I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Phillipians 4:11-12
Oh Lord, that I could say these words! That I could say them with full assurance that I actually meant them. How far I have to go on this journey….
I read a quote from John Piper a long time ago. I don’t remember where but I remember thinking, “He is so right!” He said that there are eyes in pencils and pens. I believe there is. Pencils and pens (and crayons and keyboards) help me to see. They help me to pour out what is in when I don’t even always know there is anything in. So I pick up my virtual pen and it helps me to see. I think that’s most of the reason I blog. For my own clarity. The putting down of words on paper so I can see. Remember. Gain insight.
I was reminded of this quote last night. The rest of my home lay fast asleep, all dark with deep sounds of breathing coming from every room save for the little lamp on the table beside my bed. It shone out against the darkness illuminating my book for me. This book. This little book that I could. not. put. down.
Let me rewind…
Have you ever searched for something? Like long and hard and with every fiber of your being? Perhaps something you lost. Or something you never had. That was me with joy. I knew of this thing, this feeling that I believe is more than a feeling (don’t start humming bad 80’s songs now…) but more of a way of life. I had seen it in others, 2 others specifically, that radiated. Radiated something. Something that I wanted to radiate.
I had seen it in their smiles and heard it in their words. I could see the way their eyes looked at you when you were speaking and how they really cared to hear what you had to say. It was something you could feel when you were around them, pouring out of them to whomever was near. It was almost like they were perpetually in on a secret.
These two women I think of were Christian women who were years, nay eons, wiser than I. Probably than I will ever be. I just knew it. But I wanted what they had and I would spend my years searching if searching was what it took.
I was brave enough one day to ask one of these women just what it was. “You have joy,” I said to her one day, “I can see it in you. How do you do it?”
She looked a bit surprised at the forwardness of the question and then answered boldly, “I made a choice.” A choice? “Many years ago my family was in the midst of turmoil (I will not elaborate on her story here, for it is hers to share, not mine) and I was feeling so incredibly down. Distraught. Unsure of what to do or how to carry on. It was that day in the midst of hurt and heartache and pain that I made a choice. I could choose to wallow, choose to feel so mad, choose to be a victim, or I could choose joy. I chose joy.”
She chose joy. So I decided that I, too, would choose joy. Joy, I choose you! There. Done.
Except then the laundry would pile up and dinner would burn and kids would whine and I would be let down by a friend and though I spoke that I chose joy what would come out was frustration, impatience, victimhood.
But I choose joy, I would proclaim! But my life didn’t look like those women I knew. Those who were in on something. Whose very eyes smiled all the time.
God give me joy, I would plead. I want it! I’m asking! Give it to me!!
And I would keep on.
I feel like for the past many years I’ve been on this quest for something so illusive. Something you can’t touch or hold. Something you can’t buy or will yourself to have or be good enough to just get!
On friday night a beautiful friend handed me a book. The kind of book that you know, mid-way through, is a life-changer. I’ve only read two books like this before (aside from the Bible) , The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. Two books that rocked. my. world.
And I started to get so excited only a few chapters in because I knew, I just knew, that the words that this woman was penning were for me. She too believed that pens have eyes and so she must write. She too wasn’t seeing as she knew she wanted to. She too knew that it would take intentionality to see. “Merely thinking the warm and fuzzy thoughts…” she said, was not going to make it happen.
I know the biggest lie that I believe is that I deserve things. I deserve a husband who loves me and gets me, children who obey me, a house that is mine to decorate how I want, a dog that comes when I call him, friends who care, family who loves, safety, food, even my very breath I believe I somehow deserve. This lie gets me every time by fooling me into thinking these things will bring joy. When this happens or that happens or if only this didn’t happen or that didn’t happen THEN (!!) I would have joy. It is a lie. I know it is.
How do I know? Because it is me being discontent. Ungrateful. And me feeling like I am deserving of more is like waving my fist at God and yelling, “You have not done enough for me! You never give enough! Why can’t you get it together for me!!!”
A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit. Erasmus
I need nails. Nails to drive out my nails of lack of contentment. Nails to drive out my desire for stuff. Nails to drive out the lie that I deserve more. I need the right nails. For as it says up there in Phillipians, “I have learned how to be content…” This is a process of learning, not something one just attains.
Lights come on in my head. Of course!
I’m hammering in nails to pound out nails, ugly nails that Satan has pierced through the world, my heart. It starts to unfold, light in the dark, a door opening, how all these years it’s been utterly pointless to try to wrench out the spikes of discontent. Because that habit of discontent can only be driven out by hammering in one iron sharper. The sleek pin of gratitude. Ann Voskamp
So I, like Ann, started hammering. Started writing down the things for which I am so grateful, right here, now, today. The big things, the little things, the driving by it things and the things I normally wouldn’t even notice. One by one hammering in new nails. Right nails. Nails that make me thank God that I am alive. And all morning I’ve been smiling this ridiculous smile and I tear up at the sight of everyday things because these are all gifts. And I am grateful.
Jesus broke bread and gave thanks. He took the loaves and fish and gave thanks. He thanked his Father for listening when Lazarus was raised. He gave thanks. Thanks for everything, in everything, for the joy set before him.
And so I give thanks, with a silly smile on my face. The challenge, the dare? To write a list of a thousand things I love, a thousand blessings, gifts that have been given to me. To do this daily. To overcome the habits of ingratitude with gratitude. To put pen to paper and in so doing thank God for them. I began this morning…
(care to join me?)
1. unmerited favour
2. hearing deep slow breaths of the little one asleep beside me
3. the repetition of scripture
4. friends who share what they have
5. my husband who is already long gone for the day though my alarm rings at 5:30 am
6. white walls
7. all white bedding
8. those who follow God’s call – even when it’s scary. (isn’t it always a bit scary?)
9. the privilege of gently rousing sleepy munchkins in the morning
10. the way Hayden asks, “3 more minutes, mom?” every. single. morning.
11. the corn stalks and pumpkins decorating the front of the boys school
12. burnt orange leaves
13. seeing and hugging a friend that I have not seen or hugged in well over a year
14. sun shining in through the blinds, just for a second, to make my bed striped with its rays
15. advil, pain relief for my biggest little who has a migraine and for my littlest little who had 6 teeth pulled
the book is called one thousand gifts by ann voskamp