when things are pressing in and you’re pleading for some answers

I sat across from a woman who just kept looking up at the ceiling to keep herself from falling apart.

Looked at the ceiling like she was looking for answers from somewhere on high.

Looked at the ceiling and told me that she loved God and she hated God and right now was best of times and the worst of times and — that’s when she dropped her eyes hard like a gavel and half-demanded an answer—

and why does God strangely bless us when we’re half-estranged from Him?

It came out of her in one breath, like the exhale of a life.


And I waited.

Looked into her, not quiet knowing how to breathe. Sometimes the proof that God exists is that lightning doesn’t strike but quiet grace rains straight down.

Sometimes it’s incomprehensible grace that shakes you awake.

And when she bent her head low, chin to chest, and she breaks open like a rain and there was no hiding it, I went around to her, and I held her.

I held her.

Because six years can be an exhausting eternity when you’re in that ring dodging the horns of job loss and long hours and looming bills and accounts disappearing invisible.

When you need a new septic system, a new alternator, a new dream — and a possible one this time because the old one’s been busted and crazy glued one too many shattered times.

When everybody else has found their niche and their address and their way and you’re wondering if Someone has lost your number because you keep waiting and your’s never gets called and why does it feel like everyone else is moving ahead and everything in your world is falling behind and apart?

I hold her and sometimes it is best to re-break so you can heal right.

Arm around her, around the shoulder-wracked sobs, I can feel her finally feeling, feel all the weariness letting go, all the wounds bleeding clean, and this is where healing begins.

Why is it always much easier to forget that He loves us? 

Why is it always much easier to forget that He likes us?

Is this is why we need to keep counting, counting blessings like gifts, counting all the ways He loves?

It’s true, it can seem much too easy — juvenile — but doesn’t the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who come like a child and counting a thousand gifts adds up to joy but I guess anyone can decide they don’t want joy? Naaman, he didn’t want to wash seven times in the river either.


Sometimes the great thing that heals us is doing a small thing again and again.

It isn’t a week after I held her that I hold our Levi, the one with pneumonia. And he’d known how the Spirit exhales and he had called to me in the dark, in the still of the lateness and the lights all out, “Mama? Moooom?

And I had come to the boy thinking fever and his bottle of pills and a glass of water and he had coughed hard, shoulder wracked, and then he’d said it raspy, “They sang this line at Sunday evening church and I knew when I heard it that I had to tell it to you, Mom…”

He’s called me to come for this?

And he coughs like he’s breaking open, breaking like a storm, right into the crook of his bent arm:

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

And he rolls over into his pillow. Rolls into sleep holding his chest hurting hard. He’s sick. He says it hurts to breathe. But he’s called me in the middle of the night because that’s what’s urgent:

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

Why does He strangely bless us when we’re half-estranged from Him?

And I lay my hand on our boy’s back. He doesn’t know that I know that song — because I don’t always live like I know that line. And it’s for the cough wracked boy and the sob wracked sister and a time wracked world swathed in this atmosphere of amnesia:

God’s mercies are new every morning — not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you. It right there in there in the sky every morning: Every sunrise proves the burn of His passionate heart.

The car can fail today and the kids and the dog and the fire detector and the dishwasher and the doctor and the whole free democratic world and it’s entire economic system but the mercies of God cannot and will not fail and His faithfulness is not merely great–  it is unwavering.

And the God who so loved this cracked world that He gave, He hasn’t ever stopped giving, and He won’t stop giving today and it’s His very mercy that gets us from one moment to the next and we’re all walking around in an atmosphere of brazen affection.

Why does He strangely bless us when we’re half-estranged from Him?

Any Grace at all is always the most amazing of all.




I rub Levi’s back.

And that’s the answer I will tell him in the morning, tell him in the new mercies of the morning, the answer I will tell the woman asking why is it so hard to live loved?

That the word in Romanian for thank you, it is mulţumesc [multsu’mesk], a contraction of the Latin phrase ‘multum est’ meaning ‘it is much’.

That the word in Romanian for thank you is “It is much.” Like “It is enough and it is more than enough — it is much.

A woman from Romania, she’d told me: “How much my life has been crippled by anxiety, guilt, self-condemnation and all the ugly rest! All because I hadn’t known I was so utterly cherished by God.”

All because I hadn’t know much I was loved God.

Why is it so much easier to forget that He loves us? So much easier to forget that He likes us?

MulţumescThank you. Say it — and then the remembering: It is much.

His love is so much.

When I feel like I’m sinking, there’s a way to know that I’m sinking in an ocean of grace… Count. each. gift.

And that’s what the Romanian sister had written me, “It’s such an astounding joy to find the way out of the vicious circle — I am up to #1500 now… ”

Multumesc. Thank you. And I remember: It is much. His love is so much.

Nothing is too much to handle when I think about the so much from His hand.

And the way out of the pressing “too-much” — is to whisper thank you for the providential “so-much”.

Levi breathes. He breathes pneumonia hard. And this world is hard as nails and Christ knew it and that’s why He came.

He strangely blesses the half-estranged — because the half-estranged are His beloved.

It is much and that is the answer for every question in every language.

And Levi inhales. It is strange and for all the breaking ones and so-much real:

We inhale and we live loved

the healing coming with each breath in all this ocean of grace.




Related Post: The Problem of Evil? The Greater Problem of Good? 


Many have asked about the 18 translations of One Thousand Gifts for family and friends?

… and this in English… with Romanian subtitles: