Yesterday, I sat on the front porch swing reading a book, with Oliver sitting beside me. I twiddled a pencil in my fingers while he gnawed on the fingers of my other hand. It was warm, but there was a light breeze. The neighbor across the street mowed his lawn, and white clouds drifted lazily across the blue sky.
Naomi popped her head out of the front door suddenly, and I called her name. For a moment she looked about, unable to see me. When she spotted me, her eyes lit up with delight. Brad stepped out behind her, and I urged him to show her a dove hunting through the grass. She ran to me excitedly naming things she saw and heard around her. “Bird!” “Walk!” “Noise!” “Bubbles!” “Oliver!” She clambered up on the swing next to me and I blew bubbles for the two of them. Oliver squinted, unsure of the floating spheres around his face. Naomi squealed and giggled, smacking the bubbles hard in a spray of soapy sparkles.
And I gave thanks for this great life, for my wonderful family, and I felt deeply joyful.
I’ve been reading this great book lately, “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. It’s one of the best books I’ve read recently. It’s like reading Ann’s heart, Ann’s prayers, and Ann’s struggles. And for me, it’s like reading an autobiography. Not that we share the same life, but we share the same questions and same longings. To oversimplify the book, Ann is challenged to make a list of 1,000 gifts, or blessings. As her list grows, so does her joy and her faith. She realizes that eucharisteo, or thanksgiving, is the key to grace and joy. Her worry, anxiety, and anger diminishes even though her circumstances do not change.
Ann ponders, “If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief…atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism. Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear. To lack faith perhaps isn’t as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God. If I don’t emotionally believe, practically believe, in the goodness of God, am I a believer?”
And then she has an epiphany, “Thanks is what builds trust. How do you count on life when the hopes don’t add up? The hopes don’t have to add up. The blessings do. Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.”
This season of unemployment has been one of the most trying times in our lives. It has tested our relationships, our friendships, our marriage, and our sanity. I have lost sleep for nights on end, and gone through days with heart pounding, limbs limp with exhaustion. And that was before we had Oliver! Have I been living the life of the practical atheist? In my fear, have I chosen to disbelieve the God who loves me unconditionally?
This afternoon, I dragged out the empty plastic turtle sandbox and filled it with water from the hose. I gathered up towels and toys, lunch and my camera. The kids and I donned swimsuits and sunscreen, and we hosted a private pool party in the backyard. Oliver sat in the cold water sucking on toys, while Naomi watered the plants with the hose and her bucket. After eating, she dragged her doll up to the sand pit and used her shovels to cover the doll in sand. I ate my lunch, watching the kids play, enjoying the warm sun on my back, and thought, “Now this is the life.”
My life has not changed drastically in the past 9 months that we’ve been living with my parents. But my heart is changing. I can choose bitterness, anger, fear, and stress. Or I can choose grace, thanksgiving, gratitude, and joy. I can choose to look around me, and see the gifts and the blessings surrounding us.
So today I choose thanksgiving.
Today I choose to believe.