Dear Cam and Scott
It’s the crazy-busy eleventh month and the air crackles with static. Everything feels charged and significant. My senses are heightened to lightness and laughter. I’m simultaneously measuring my words and my tears carefully and prayerfully and my eyes are wide open to life. Finish strong finish strong finish strong pounds in my head.
Scott, you are ending the year as a truly terrific two-year-old. You’re into talking and tantrums and trucks and you’re terrified of thunder and you laugh a lot and run a lot and you’re still deeply in love with me, which I’ll treasure for just a little longer because I know Dad is about to usurp me as hero. Cam, you are into your last weeks with the Penguin Class where you’ve been happy and loved and brave. But it’s time. You need to take your heartsong and your happy feet to new oceans where you’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’m into the goodbyes at St Alban’s and I’m mentally reconfiguring my identity into a strange freedom where school bells don’t ring. Dad is gearing up for his busiest month of the year just when the rest of the world kicks off its shoes for Christmas.
So in this heavy month shot through with hope, I’m reading a book that Aunty Terry Brauer gave me. Wow. It’s called One Thousand Gifts and it’s about how the secret to joy – which is kind of what everyone wants, really – lies hidden before our very eyes in what Jesus did the night he was betrayed. He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it. The Greek for gave thanks is eucharisteo. The root word is charis – grace – which is derived from chara – joy. He received the bread as God’s grace and there was joy in that. It’s all over Scripture. The thing that precedes the miracle is always eucharisteo. So living the miracle life – the life of joy – is rooted in thanksgiving. That’s why I blog here for you, my bears. I want you to live the good life – the full life – the deeply aware life of abiding wonder. I want you to learn eucharisteo. Here and now, even in bread. Find God’s glory in the mundane and the magnificent. Celebrate life.
And now I can hear the cynics. ‘You’re so naïve. So trite. Getting all excited about Christmas lights and foam on your cappuccino and calling it God’s glory and goodness. Whatever. Where the hell is God in the tragedies of this world and how can you be so bloody cheerful?’ I know that’s what some people think. Because sometimes it’s what I think – like tonight when the News is ugly with rhinos poached and Gaza bombed and Bangladeshi slums on fire and vigilante violence on the Cape Flats.
Ann Voskamp has the exquisite, eloquent answer I’ve been looking for:
I think how God-glory in [everyday things] might seem trifling. Even offensive, to focus the lens of a heart on the minute, in a world mangled and maimed and desperately empty.
I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is the joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks. (page 58, One Thousand Gifts, 2012)
So anyway, I thought I’d write a gift list of 30 things – one for each day of November – because even in the unknowns and the challenges, I am deeply grateful. Soulfully joyful. Because to choose to be thankful – to name the gifts God gives – brings them into sharp focus and the sea of blessings is no longer a blur.
I thank God for these November gifts:
1. A Cape robin on the bird feeder eating my first attempt at homemade granola bars.
2. Very-high very-beautiful heels.
3. Out-of-the-blue phone calls asking, ‘What’s up? Why aren’t you blogging?’
4. Gifts to be wrapped.
5. New tyres on my car.
6. An old lady who has gone Home and whose suffering is over.
7. Cam’s Christmas present ideas for his teachers. (One is getting a wreath for her front door, one is getting a string of golden tinsel, and one is getting… wait for it… muesli.)
8. Scott’s chubby tight elated hugs.
9. Being musically plebeian and unsophisticated enough to totally love Boney-M playing in the supermarkets.
10. Questions I can’t answer. (e.g. Cam: ‘How do rocket ships come back to earth if there is no gravity in space?’)
11. Teenage boys who take the time to write letters to their English teacher.
12. Lettuce and spinach seeds that have been magicked into baby green banners of life and yum.
13. Long talks in the dark with Dad about life even though we’re exhausted and should spend the time sleeping.
14. People with fascinating stories to tell.
15. Granny’s 62nd birthday.
16. God’s favour, and God in our future.
17. Memories in the stains and seams of your newborn baby clothes.
18. Lights in our windows.
19. Fresh cut lawn on a Thursday.
20. Hearing the gate and knowing Dad is home.
21. People eating, laughing and staying late in our home.
22. Duvets that fit in the washing machine and dry in an hour on hot windy days leaving no trace of vomit.
23. Colleagues who quite ridiculously and unnecessarily insist on hooking me up to a drip and driving me home when I faint at school. [True story. Blush. Cringe.]
24. Birdsong and dawn light and waking up to new mercies.
25. Butter that’s been out of the fridge long enough to be soft and smeary.
27. Farewell speeches that make me cry.
28. Hiding and whispering with Cam under the coffee table.
29. Scott asking me to sing Jesus loves me at bedtime.
You got a list?