A friend has challenged me to join her in a journey to live a fuller life. I have started reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and joined the online book discussion found at Bloom (in)courage. It's not too late for you to join the book discussion. I ordered an extra book for any friend who wants to join us. The book is free to the first friend who requests it!
I have embraced the challenge and started my journey to a fuller life through an attitude of gratitude for my everyday blessings. My prayer is that God will transform my life and open my eyes to His purposes and His blessings.
I spent my first 26 years living a very "Norman Rockwellesque" life. I was raised in a Christian home and never really had to endure much heartache. I had a good life...a really, really good life. My parents loved Jesus and did their very best to teach me how to live a life pleasing to the Lord. I was loved more than I ever knew or understood. I started playing the piano on our worship team when I was 13 years old. I taught Sunday school for many years. For the most part, I was a pretty good kid. I think my parents had it pretty easy :)
I married my high school sweetheart when I was 18 years old. We both went to college and worked hard to earn scholarships and to pay our bills. Again, it was a good and easy life. We bought our first home together when we were 22 years old. Three years later, we built our second home. By all accounts, we had a wonderful life.
After eight years of marriage, my high school sweetheart found another sweetheart. She happened to be one of my good friends. In fact, she was my running partner. Just one month before my 27th birthday, I was abandoned by my husband and left to sell our beautiful home in a coveted neighborhood by myself. I had to suddenly learn how to live alone. I felt unloved, rejected, replaced, alone, ugly, embarrassed. I felt like a failure in so many ways. I had to dig deep and draw on all that had been poured into me over the years.
I haven't told my story publicly. In fact, I have chosen to keep it very private. It's not anything I'm proud of or excited to share. But I feel compelled to share it now. Although I believe I properly grieved the loss of my marriage and worked through the process 15 years ago, I want to be an open book for the Lord to use. I want to be fire and purified.
As I read the first chapter of Ann's book, I realized how each of us has to make a choice to either embrace God's purpose in our tragedies or harden our hearts to the work He is doing. I want to be intentional about embracing God's purpose in my life. I recognize I have truly lived a blessed life. I haven't had to endure the loss of a child or a parent or a sibling or a spouse. I am healthy and have a healthy family. My loss is minimal in comparson to what many of my friends have endured.
But I still ask "how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?" It's my natural tendency to become resentful and negative when I face loss. I can't tell you the number of tears I cried over the loss of my high school sweetheart, the loss of the "American dream" in my beautiful home and sporty car, the shame I faced in our small community and church. How could God allow this to happen to me? "Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes pepperd with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn't: holes, lack, deficiency."
I want to learn to recognize these holes as soul holes. I want to embrace my soul holes as drain holes so that I can be emptied of me. "I wonder too...if the rent in the cavas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. To see through to God. That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave."
"How do we choose to allow the holes to become seeing-through-to God places? To more-God places? How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion. To fully live--to live full of grace and joy and all that is beauty eternal. It is possible, wildly. I now see and testify. So this story--my story. A dare to an emptier, fuller life."
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11). These are often quoted words. They can be found on plaques, picture frames, prints, just about anywhere you look in a Christian bookstore. But do you believe them? Do I believe them? I DO believe them! I want to live my life with my hands and heart open wide to the plans God has for me. I want to embrace the life God has given me. I want to be thankful for ALL that He has given me.
Here starts my list of 1000 gifts:
1. A loving mommy
2. Healthy children
3. Second chances
6. Playing in the ocean