A few days ago I was out somewhere doing something (my memory isn’t much to celebrate these days) and I was overcome. Authentic gratitude from some place deep within. It had been long since genuine gratitude had sprung up from within. The road has been tough since Mez and Kamise came home. I’d read One Thousand Gifts twice this past year, a deep challenge and vision for living eucharisteo (thanksgiving) in all of life. Giving thanks to my God in all things, at all times, in all places. So counter-intuitive to this flesh which envelopes me. I’d read it in the Bible first over 20 years ago. Words on a page. Then a challenge. Over time…a long time, an invitation.
Unexpectedly, I was genuinely grateful for Mez and Kamise. Grateful God has expanded our family. Grateful for the journey through darkness and ache. And I couldn’t imagine our family complete without them. A snapshot of our future family bonded and delighting passed through my mind. The long days of emotional stand-offs with walled-in daughter were worth it. Day after day of giving out of seeming emptiness because all had been given, worth it. To receive her rebuff day after day. Her hardened face. Her hardened heart. Her aloof spirit. And watch her run to my friends arms wide, heart open. To receive that with a heart of gratitude was only an act of my will the past four months. It was never heart felt. Some nights as I lie on my bed, emptied, angry, exhausted, “Thank you” was the least of my thoughts. Some days I chose eucharisteo, other days I sarcastically, like a selfish child spewed to the Heavens, “Thank you. Love this journey. Seems brilliant.” God have mercy. I’m only alive because He is mercy.
Ann Voscamp, in One Thousand Gifts, gave me vision for the long, winding road….
“Maybe…I guess…it’s accepting there are things we simply don’t understand. But he does.” And I see. At least a bit more When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna--a substance whose name literally means, “What is it?” Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul-flling in the inexplicable.
They eat the mystery. They eat the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, is “like wafers of honey” on the lips.”
I think of buried babies and broken, weeping fathers over graves, and a world pocked with pain, and all the mysteries I have refused, refused, to let nourish me. If it were my daughter, my son? Would I really choose the manna? I only tremble, wonder. With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too…if the rent in the canvas 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 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.”
The battle has waged these four months…giving up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy, self-focus for God communion. I’m tasting in a deeper way how an emptier life is a fuller life. The following letter comes from my journal entry to Mez, which I wrote this morning.
What a ride we’ve ridden the past 4 months since you’re arrival into your forever family. You have wrestled to maintain control over your life, fought surrendering to us…parents unknown, found your position with Kamise as sister rather than slave-master? or mother? navigated new sibling relationships, learned English, are embracing a new culture, new food, education. So much for a 10 year-old little girl on the cusp of puberty.
About two weeks ago, the day after our amazing gift of a day at Disney World, something shifted in you which seems permanent. Your thick, protective wall came down. Our Father gave you the grace to trust. To be. And the girl who I see is so inviting, so joy-filled, so alive. There were days when I wondered if I’d ever be given the gift of seeing the real you. A spirit of resignation fought for a place in my mind, “She may never soften. This self-protective wall may always be her armor.”
It wasn’t t a holy surrender to a reality that could be true, but a self-protective shield in my heart. Within minutes, our Father showed me the ugliness of the wall I wanted to erect to avoid the pain of your aloof and resistant posture toward me. A holy vision seeped into my mind and I heard my God whisper, “Do you not think that I, the God of the Universe, who provided over $45,000 to bring this young girl from the bush in Ethiopia to your family, can bring down Meseret’s self-protective wall and give her the grace to trust you? Your vision is so small.”
I agreed with Him, my vision was so small. Only six weeks following that day, “you” showed up. Free and at rest. And I am so blessed to be your mom.
With eyes brimming with tears, eucharisteo sprang forth fullness out of the emptiness.
“God is always good and I am always loved.” A battle to believe. “Everything is eucharisteo. Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things--take pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo. The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good. The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace as God chooses to cut into my ungrateful heart to make me whole. “ --Ann Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts