Monday, November 16, 2009

The Real Joy Secret

Written by Ann Voskamp, wife, mother of 6, writer, poet, artist. You can find more of her at A Holy Experience. It's worth taking a peek at her site just for the beautiful still life photos she takes.

She never ceases to encourage and inspire me.

The Real Joy Secret

I wake wanting to die.

Scarlet light bleeds over the horizon, another day aching in. I lie in bed. Pull covers up over my head. I'm withered dry and even the tears won’t fall: a heart drought. I lay listening to taunt of the names: Loser. Mess. Failure. Can I shrivel up invisible?

Mothers of six aren’t supposed to think this way. Not the happily-married, not the financially solvent.

Not the Christ-followers.

A year of mornings, I wake to the name calling, force feet to the floor anyways. I do pray. But self-hatred is a soul-eating disease and I’ve cut off parts off myself to survive.

I look in the mirror, into those eyes, and I know. It’s time for medication, some happiness from The Healer. Is that even a real possibility? My bones are brittle, dryness of the broken spirit; where on earth – in heaven -- do I get some of that joy medicine?

I’m standing in the kitchen, a morning in early November, sky weeping too, colors of the world draining away with the rain, when Jesus hands me the word that He stabbed into the slimy underbelly of the enemy.

There’s a good medicine word.

It’s the word He whispers when death prowled close and his anguish trickled down bloody. (We need not be ashamed of struggle with the demons. Jesus Himself knew the dark wrestle.) Black stalking, Jesus opens His hand and speaks the one word that changes everything.


He took the bread, even the bread of death, and gave thanks.

I swallow the word down too. On a grey autumn morning, grab a pen and jot down things I receive with thanks. ….

sun gold in leaves …

apples from orchard ....

new light on old planks …

clothespins waiting on the line…

all the things unseen …

Then another ten, then twenty. This medicine, she goes down sweet. By the end of three years, over 1000 gifts, countless, endless gifts,fattening the dry bones with thanks. That one word that slits the enemy open every time: Thanks.

I just might live. Even abundantly.

The abundant life is ours the moment we receive life with thanks.

Thanks is what makes a life large; thanks is what multiplies joy.

I lay the pen down, stare at this list of gifts, stare out at stars. Now I know the sickness that haunted me mornings, the illness that the gratitude cures:

I didn’t know how I was loved.

Count the ways He lavishly loves, (breath... life... bed... birdsong... Jesus... rain on tin... wind in hair... Scripture truth... laughing boys... sleeping dogs... wrinkled hands... fresh babies... Grace... and I. can’t. stop!) --- and it steals the breath from the lung.

Husband of the soul endlessly caresses.

He murmurs soft: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.” (Oh, I have known those names, and worse.) “But you will be called Hephzibah… for the LORD will take delight in you” (Isa. 62:4).

Can you hear Him when He says you’re beautiful?

I number His kisses and wake to love.