This is my fifth blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. For the Just Show Up blog post in response to the mundanefaithfulness.com call, please see Day 4 Love is a Home Like No Other.
Isaiah 30: 18 (Amplified Bible)
And therefore the Lord earnestly waits [expecting, looking and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him- for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!
As my heart opened further to God’s outstretched arms welcoming me Home, He began to show me how His heart yearned for my companionship. As the summer holidays beckoned, He slowed me to sit in His Presence, all around me.
First, He assured me of His love for me, by turning me to the final verse of Psalm 23 in the Message version. This verse both reminded me of His everlasting love for me and encouraged me to look around me at the love he was bestowing on me daily in the beauty around me.
Then, He encouraged me to slow to receive His many gifts in thanksgiving through Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann’s words, etched in pain, but brimming over in deep abiding joy, further opened my eyes and heart to how exactly His beauty and love chases after me, every single day. I started recognizing how often my hands were tightly clenched, stress and anxiety stealing my joy, just as they had Ann’s in the past. I remember talking to my husband about it and being reminded by Ann’s words of how often my husband would come sit beside me and take hold of my hands to unclench them. And then I read these words (One Thousand Gifts, p.177):
Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand. In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy. The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out.
Later, I would be drawn more deeply into this humbling to receive the joy that awaited me, but for now, Ann’s words encouraged me to turn to thankfulness in the smallest of moments.
As I read further, Ann revealed that (p.176) “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.” or in (p.33) “Eucharisteo”, “Charis” meaning Grace and its root “Chara” meaning joy. Thus, the moment we open our hands to His gift of grace in thanksgiving, His joy will fill us to overflowing. Through her own story of choosing to record the gifts God bestowed on her daily, Ann showed me how slowing down throughout my day, could enable me to both see and choose to receive the daily gifts of grace God so dearly yearned to give me.
Throughout the summer holiday, my eyes and heart began to open to these many gifts and as I returned to the busy schedule of part-time work and caring for my family, I sat down to record the impact of this slowing in my journal:
His Beauty and Love Chase After MeYour beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life
This is the verse God gave me to show me just how much He loves me. I was doubting this love and He showed me that it was ALL around me. Now, when I choose to slow down to behold his “beauty” around me, I also see His “love” for me. When I look at the sparkling joy within my girls’ eyes and the warmth of their embrace, when I stop to notice the smile of my husband, when he looks at me, a smile that captures a true, deep love, when I stop to look out the window at work and see a beautiful magpie, reminding me of God’s presence among us, when I stoop to observe his tiniest creations, the caterpillars, who remind me of His promise of eternal life and that one day our family will be fully reunited, when I slow to notice the light pouring through the forest, reminding me that even though things seem dark, His light and warmth never leave us, that His Spirit and Word continue to guide us, as they have done for generations before us, when I see the outstretched trees, I see His outstretched arms for us, His children.