Karen called to say she was leaving a birthday gift on our front porch while we were out. Karen, beautiful friend and giver of beautiful gifts. She is a gifted gift giver.
Tingle of excitement.
The kids raced from the van to the front porch and came in bearing a little gift bag with tissue paper being actively crumpled in exuberant hands.
I pulled out the card first. Perfect. Warmth and smiles.
Then I pulled out the gift.
My heart fell.
It was the book I didn’t want to read.
My happy gift excitement fell in ashes at my feet.
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The celebrated book and author that circles regularly through the corner of the blog world that I inhabit. Writing and a person that, by all indications, I should really like.
But I didn’t.
Every time I’ve come upon a piece of her writing, I’ve experienced a strong, I don’t know how to describe it. An inner stop sign, barrier, halt, defense, aversion.
The strength of my push-back was surprising enough to make me stop and pay it some attention.
What’s going on? Why do I react so negatively here?
There was a little disquieting inner voice that said that if I had developed differently, if I had followed the path of spirituality I developed beginnings of in college, I would have been like that. A presence like that. A spirituality like that. Someone who is doing me better. Ouch.
(I’ve felt the same about Rachel Held Evans, who is on a completely different plane – asking tough questions, engaging in controversial topics. I could have developed that way, also. And these musings bear the question how HAVE I developed? But that’s a question to find an answer for another day, or another year.)
There was also a sense of not now. Come back to it later. Because really, I knew it should be something I would be, should be drawn to.
Karen had told me on the phone that if I already had the book, she had something else to give me instead.
A glimmer of hope. Maybe I wouldn’t have to face this unwanted specter.
I considered lying. Oh yes, I already have this book. I’ve already read it, yes it was wonderful. Well, lying wasn’t really under consideration. Let’s call it wishful thinking.
I considered gifting it to someone else.
I considered letting it lie here, unread. And then gifting it to someone else.
I remembered that a strong internal reaction to bears listening to. I mused to myself that maybe this could be big, huge, a life-changer.
Oh, come on, just pick it up and start reading.
So I did.
I am changed.
I am melted.
I am broken open by a voice that is brave enough to ask the hard questions about pain and suffering and aging and death and fear – things that have laid very heavy between God and I.
And he took bread, gave thanks (eucharisteo) and broke it, and gave it to them…” (Luke 2:19 NIV)
Eucharisteo, Ann says, something to build your life on, live your life in.
Eucharisteo – thanksgiving. Charis – grace. Chara – joy.
I read through the book slowly. Late one evening this week I finished it, then turned back to the beginning and began again.
She names one thousand blessings, one thousand gifts, a way to live eucharisteo.
I can’t but help to draw a line and connect the dots. I’m in the early days of a year of noticing, and what have I been given? A guidebook to naming thousands of gifts.
I sense that a door has been flung open. A door I’ve been searching for across several years, maybe more than several.
I looked for and found a journal that’s just right for my own list of thousands of gifts. I need to find a good pen. It seems silly to wait for something as insignificant as a pen to begin. But it has been a long journey to come to this new starting point, and I’d like to start it with more intention than jottings on a scrap of paper destined to be lost in the shuffle.
So I’ll wait for the pen, and then I’ll find a quiet moment to write on the first line of thousands.
1. a beautiful gift from a beloved friend – a book to change my life
Thank you, Karen. I love you very much.