Sunday, April 16, 2017

Good gifts

For a while I've been pondering God's good gifts.  Daily we receive so many good gifts from God.  If you aren't in the practice, I challenge you to take time to list some of those gifts everyday.  They may be great or small- from God providing a new job or the birth of a long awaited child to the tip of bulbs popping out of the brown earth or a bed with fresh smelling sheets. If we take the time to count them we will be amazed and our hearts will overflow with praise to the Giver of those gifts.  (I can say that is a soul adjusting practice.  This round of chemo, I slipped in counting gifts. As I've picked up the pen and notebook it has been so good for my soul!)

But what happens when something happens in life, and it doesn't look like a good gift?  I mean what happens when you are handed a dented up box?  The wrapping paper is a strange color.  It looks a bit worn. You open the gift and inside is something that you weren't expecting.  It's not bright and cheery.  It's not comforting or something that brings a smile to your face.  What are your thoughts about God then?

God has been working on my heart for a number of years to challenge me to trust Him as a giver of good gifts even when the gift doesn't look so good at first.  I find that a great gift in itself!  So when we began this unexpected adventure into the realm of cancer, I knew God was going to also be teaching me more about His gift giving abilities.

And I can say He is the giver of good gifts.  Even with the brokenness of our sin cursed world, He gives us good gifts.

Here are some of the gifts I have received in the past few months:

1.  Bible passages that speak truth to my heart and call out faith deep inside.  They whisper to me who He is and His work for me.

2.  Songs which settle into deep places to fill my heart and mind with words that carry me and strengthen Biblical truths.

3. Relationships that are treasured to a new degree. I have shared words with people that are more clear and reveal more of the heart.

4.  I have met some amazing ladies in the oncology department where I go for treatment.  These nurses daily pour into people who are experiencing some pretty tough things.  They give and serve faithfully.

5.  Kindness and love flow in the form of words, gifts, helping hands to remind me that we are made in the image of one who loves and gives good gifts.  Since beginning the draft of this post I have been overwhelmed by the physical gifts sent my way.  A basket of thoughtful treats for the entire family from Todd's kind co-workers.  An early birthday gift that brought Spring's colors and scents to a soul that was starving for spring.  A bag of scarves given in loving memory of a dear friend who wore them during her battle with cancer.  Two books, one of which I have just begun, that is already speaking to parts of my soul I didn't know needed to hear these words. The thoughtfulness is overwhelming!

These are just a few of the gifts I can count.  They are also the easy to recognize gifts of this experience.  But this week, as I was already thinking along the lines of this post, God was asking me to open my thinking to include some harder to recognize gifts.  Dare I even count the brokenness as a gift?

This week I struggled a bit more with the physical side affects of the chemo.  Several times I told God that I wish this didn't have to be part of my life.  It was harder to see the good.  I disliked that I didn't feel like myself as quickly as I wanted.  I struggled with a smell that turned my stomach.  I had heartburn and a taste in my mouth that wasn't awful, but wasn't right.  They were little things compared to what some face when doing chemo, but I didn't like them and wanted them gone.  And so I have had to turn to my Father and ask Him for help.  I have asked Him to change my attitude and to give me hope that will look past these physical things so that I can endure them.  And I can tell you that He is faithful and He is at work changing me.

One of the hardest parts the past few weeks has been each week when I get chemo my mind kind of loses focus for a while.  I can read the words on a page, but they slip off my heart like it is coated with Teflon.  This affects my quiet time with God in particular, and the distance seems greater between us.  I find that my quiet time is also impacted because when the kids are occupied instead of having time to think and process I am needing to rest.  The end result leaves my soul feeling a mess.

So what is the gift in the mess?  First, I have deeper compassion for those who regularly live in the mess and don't know the God who gives true life.  I want to reach out to get to know people and to share how much God loves them and wants to give them His good gifts.   Second, I am once again more aware that although I must make choices and obey Him, His grace provides for me.  Just as I needed Him to open the way for a relationship with Him, I also need Him just as much to live each day.  I am more aware that I am not as strong as I think I am.  I am reminded that I rely on Him for everything.  And with these thoughts comes thanks and praise to Him.  And He receives glory.

I am suspicious that God has more gifts for me along the way.  And so like a child on a scavenger hunt, I am on the lookout.  I have my pen and my notebook, and I am counting away.  And as I head into a week that in some ways I was dreading, my heart takes courage because He has been so good and given me so many good gifts.  Why don't you find your own pen and notebook?

P.S.  This thinking in this post has been influenced by Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare  to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  If you are looking for something to read, I highly recommend it.

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