On June 2nd of 2013, I flew across the Atlantic alone for the first time. I landed in sopped London and over the course of 4 hours somehow found my way through the London Underground from Heathrow to a flat in Camden where I'd be staying for the following months. It was my first ever solo expedition and I was nervous. This story actually begins one day before however. On the night of June 1st, I lay in my bed in Dallas attempting to force my eyes to stay closed. "Close and count to twenty... 1, 2, 3..."
I understand it's a rather strange strategy to fall asleep.
As I lay in bed wondering if I'd be struck by a cab the next day on the wrong side of the road or liked at my new job, I heard Mom in the adjacent room doing laundry just as she has done 10,000 times before. The flap of a t-shirt, the winding of the dial on the wash, the close of the door on the dry, these are sounds I have associated with peace and sleep all my life. As she started the wash and it began its melodic hum, I flicked on the bedside lamp and scribbled in my moleskin:
1. the hum of the washer as sleep comes
I thanked God for the hum of a washing machine. I went so far as to find a pen and write it down. I smiled a little. The next day I wrote another:
2. the elastic pull of new socks
I thanked the creator God for the stretch in a new pair of socks. And it felt good. Would he smite me on the spot for wasting his air-time? It would seem not. 3 years and 998 gifts later, this cataloguing of gifts is my most treasured rhythm.
136. a fresh Expo
254. blisters from days of tennis with the brothers
483. pan-fried okra with KZ and no inclination to turn on the TV
777. the couch-cushions-head-wedge strategy
823. hiking Old Man of Storr with J&R in a proper Scottish downpour
The rhythm goes like this: Hopefully just before I close my eyes to sleep, I ask God to reveal what he has given and I wait a second. Somedays, it's massive:
490. hearing about Rusty Perry's ALS diagnosis and with a heavy heart asking, "what the hell do we do?"
955. "tomorrow I am asking kz to marry me. I cannot believe it"
But most days, it's menial:
905. walking Hank the dog on quiet streets between rain showers
The size of the gifts doesn't matter to me. Neither does their nature really. It is the posture of recognition that became invaluable. It is the awareness that every bush is burning, every meal is communion if we'll allow it. In plain terms, keeping track of the gifts has been learning to recognize the Giver.
I got engaged a month ago and spent this Thanksgiving with my new in-laws out in the blustery Texas hill country. We rested, played ping pong and worked our way through puzzles and baked goods. It was sweet and on the third morning I got to catalogue the 1000th gift in my moleskin:
1000. Family - missing the old and cherishing the new. Neither fading a single bit. The expansive, spendthrift love of God to give and then give more.
That's basically what all this is about.
**All this is based on a book by Ann Voskamp called 1000 Gifts. I recommend it.