No, I didn't sneeze. I didn't spell the word wrong, I didn't make a huge typo, I didn't accidentally fall on the keyboard and then bump "Publish" before I meant to.
That is a real word.
And, to put it plainly, it means, "thanksgiving."
Simple word, sure.
But it rocked my world yesterday.
Sick, coughing, a little too warm, weak and aching, I turned over on my bed again. One more time to try to alleviate the extreme discomfort I was in. God, why am I sick? Why? I've been sick for three days now--and on my bed for two of those days. Why?
I didn't take any notice of God's silence--that silence that held weight--and I continued. And why is everything falling apart around my ears? Why isn't my family in a real house; with funds enough to meet everything that happens? Why am I stuck over here alone, not fitting in, not able to communicate? Why have I been deserted (or at best, lovingly released) by all those I called dear? Are you asleep at the wheel? Surely not... But then, WHY? Tell me why!
Silence again. I really don't blame Him: I wouldn't want to answer someone who was on the other end of the line asking me questions like that.
But He wasn't silent because He didn't feel like responding. He was just waiting--putting into practice that talent that He's been trying to get me to learn lately. He just waited. And was silent.
I rolled over again. I stared at my computer. 3 o'clock in the morning, Pacific time. No way was anyone awake. No emails, no chats, no Facebook messages. Silence from the virtual world as well. I sighed and looked up above my head, where my row of neatly arranged books sat. I stared at them one by one. Empty journals, almost filled journals, notebooks, sketchbook, Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, In the Shadow of the Mob, my Strong's concordance, a small devotional book, my Bible... My eyes travelled over each one. I had no energy to do much more than read...and I'd read most of these already.
Then one caught my attention. Not because of a flashy cover, but because I realized I hadn't read that one yet.
Wow, I don't want to read that one. I started months ago, and her language was just way too heavy and flowery for me. Not going there--especially not when I'm sick.
But something kept my eyes riveted on its spine. Three words stared back at me: One Thousand Gifts. I was determined to win this stare-down...but somehow, the book prevailed (or was it Someone else?) and my hand soon pulled it out and opened to page one.
The writer is Ann Voskamp. I'd only heard of her once before in my life; and that from my friend and roommate, Kezzia. She tried to explain to me all of what Voskamp's theory was, but I didn't pay much attention. I still didn't pay much attention when I was given that book for my birthday. I tried to read it, didn't succeed, and put it back on my shelf. That was that.
Don't ask my why I brought it to Thailand. Other than somehow, God slipped it in to my packing because He knew I'd need it.
So, Ann writes of growing up. Of being an adult, the wife of a farmer, mother of six. The pain from a little sister's death in the driveway at maybe two years old, a mother in such insane grief she's locked into a psychiatric ward at a hospital, two nephews die from a terminal disease at less than six months within the space of less than two years: she writes of a hard life. A life filled with doubts, with pain, and with lots of "Why God?!"s.
In a small sense, I can relate. I'd just spent time asking why myself.
But she's looking for more. And in an email sent to her as a challenge, she finds it.
Write down one thousand gifts? Gifts from God? A thousand of them? Really?
I walked with her on her journey; the journey that led to this life filled with eucharisteo: "Thanksgiving." Complete, perpetual, wholly-obsessive thanksgiving. Thanking God for everything.
Ann wanted a fuller, richer, more meaningful life. So do I.
She found her answer in eucharisteo.
Safe to say that perhaps I'll find my answer there too?
Jesus continually gave thanks. At the last supper, right before His beloved Judas will be allowed to escape into the hands of demonic possession; before Peter will deny with sickening oaths and swearing that he never knew the Man; before all His disciples forsake Him; before a cruel mob led by cold soldiers sent by bloodthirsty priests comes and ties Him up (Him, the Creator of the Universes, bound by the work of His own hands!) and takes him into a courtroom where no justice is employed; before Pilate commands Him scourged, beaten; before the soldiers mock Him; before He is finally led to Golgotha and sharp pieces of iron fix Him to a rough piece of wood: before all these scenes of horror He gives thanks.
Don't believe me?
"And He took the cup, and gave thanks..." Luke 22:17
"And He took bread, and gave thanks..." Luke 22:19
"And when He had given thanks..." 1 Corinthians 11:24
Jesus is about to die. He has only a few short hours left without pain; with a beating heart in His chest: and He gives thanks.
When He raised Lazarus from the dead, He gave thanks. Not after the fact, but before the fact.
Jesus spent His life enacting eucharisteo. He spent His whole life giving thanks, even unto death. He rejoiced that He was to suffer, even! "But for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame."
Joy. Real, abiding, lasting joy.
I laid One Thousand Gifts aside later that evening, having read the whole book, cover to cover. Ann made it to her thousand...and then continued on to infinity. Granted, she's still a human: she's not perfect. She still makes mistakes, she's still learning. But she found the key--and she's employing that key to unlock the iron doors that surrounded her imprisoned heart. She's giving thanks.
I looked around. We were in the middle of a power outage. No lights, no fan; the computer was dying, my headlamp batteries were getting low, and I was still sick.
But something inside me writhed and screamed to be free. Something that said, Give thanks.
I began to write an entry in my journal, struck by the import of what I had read and needing to funnel thoughts onto paper to get them out. As I wrote, I began to realize that I needed to give thanks, not just for everything, but for everything. That means the pain that wracks my heart, the trials that come my way, the mountains I have to climb, and heaven forbid, the waiting I have to do... I need to give thanks. For all of it.
In all these things. Not some, not a few. All.
I thought I knew what it meant to love. To be a friend. I look behind me and realize that I had no clue. Some of the deepest wounds inflicted on me have been because of love, and I've seen it as a curse, as rejection all over again. I say, with shame in my heart, that those I have accused of breaking my heart the worst have loved me better in doing so than they would have had they not!
That thought sobered me. It's enough to sober anyone.
But then, what is love? Where do you find it? How do you obtain it?
I only brought 4 journals with me to Thailand. Saving space for other things, and really, am I going to fill up four journals in seven months? Apparently so: those empty books keep getting more precious to me as I realize that I've barely been here a month now and my first journal is almost full. FULL. That means I'll start a new one soon. And then another and another and then I'll be out. I can't waste these.
But the thought of Ann's challenge--that of recording, finding one thousand gifts--had filled my vision. Eucharisteo blinded me. I wanted to write out a thousand--or more. But Lord, where do I record all of it? Where? I want to write it--take it with me wherever I go. I want it to work even when the power doesn't. But where do I put it?
Again, God was silent. He seemed to want me to make the decision myself.
The longing proved too great. One of my precious journals, the one with Psalm 118:24 on the front ("This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it"), reserved for my thoughts about life in Thailand, was given another purpose last night. To hold my gifts. To help me learn the art of eucharisteo. To help me learn how to live thanksgiving, and find the real, genuine joy I've been seeking all my life. To help me find that fulness that I haven't been experiencing.
Before I began, I wrote in my journal these words:
"So, one of my precious journals is being assigned to a special purpose. To learning how to live with a constant joy, constant thanksgiving. To learn how to wait; how to really love. To really wait. I'm starting my own list. I'm going to make it to one thousand first...and see where I am by then. One thousand gifts of my own. It's high time I learned how to live fully."
I made it to 50 last night. I'm aiming to make it to 100--200--300...today, tomorrow, next week, next month. It is definitely high time I learned how to live fully. How to live eucharisteo.
And it's not just high time for me. It's high time for you too.
I'm going to challenge you: call it a dare, if you will. Can you write a list of one thousand gifts? One thousand things that bring you unexpected (or expected) joy; things that make you smile; things that bring solace to your heart. Can you think of one thousand things? It doesn't have to be all at once: do it one day at a time. Look for more to add to that list throughout the day. Write it down; keep it in a journal or a notebook somewhere. I dare you.
I've taken the challenge up. How many of you will take it up with me?
I guarantee that it will change your life.
It's high time that we all learned what it means to live fully...
That is, to live with continual, obsessive thanksgiving to the God of glory.