‘Aglowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day that I am born,
the day I begin to live.
And I fill my mother’s tearing ring of fire with my body emerging, virgin lungs searing with air of this earth. I unfold from the womb, from the diameter of her fullness, empty her out—and she bleeds. Vernix-creased and squalling, I am held to the light.
Then they name me.
Could a name be any shorter? Three letters without even the flourish of an e. Ann, a trio of curves and lines.
It means “full of grace.”
I haven’t been.
What does it mean to live full of grace? To live fully alive?
They wash my pasty skin and I breathe and I flail. I flail.
For decades, a life, I continue to flail and strive and come up so seemingly … empty. I haven’t lived up to my christening.
Maybe in those first few years my life curled like cupped hands, a receptacle open to the gifts God gives. But of those years, I have no memories. For they say memory jolts awake with trauma’s electricity. That would be the year I turned four. The year when blood pooled and my sister died and I, all of us, snapped shut to grace.
Standing at the side porch window, watching my parents’ stunned bending, I wonder if my mother had held me in those natal moments of naming like she held my sister in death.
In November light, I see my mother and father sitting on the back porch step rocking her swaddled body in their arms. I press my face to the kitchen window, the cold glass, and watch them, watch their lips move, not with sleep prayers, but with pleas for waking, whole and miraculous. It does not come.
The police do. They fill out reports. Blood seeps through that the blanket bound. I see that too, even now.
Memory’s surge burns deep.
That staining of her blood scorches me, but less than the blister of seeing her uncovered, lying there.
She had only toddled into the farm lane, wandering after a cat, and I can see the delivery truck driver sitting at the kitchen table, his head in his hands, and I remember how he sobbed that he had never seen her. But I still see her, and I cannot forget. Her body, fragile and small, crushed by a truck’s load in our farmyard, blood soaking into the thirsty, track-beaten earth. That’s the moment the cosmos shifted, shattering any cupping of hands.
I can still hear my mother’s witnessing-scream, see my father’s eyes shot white through.
My parents don’t press charges and they are farmers and they keep trying to breathe, keep the body moving to keep the soul from atrophying.
Mama cries when she strings out the laundry. She holds my youngest baby sister, a mere three weeks old, to the breast, and I can’t imagine how a woman only weeks fragile from the birth of her fourth child witnesses the blood-on-gravel death of her third child and she leaks milk for the babe and she leaks grief for the buried daughter.
Dad tells us a thousand times the story after dinner, how her eyes were water-clear and without shores, how she held his neck when she hugged him and held on for dear life. We accept the day of her death at day as an accident.
But an act allowed by God?
For years, my sister flashes through my nights, her body crumpled on gravel.
Sometimes in dreams, I cradle her in the quilt Mama made for her, pale green with the hand-embroidered Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep, and she’s safely cocooned. I await her unfurling and the rebirth.
Instead the earth opens wide and swallows her up.
At the grave’s precipice, our feet scuff dirt, and chunks of the firmament fall away.
A clod of dirt hits the casket, shatters.
Shatters over my little sister with the white-blonde hair, the little sister who teased me and laughed; and the way she’d throw her head back and laugh, her milk-white cheeks dimpled right through with happiness, and I’d scoop close all her belly-giggling life.
They lay her gravestone flat into the earth, a black granite slab engraved with no dates, only the five letters of her name. Aimee. It means “loved one.” How she was. We had loved her. And with the laying of her gravestone, the closing up of her deathbed, so closed our lives.
Closed to any notion of grace.
Really, when you bury a child— or when you just simply get up every day and live life raw—you murmur the question soundlessly. No one hears.
Can there be a good God?
A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins?
Where is God, really?
How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind?
Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away?
Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt?
How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?
…. How do we choose to allow the holes to become seeing-through-to-God places? To more-God places?
How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion.
To fully live—to live full of grace and joy and all that is beauty eternal. It is possible, wildly.
I now see and testify.
So this story— my story .
A dare to an emptier, fuller life.”
~ an excerpt from the first chapter of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Zondervan)
still counting out all the ways He loves… #2125 -#2132 of the Thousand, Endless Gifts
steam at lunchtime
a Farmer who can run a snowblower down the deep lane and thread us a way through
tomatoes on December plates
cold cloths for fevered heads and burning feet
snow coming straight down for days
‘net support that connects the cyber line again in spite of wind and blowing white
straight stacks of Hope-folded laundry
the weekend of a trio of birthdays, two to whom I gave birth and the grand one who birthed me
Boy-played Christmas carols for hours on end
One Thousand Gifts in time for Christmas?
Many kind folks have asked if they can order any copy of the book to give as Christmas gifts?
While the jacketed hardcover edition of the book doesn’t release until early January, and the recorded audio book also releases in January, Zondervan has heard your requests and has changed the release date of the Kindle edition of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are so that copies can be gifted in time for Christmas.
Tomorrow, the Kindle Edition of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are releases from Amazon, which means anyone with a computer may order a digital copy — and may gift anyone with a computer with a copy.
• Do I have to own a Kindle to give or receive a Kindle ebook as a gift? No.
Kindle ebooks can be given and received by anyone with an e-mail address.
Kindle ebooks can be read either on Kindle or on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android Phone using one our free reading apps.
To get the free application to read a Kindle book on any computer. — no Kindle required.
If you choose to give a digital copy of One Thousand Gifts as a gift, we’ve made it a bit easier —
1. Gift a Kindle copy One Thousand Gifts here.
(Check which of the free reading apps for which device you may need to download. Or if you choose for the recipient to read it on a computer — just download the free application to read a Kindle book for any computer. — no Kindle required.)
2. Print out a free One Thousand Gifts card to present to the recipient —
just print and cut out to make your own card to present the digital edition — click here to print the free One Thousand Gifts card for recipient
3. Add a free printable Gift List Gratitude Calendar …
to accompany the card and digital copy of the book, a place to number the gifts for each day from Christmas throughout the month of January (a new free Gift List Gratitude Calendar will be uploaded and offered every month.) …
We pray that helps those who were asking? A little gift package of a digital edition of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, presented with the card, and the Gift List Gratitude Calendar?
A quiet gift for someone you love that offers the secret of real Joy in the Person of Joy Himself…
If you’d like to share your 1000 Gifts of thanks — (please, jump in!) — just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other by sharing the community’s graphic within your post