My heart was so ready to get this book, "One Thousand Gifts," by Ann Voskamp in my hands. It was a Christmas gift I got for someone else...but, my guilty confession....I thought, they'll never know if I read it first, right? (Thanks, Mom! You will get it, sometime, I promise! Haha!) For the last year, I can't seem to get out of meditating further on Philippians 4. You know, Paul (the super-Apostle-missionary man who endured all kinds of craziness for the cause of Christ) writes a letter and ends it with this chapter of encouragement to the church....the familiar, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."? This was one of the first portions of Scriptures I posted by my bed to gaze upon every night after beginning to follow Jesus. Yet, in this last year, I feel like I have feasted on these words. I have needed them as never before. Honestly, I have experienced anxiety in the last two years like I've never known. I had never known the physical symptoms of worry and anxiety like have come more recently....racing heart, difficulty catching my breath, not wanting to eat. Have you been there? Oh, it's awful. You feel trapped. You know you should relax and stop worrying, but the battle is there, and it's real. But I know God has wanted to do a work in me with this. He has wanted me to deeply comprehend, in mind and heart, how to have contentment in whatever comes, and know the peace of Him more fully.
A conclusion that came earlier in the year, while reading "Resolution for Women" by Priscilla Shrier (so good.), freed me immensely. It was this: Paul, although a mighty man of God, did not have some special gifting of knowing contentment in whatever he faced. He states it clearly in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." Phew! So, wait, this contentment could be mine...whatever I face? I, too, could learn! It became so touchable. I wanted to grasp onto it tightly. How did Paul learn this? I had to know!
Well, I don't have some nicely laid out formula for contentment. But I have some things that have been working powerfully in my life and bearing fruit as I've continued to meditate on Paul's words and had "One Thousand Gifts" in my hands. This component of thanksgiving is big. Huge. Voskamp shares so beautifully her testimony of how learning this discipline of walking in thanksgiving, specifically making an on-going list of the gifts God gives her each day, has unleashed joy in her daily life. Again, she learned it. We have to change our habits. Only we know that internal dialogue that goes on within us. What is yours like? What are your eyes fixed upon? Are you aware of the gifts in your day? Philippians 4 touches on this too, in regards to self-control in our thought life:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (vs. 8,9)The peace of God....the opposite of anxiety, worry. My perspective needed to be changed...needs to be changed. How many things, beautiful things, did I pass by flippantly because I was rushing from one thing to the next and fixing my eyes on what was wrong. Guilty. Where's peace in that? It's gone, let me tell you.
Discontentment does not have to be our lot in life. The peace of God is real. When we look to Him, bring our concerns to Him when needed, and then intentionally fix our eyes on the grace after grace, the sweet gifts, He gives us, peace can come. Slow down and see...really see...what's before us?
Gift before me today, times 2: 1) a little girl in frilly dress; 2) that little girl learning to perfect her "Chheeese!"