Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ December & Joy Dare Complete!

What an incredible journey!  Counting 1000 gifts in the course of a year.  It was a dare and a challenge the Lord knew I needed to bring healing and new patterns of thought and emotion to a heart that tends toward discouragement and despair.  And though I'll possibly always fight that internal battle, the practice of looking for and expecting His gifts has worked transformation in me.  I can stop myself and shift to a godly perspective better than ever before ~ which is an answered prayer and gift in and of itself!

We are reading Psalm 119 together as a church during the month of January.  Yesterday's reading was verses 25-32.  I was amazed all over again at how specifically He speaks to me through His Word ~ whether an assigned reading or something that I've chosen or even something I've blindly opened to in desperation.  Here's the part I'm talking about:

My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word.  I have told you of my ways, and You have answered me; teach me Your statutes.  Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders. 
Psalm 119: 25-27

Can I tell you how often I "tell Him of my ways?"  

I'm worried, Lord.  I'm angry, Lord.  I don't think I can keep this pace, Lord.  There's not enough time....not enough money....not enough strength...not enough faith.

I cringe when I look back at my journals only to see these desperate pleas repeated over and over again, but I don't think He does.  I think He gladly receives them and then He answers by "teaching me His statutes" and "making me understand his precepts so I will meditate on His wonders."

Those desperate pleas and prayers led to this "Joy Dare," this counting of 1000 gifts, and through it He taught me His statue of thanksgiving, His precept of worship and the offering of my body a living and holy sacrifice.  He showed me His wonders all around and helped me to focus on those wonders rather than drown in the sorrows of a fallen world.

I'm not sure I could have done it without Robert's encouragement, though.  Oh, the "Joy Dare" was my discovery through Ann Voskamp's incredibly inspired book, One Thousand Gifts and her blog "A Holy Experience," for which I am so very thankful, but Robert prays for me and checks in with me about the state of my heart almost every day.  When we finish a long run in the mornings, he prays aloud on the steps to our front door for me to have joy and strength to face the day ahead.  At night before bed, he holds me close and prays again.  For the last few years, he's also kept a journal of near-daily prayers for me with a little description of what was going on that day.  We've taken that prayer journal with us to our last two New Year's Eve dinners out.  Someone always asks us what we're doing, and he always explains that we're remembering the year through a book of prayers that was kept throughout that year.  This year the kids gave us a gift certificate for Christmas which treated us to an incredible dinner at an historic Inn downtown. I sort of dreaded hearing about all my complaints and discouragements throughout 2012, and all that Robert had to pray for, but the reading of the journal turned out to be a joyful testimony to all that the Lord had carried us through.  We laughed at the crazy pace of our life, and the interesting situations we found ourselves in over the last year, and we rejoiced together over God's loving sovereignty and abundant blessing. I marveled at the gift of a husband I so often take for granted.
I think the most important thing this journey of counting gifts has taught me, though, is that if there were no date nights with an incredible husband, no Starbucks drinks to delight in, no healthy kids, or Christmas gifts, or vacations, or warm sunshine, or good friends, there is One Grace Gift that would suffice.  I love how Ann Voskamp puts it...

"And I see a world through His lens: 'He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?' (Romans 8:32 NIV)
He gave us Jesus.  Jesus! Gave Him up for us all.  If we have only one memory, isn't this one enough?  Why is this the one memory I most often take for granted?  He cut open the flesh of the God-Man and let the blood.  He washed our grime with the bloody grace.  He drove the iron ore through His own vein.  Doesn't that memory alone suffice?  Need there be anything more?  If God didn't withhold from us His very own Son, will God withhold anything we need?
If trust must be earned, hasn't God unequivocally earned our trust with the bark on the raw wounds, the thorns pressed into the brow, your name on the cracked lips?  How will He not graciously give us all things He deems best and right?  He's already given the incomprehensible.
Christ our Crossbeam. 
The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One.
All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him.  For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being.  Thus, Christ is all there is to give thanks for; Christ is all there is to remember. To know how we can count on God, we count graces, but ultimately there is only One."
~ One Thousand Gifts, pp. 154-155

The last of this year's gifts and the completion of the dare to choose joy...

1. Snow! {white}
2. Christmas Tree Lights {white}
3. Steamed Milk {white}
4. Faces of Gals in Sunday School {bright}
5. Time of Lunch and Shopping with Friends {bright}
6. December Sunrise {bright}
7. Flutes and Trumpets at Vespers {shining}
8. God's Word being Read {shining}
9. Jennie and Luca {shining}
10.Christmas Packages from Texas {circling}
11. Advent Wreath on Table {crowning}
12. Glass Snowflake {crafted}
13. Old Men Chatting on the Bike Trail {silver}
14. Star on Top of Tree {silver}
15. Pots and Pans to Fit my Stove {silver}
16. Nutella Brownies {sweet}
17. Honey in My Tea {sweet}
18. A Few Extra Moments to Lie in Bed {sweet}
19. Indwelling {from My Savior}
20. Rescue {from My Savior}
21. No Condemnation {from My Savior}
22. Kayla's New Stocking {hung}
23. Hopes For the Future {held}
24. Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus {heard}
25. Raising Teens {ugly-beautiful}
26. Middle Age {ugly-beautiful}
27. Homeschooling {ugly-beautiful}
28. Christmas Bouquet From a Friend {unframed art}
29. Little Girls' Gingerbread Houses {unframed art}
30. Table Set for a Tea Party {unframed art}
31. A December Day with Sunshine {ice cold}
32.  Berries on Granola {ice cold}
33. Coconut Milk {ice cold}
34. Wrapped Christmas Gifts {berry red}
35. Poinsettias {berry red}
36. Ribbons and Bows {berry red}
37. A New Sweater {striped}
38. Jesus, for me {striped}
39. Candy Canes {striped}
40. Christmas Cards {stamped}
41. Baylor Acceptance Letter! {stamped}
42. Thoughtful Thank You Notes {stamped}
43. Sliver of the Moon {gold}
44. Eucalyptus Oil for Healing {scented}
45. A Holy God in a Temple, a Manger, and my Heart {bent low}
46. A Savior {Bethlehem-unlikely}
47. Hope {Bethlehem-unlikely}
48. Justification {Bethlehem-unlikely}
49. Rice Krispie Treats with Chocolate {frosted}
50. The World with Ice {frosted}
51. Window Panes {frosted}
52. Staying Well to Nurture Sick Kids {miraculous}
53. Provision for Gifts and Hospitality {miraculous}
54. His Coming Near {miraculous}
55. A Button Fern Plant From a Student {manger small}
56. A Snowman Peanut Ornament From another Student {manger small}
57. New Starbucks Cup Ornament {manger small}
58. Little Girls Caroling at the Nursing Home {angelic song}
59. Karen Carpenter Christmas Carols {angelic song}
60. Carolers at Prudential Mall {angelic song}
61. Boston at Christmastime {lit}
62. Robert's iPhone {lit}
63. Kayla's Face and Eyes ~ finally ~ after being sick {lit}
64. Boys to Felton's Funeral {rejoicing}
65. Allyson's Faith {wonder}
66. His Nearness {praising}
67. Night Out With Christie and Melinda {starry}
68. Strength to Shop with a Fever {starry (eyed!)}
69. Starbucks Hot Tea and Comfy Chair to the Rescue {starry}
70. The Manger {humble}
71. Mary's Faith {humble}
72. Humiliation on the Cross for Me {humble}
73. His Condescension { in Luke 2}
74. The Angel of the Lord {in Luke 2}
75. Anna and Simeon's Faith and Faithfulness {in Luke 2}
76. Sustenance {in Christ}
77. Life {in Christ}
78. Strength for Lifegiving {in Christ}
79. Karla's Handmade Soap and Tea and a Book Gift in my Mudroom {found}
80. Xbox Dancing {shared}
81. Cheeses and Sparkling Juices for Company {saved}
82. Family Here for a Week {lingering}
83. Decorations and Baked Goodies {lingering}
84. Snow {lingering}
85. Les Miserables Story {hope}
86. Christ in Me {hope}
87. Psalm 1 {hope}
88. Sabbatical {remembered}
89. Disney World {remembered}
90. California Trip and Wedding {remembered}
91. Kory's College Decision and Experience {anticipated}
92. Counting Future Gifts and Growth in Christ {anticipated}
93. A Master's in Theology for Me?  {anticipated!}

...but may I never forget that "He's already given the incomprehensible."  Jesus.

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