Friday, June 29, 2012

The Million Miracles

I have fallen in love with a book.
This blog is not meant to be a book review blog, but every now and then I find a book that I just can't shut up about.
This one is called, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.
I don't read many blogs, but I read hers.
I have never, ever read a book published by a blogger, but hers I can not put down.
It haunts the recesses of my mind nearly every waking moment.
In a good way, a very, very good way.
She writes of (here I go, about to slaughter her beautiful book) living a thankful, purposeful life.
The sub title reads, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.
She talks of thanking God for his many, many gifts. 
That may seem obvious.
What is not so obvious (at least it was not for me) was the idea of thanking God, even in our trials.
The hard ones.
The ones that seem impossible to bear.
She writes of witnessing the tragic death of her toddler sister when she was only a small girl when a delivery truck didn't see her toddling after a cat in the lane as he drove onto their quiet farm road.
She writes of her parents life after the accident, and her own, being closed to grace.
She says that in essence, sometimes we look at what God has given us and we accept the good things and gladly thank Him for them.
But when the bad things come we shake our heads and say no and ask why, and in so doing we seperate ourselves from God.
We accept the good, but not the bad.
We think we know better than God.
I think of my impossible trials.
I think of my grandmother, brutally murdered by a serial killer.
I think of how that tragedy destroyed my father.
Of how he turned to alcohol instead of our Savior.
I think of the ensuing devorce, the broken family and home that came in the wake of that horrible tragedy.
There was not much thanksgiving going on in those years.
There was, however, an abundance of bitterness and grief and pain.
But life is a gift, the good along with the bad.
  I think of Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place.
She was a survivor of the German concentration camps, yet she was Christian.
She and her family hid Jews in their home and were caught.
She and her sister endured things you and I could never imagine.
Her sister, Betsy, was forever kind and loving and, yes, even thankful.
She was thankful even amidst hell on Earth.
At one point in her book, Corrie writes of the horrible conditions in the 'dorms'. 
They were horribly crowded and infested with fleas and lice.
Betsy told Corrie that they must thank God in EVERY situation!
Corrie was doubtful that God expected her to be thankful for the fleas.
But not Besty, she knelt down and thanked God for the fleas, the very scourge that  made their skin crawl.
Later in the book, after Betsy had passed away, Corrie found out how much of a blessing the fleas really were.
Somehow, through all the strip searches, Corrie managed to smuggle a small part of the New Testament into the camp, an act that literally could have cost her life, along with the lives of her family.
Corrie ended up sick and unable to do the hard, physical labor of the camp, so she ended up sewing socks  with other sick inmates in their dorms during the days, the one place in camp the guards never went.
During these days Corrie was able to take out her New Testament and read to her Jewish friends of Jesus Christ and to preach His gospel.
After many months of this she found out why the guards never came into the dorms.
Can you guess?
You got it, it was all because of the fleas.
Corrie learned to thank God for the fleas!
Is it not the same with our trials?
Aren't there things we learn and become that we never would be if it were not for them?
Shouldn't we thank God for them, accept them and learn and grow and move on?
Shouldn't we choose happiness, even in the most impossible of hard times?
Isn't that when we need to rely most on Him?
Isn't He the gardener,  doesn't He know what to do to make us grow?
Perhaps He gives us these trials to get us to come to Him, to rely on Him instead of our own feeble attempts to do it all by ourselves.
Part of what changed Ann Voskamp was a dare from a friend to make a list of 1,000 things that she loved.
She learned to name her blessings and to purposefully see the hand of God in her life.
Ever since I read this, I have been mentally making my own list.
It happens as I live my life, this internal script of thanks.
It happens as I pick cherries and watch my children dance and play in the Summer sunlight.
Suddenly the love and gratitude  seem to be flowing out of me and I can no more stop it than I can stop the flow of a waterfall.
They keep coming.
I need to write them down.
I need to never forget these moments, these memories, these gifts, these miracles.
Only it seems to me that there have got to be more than just one thousand. 
It seems to me that I really never will come to an end of naming them all. 
So here I go, my feeble attempt to thank God for this incredible, difficult, beautiful life that He has hand picked, just for me.
  1. Picking sweet and sour cherries, still warm from the morning sun
  2. Friends willing and happy to share their abundance
  3. Baby curls
  4. Ethan holding Lily on his lap, cheek against baby cheek
  5. Fairy dust 
  6. Walks along the river when we just can't help but stop to dip our toes in
  7. And when I say toes I mean our whole selves up to our waists
  8. Children carrying chicken eggs in their shirt like a basket
  9. Children running around in swimsuits all day long
  10. Tree swings and hammocks
  11. The way my willow leaves wave and whisper in the wind
  12. Water balloons bulging fat in tiny hands

To be continued...
(every day of my life)

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home

Fathers' Day is bitter sweet for me. 
Even now, as a grown woman with a family of my own, I still think about Father's Day as a child.
It was painful, to say the least.
I was the one in my Sunday school class without a father to give my newly made craft with wet glue to.
I usually ended up giving it to my best friend's dad.
Until they moved away just as I was entering high school.
After that I think I pretty much avoided church on Father's Day.
Then there was the time when I was 16 years old and my bishop asked me to speak in Sacrament meeting on Father's Day about what it was like to live in a home without a father.
I told him I would.
I struggled for 2 full weeks with knots in my stomach about what I would say.
I simply could not get past the bitterness, it nearly consumed me.
I called in the morning on Father's Day and faked sick.
My name was already printed on the program, still, I was a no show.
I simply did not have the courage to get up and talk about how my father had left me when I was 2 years old,  how I would pretend that my best friends dad was my own, how I longed to have my dad come home from work every night just so I could sit by him on the couch, instead how he chose to be miles and miles away from me.
I wanted (in vain) a dad, my dad.
Now, many years later I have learned to ignore that desire.
It does get a little tricky the week preceding father's day.
The kids in primary were invited to sing in Sacrament meeting.
This year I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home was on the docket.
We practiced with the children in primary for weeks until it was perfect.
My kids went around humming or singing it to themselves all week long.
I watched them as their daddy came home every evening, the joy in their eyes, the smile on their lips and the laughter as tickles and hugs were exchanged.
I felt that familiar pang.
I longed, once again to know the joy of being small and having daddy come home.
But I only felt the pang for an instant.
That pain was instantly replaced with immense joy and gratitude for my loving family.
 The joy I feel as my children's father comes home after a long day at work and continues to give and to love and to just be makes me whole.
He continues to just be the dad I always wished I had.
Mr Bird, will you ever know how much your selflessness heals my broken heart?
When I see you with our children I love you more deeply than I ever imagined I could.
I love how you are with them.
You teach me so much every day, I try to be as patient and loving with them as you are.
Thank you for your loving example, thank you for loving our children, thank you for choosing to spend eternity with us.
Thank you for the fun camping trips and putting in my garden.
Even on the days when you come home totally exhausted and all you want to do is sit with the kids and watch a Star Trek, thank you for coming home.
Sometimes when you come home and I see our children hide to jump out at you when you open the door, I feel like a kid again.
I feel the joy they feel and it heals me.
I don't know what I ever did to deserve you, but I thank God everyday for you and the endless sacrifices you make for our adorable family.
You have made me so, so happy!

 "I'm so glad when daddy comes home,
Glad as I can be;
Clap my hands and shout for joy,
Then climb upon his knee,
Put my arms around his neck,
Hug him tight like this,
Pat his cheeks, then give him what?
A great big kiss."

 Children's Songbook, page 210