Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dear Ann {Coffee for Your Heart}

This week's prompt from Holley Gerth is "Who inspires you?" Simple enough, but I didn't just want to say some names and leave it at that. I chose one who has profoundly impacted my life, and I wrote her a letter. She may never see this post, but I am posting it anyway. 

(image via Google)
           Dear Ann,
You may or may not remember me. I don't know if I want you to or not. I emailed you as a girl a little younger, and a lot less secure. I emailed you in tears, and you replied in love. But at that point, you had already inspired me.
I pulled your book off my mother's shelf, on a happy and altogether forgettable day ... I didn't journal that day, so that's all I know. I had stopped journaling when life stopped sounding prettier on paper. And I'd long forgotten why it was worth the fight. The pages of that book witnessed a journey ... one that still blows my mind. We left the church I called home; a place that I had so deeply based my identity and my life on, that I wound up losing track of who I was, and this thing called a life that is worth it. I became convinced that there was nothing good left. And as I felt this, and I read your pages, there was a conflict. "Life is beautiful ... but mine is not." It made sense in my head at the time. It didn't make sense in my brother's. I made excuses to him. I was going to wait until I finished the book to start counting gifts, naturally. He told me that was ridiculous. Well, I wanted to have a nice book to put them in, first. He threw a composition book at me, told me I could keep it, and handed me a pencil. Why not start now? To tell the truth, I didn't want to start then, because I believed that there was nothing left to be thankful for; nothing that mattered anyway. But he's never been the type to listen to me, and he told me to start writing. No excuses, no questions asked. It rings in my head now, looking back, what you once said: "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. The first gift I wrote down? I wrote "Nutella," in all caps. No lie.
Thank the Lord, I'm stubborn ... I didn't stop there, and I haven't stopped since. I broke 2100 recently. My heart broke a long time before that point. As I ended each night by naming three things that were beautiful in my day, I reopened my diary, due to another dear woman's influence. But I refused to write anything sad. What came out of that was a long section of wishy-washy words about a life that was so great ... some pages filled even as I cried. This was madness.
Then I read two words. Just two. I'd never seen them hyphenated into loveliness together before. Ugly-beautiful. Could it really be that simple? I cried often during this journey, but here, here is where I think I may have cried the most. If I believed God was good, why couldn't I believe that He was able to bring beauty from what I deemed ugly? If I thanked Him for only the obviously and easily good things in my life, I simultaneously was denying that He was powerful enough to give beauty to every circumstance. I hadn't even thanked Him for my new church ... the church that I didn't call "mine" or "ours" until we had attended for over a year. I called it by its name, and I doubted that good could come of it. I mercilessly compared it to what I had known, and I refused to accept it for what it is and was. I was so utterly blind  to God's work in that place; in those people. The songs that made me roll my eyes then, now make those eyes flood with tears. In keeping my pain from God, I had kept His healing from me. In the same way, when I had refrained from thanking Him, it was the same as cursing Him. I didn't believe He was that good. Surely He couldn't bring joy out of this. Not when I clutched it to my chest in a fisted hand! I needed to give thanks to receive the gifts. I needed to give Him my pain, in order to receive His healing. Oh, to live with hands wide open.
So here I am, over a year and a half later. That composition book is nigh half-full. I proudly call that church my own. I cry when I'm hurting, and I write. I smile when I'm happy, and I write. And as I read over those words with retrospect, I see the beauty that God has fashioned out of both.
You inspire me, Ann Voskamp {without even a fanciful "e"}. God used you in my life to do beautiful, extraordinary things. And I honestly cannot thank Him enough.
Your book inspired me to live gratefully, and fully, right where I am.
You were there for me, through your blog,when I felt like no one else was. You inspired me, through that, to start this, my baby blog, and one day, should this little bird ever take wing, you can watch it fly, knowing you were used to help it grow its wings.
Your photos inspire me to see the wonder in the everyday.
Your heart inspires me ... it reminds me of His.
You, Ann, are far from ordinary, and dare I say, a true gift.
If we do not meet in this place called earth, I'll have a hug saved for you in our heav'nly home. Pinky promise.
As always,
Lydia