dogs, children, others who read your stories, all are wrapped in the story of LIFE.

  6. says

    That’s it! I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to find this book and buy it today. I’ve heard about it everywhere. Your thoughts inspired by the author’s thoughts are universal. May you find the One Thousand Gifts in your ordinary life today…

  7. says

    Laura, seeing the faces of those babies that you transport…gives me such peace. You are good people, my friend. It warms my heart every time I’m made aware of pure goodness in others. You make me smile.

    Many blessings,
    Amy

  8. says

    My favorite chapter in her book–the one about angry boys. We’ve had a few moments like this over the summer. So crowded in together-doing life and wishing for more peaceful days. God has done a profound work in my heart this summer… my finding Peace smack dab in the middle of chaos. Not long ago, I wrote a piece about our visit to the mountains (my place of retreat). I said that it’s getting more difficult to visit there, because it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to leave there.

    So I stay right here and push my way through to peace. It’s possible. It’s how I must live from these moments forward.

    Love you, sister.

    peace~elaine

  9. says

    oh, Laura, how I used to wish my life away…
    hearing that voice in my head saying” be careful what you wish for ” but feeling just the same.

    keep on keeping on . there is beauty in those steps of living every day.

  10. says

    I am late in coming here, Laura, as I’ve been away, but a number of things in this post resonated deeply: the advice that you be gentle with yourself (wise – I am familiar with this need in times of transition), your bolded subhead about needing to step outside your life to find peace (wonderful observation), the puppies (!), Jacob’s story and then back to the top again – “try to settle” (I know in recent days my own need to pull back into quiet and settle, and these words tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me).

    A beautiful reflection on Ann’s work. Thank you for bringing YOU to it.

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