Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

Challenged


Photo credit: Melody Campbell

I continue to be challenged by reading Katie Davis’ new book.

She referenced the following Scripture written by the apostle Paul and something stirred in my spirit as I read it:

People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly…in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth and when God’s showing His power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all. Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small but you’re living them in a small way...open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!  (2 Corinthians 6:10-13, The Message).

That is a supernatural existence. Jesus blazes from that kind of life. People cannot explain that kind of life.

My life is much too “safe.”

I am very self-protective at times…of my time, my resources, my home.

Yes, we all need have to have boundaries. They are important and necessary. However, I am talking about having an attitude of willingness to go with Jesus wherever and whenever He calls…without my primary concern being my comfort.

Jesus never called His followers to a life of ease. That is a lie perpetrated by the false health-and-wealth-this-is-your-best-life-now “gospel”. Rather, He tells us plainly: “If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself (disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests) and take up his cross and follow Me (cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also).” (Matthew 16:24).

Only by living that kind of life can the life described in 2 Corinthians 6 be possible.

So the question is: Am I living that kind of life?

Ann Voskamp has written that “Fear makes a life small.” That is very true.

Fear says, “Play it safe. Think about yourself and your needs first and foremost. Don’t take any chances. You can’t possibly do what God is calling you to! How in the world would it work? What would people say? This doesn’t make any sense!”

But Jesus says, “You can do ALL things through Me. It is My energy that works so powerfully within you.  I did not give you the spirit of fear. I have given you a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind. Once you come to Me, I hold on and don’t let go.  Banish fear and doubt! Be strong and courageous! Run after Me!  Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of!  The life I have called you to is not a timid, grave-tending life. Rather, it is an  adventurously expectant life that begins each day  by asking Me, ‘What’s next?!” I will always lead you in triumph!  Quit worrying about lack. I will provide everything you need! Trust Me and you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.  Pay attention to the hungry, the poor, the sick, the prisoners, the homeless, the cold, the orphans and the widows. I am there with them. When you minister to them, you are ministering to ME.”

I want to live that kind of life.

Jesus has been beckoning to me,  stirring my heart to let me know that He is at work and the status quo has got to go. I follow a Savior who loves extravagantly and lavishly. He is teaching me to love like that.

I don’t know the specifics quite yet (though I am noticing that He is highlighting certain themes to which I need to pay attention), but He will reveal those in time. I do know what the end result will be because He tells me in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “… Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.” 

I don’t want my life to make sense or be easily explained. I want my life to shine a spotlight onto Jesus and His mighty power and transforming love.

I can hardly wait to see what the next step of the journey will be!

He brought me out into a spacious place…(2 Samuel 22:20)

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A Velveteen Mom


2008

Ann Voskamp has written a most beautiful article on being a mother entitled Tiger Mothers? Or the Making of Velveteen Mothers that really ministered to my heart.

The first quote she used took my breath away and stopped me right in my tracks: “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” —John Wesley

What. an. enormous. responsibility. we. have. been. given.

When I read those words, I instantly panicked, thinking of all the many ways I have messed up.

But almost immediately, Jesus reminded me that I am His “Plan A” for Josh and Julia….that He appointed me to this role and when He did it, He already knew everything about me, good and bad (Psalm 139:1-5).

Yet He still qualified me because He is the Redeemer: He takes my mistakes, covers them with His wondrous grace, transforms them, and gives beauty for ashes.

Always and forever, He speaks grace to me.

Lord, never let me forget the awesome responsibility You have given me…and let me never stop looking to You for  Your ever-present help!

Ann speaks of becoming  “a velveteen mother—made real by the years…worn and weathered down to the exquisite beauty of the frame of the Cross.”

The longer I am a mother, the more passionate I am about leaving that very legacy for my children. All that I could teach them, all that I could dream for them, all that I could desire for them boils down to one grand, glorious Name: Jesus.

To the best of my ability, I have  tried to show them the Savior who has so radically changed my life.

I have taught them to delight in nature which reveals His beauty and creativity.

I have studied His Word with them and shown them how to apply it to their lives.

I have prayed with them over things big and small.

I have assured them of His faithfulness and goodness in the midst of pain and confusion.

I have had to humble myself and ask their forgiveness and have been gracious when they have asked for mine.

I have tried to teach them His ways and remind them of His love for the unlovely.

I have taught them to trust His plan and His timing when it differs radically from theirs.

When we have laughed so hard that our stomachs hurt and tears stream from our eyes, I have reminded them that He is a God who smiles and laughs.

I have shown them how I get back up when I’ve blown it.

I have attempted to open their eyes to the world beyond their comfortable lives  in America to the enormous need and desperation around the globe.

I have reminded them that this world is not their home. It is not all there is…and that this life is a journey that ends in seeing the face of the One who loved them enough to die for them.

Most of all, I have endeavored to teach them to cherish the cross. The cross represents their hope, their freedom, their gateway to joy, their dignity, the end of their shame, their victory, their forgiveness,  their peace, their promise of eternal life, their beautiful redemption.

I have done none of this perfectly. But I have done it passionately.

As the years have passed, I pray that they have seen less of me and more of Jesus.

Jesus has given me these children.

I have given them Jesus.

And they have given me joy.

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One Thousand Gifts


As much as I love to read (a quick glance at my “Books I Love” page will attest to that! :), there are few books that I would classify as life-changing.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp definitely qualifies as a life-changer. Ann is a beautiful, lyrical writer; one who paints breathtaking word-pictures across the hearts of her readers.  I did not want the book to end and the minute I read the last word, I turned right back to the first chapter and began reading all over again! Almost every page is highlighted, underlined, and starred. Simply put, this book powerfully stirred my soul and filled me with joy.

One day in  November a  couple of years ago, Ann received an email from a friend, daring her to make a list of one thousand blessings in her life. That simple exercise proved to be a journey into joy for Ann. She discovered that “thanks is what multiplies the joy and makes any life large…God gives the gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” (pp. 48, 57).

Joy is a huge theme in my life (more on that subject in posts to come) and when I decided to accept the same challenge,  I was delighted to discover  that  immense joy filled my heart as my eyes were truly opened to all the gifts and beauty that surround me daily: a snow-covered backyard bathed in the light of a full moon;  my son playing a piece from “Fiddler on the Roof”; the sound of my daughter laughing with her friends;  the feel of my husband’s strong arms around me at the end of a long day; the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven; the sun making the white snow glitter like a million diamonds; sharing childhood memories with my brother. To say nothing of eyes that see, legs that walk,  and ears that hear!  Gifts are everywhere!

As Ann so rightly declares: “…the heights of our joy are measured by the depths of our gratitude.” (p.166).

Life is such a precious gift, bestowed upon us by our Creator.

However, we so often take that gift for granted.

We live, but we are not fully alive.

We see, but we do not savor. (When is the last time you truly gazed at the  faces of the ones you love, rather than just taking a passing glance?)

We pass the time (and sometimes even waste it) , but we do not invest it.

We tend to focus on all that is wrong rather than celebrating what is right.

We rush through our moments  rather than treasuring them .

We worry rather than worship.

This day, choose to see–really see– the gifts that surround you, no matter how small. Begin to name them.

Choose gratitude…and you will find joy.

I do not write these words from an ivory tower. Life has been hard these past several months. Fears loom large, tears spill, and there are more questions than answers sometimes.

YETgratitude has a way of redeeming those fearful moments into a celebration of the goodness of my beautiful God in the midst of the pain.

Embark on a treasure hunt through your life. Celebrate the gift of today, right where you are.

This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. — Ps. 118:24

Blessings,

Susan

(You can find Ann Voskamp’s blog at: www.aholyexperience.com and the Amazon link to “One Thousand Gifts” is on my ‘Books I Love’ page).

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