Friday, April 29, 2011

When Brokenness Is Sacred

It was Crucifixion Friday when I wrote about the Glory and the Grace, the piercing and the pouring out, the emptying and the filling.  Things I didn't yet understand.  Things I still struggled to learn.

Two days later, Resurrection Sunday found me watching a man swing a hammer, glass bottle shattering into irreparable pieces.  As the scent of fragrant oil filled the sanctuary, he said We are filled with the essence of Christ, the glory of Christ.  And when we are broken, it is the fragrance of Christ that pours out, reaches the world.  And just like that, something in me began to break, Truth lodging like a shard of glass.

Four more days and I read these words of Ann Voskamp and heard God speaking still: a cracked world, skies break wide to water the earth and kernels break open to nourish with bread and earth breaks open to be a womb for a seed, and why be afraid of the broken things?  Of being broken?

It's over the face of the deep and the hearts split deeper that God hovers close, the broken-hearted He binds up, swaddles near, and it's a life broken like a jar that anoints Him with alabaster worship for His love that ultimately heals.
I look back at all the years of brokenness and I grieve for the losses and the emptiness, the weakness and the failures.  I stumble on deep cracks still in need of healing and I feel defeated, overwhelmed, nothing but a useless broken vessel.

But maybe this is Truth.  Maybe the brokenness is sacred.

Maybe the secret to abundant life is in embracing our broken places.

Maybe the secret to being healed is in letting Christ seep out through the cracks of our lives, our souls, us.

Maybe the secret to a faith that saves is in believing that brokenness is what leaves Christ visible.  And isn't it Christ Visible that changes us, changes the world, changes everything?
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
We are fragile jars, easily cracked, easily broken.  But we who are in Christ are also filled with infinite treasure, infinite God.  And it is in the breaking of us that the Glory of God pours forth.

"...why be afraid of broken things?  Of being broken?"

Maybe this is what He's been trying to teach us all along:  To give thanks for the brokenness and rejoice in the pouring forth of God.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book of Days

It's been a quiet week.

A quietly hard week.

The kind of week that often seems to follow those weeks so laden with joy that I can hardly write down the gifts fast enough.

Thursday had come before I'd really opened the gratitude journal, taken note of the moments, opened my eyes to see the glimpses of God in ordinary days.  I sat down at my art table that afternoon, held the journal in my hands, and whispered, I haven't written anything in my book yet--my Book of Days.

I'd never called it that before, Book of Days.  And I don't know why I said it then.  But just as soon as I did, these words flitted across my mind:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  (Psalm 139:14-16)
 Yes, all the days ordained for me have been written in God's book.  His Book of Days.

And I wondered then, as now, whether His Book of Days is anything like mine.  A listing of all the gifts He has given, and will give yet, every day of my life?  A record of all His Goodness cascading down through the moments of this one girl's earthly course?  Not so that He can remember, but so that I can see it someday, so that I can give thanks for the things I've missed along the way, so that I can trace His Love even in the blackest nights and the most ordinary days.

Because I know I've already missed days, years even, of the Gifts, the Goodness, the Love.  Eyes blinded by darkness, fear, exhaustion, soul-wounds.  Decades spent living without fully living.  Too much time lost to the doubting of His Love, the doubting of Him.

And still now, even after the awakening of eucharisteo, some days I shut my eyes or don't turn them to where He is and I struggle to really see.  My Book of Days is incomplete, full of holes and missing pieces.  Missing moments of God.

My heart aches for all the missed sightings of the One Who is always here.  And I want to pry open my soul-eyes and fix them there so that I'll never not see Him again.  I hope and I pray and I beg for God to keep a Book of Days for me with all the pieces there together, woven into the beauty of His story.

Because there's no question that I'm going to flail about in this life, fall on my face countless times, fail to see Him here

But I'll keep trying, keep opening my little Book of Days, keep scratching down the bits and pieces of God I find.  Even in ordinary days.  Even in pitch-dark nights.  And I'll keep at it for all the days I have remaining in His Book of Days.

And all the way along, I'll trust that He's keeping a record of His own, of everything I've missed, eagerly waiting for the day when He'll turn the pages for me to see and He'll recount every drop of His Love and I'll just lay low in humble gratitude for all the gifts, all of the goodness, all of Him.

The kind of gratitude that can't really be spoken, only lived.

634.  Bags unpacked, everything back in place

635.  Three loads of laundry washed and put away

636.  Day to recover, prepare for life after vacation

637.  Hail storm in the morning, blue skies in the afternoon

638.  Rows of mistakes undone, progress being re-made

639.  Annabelle Cat running wild after old toy comes out of hiding

640.  The Hope Bird perched on my desk while I work

641.  The Joy Bird perched on my art table while I create

642.  Cooking dinner with Dad

643.  Savory bread pudding with feta, mushrooms, and roasted peppers

644.  Friend who sees God in the eggs

645.  Facebook banter with my brother

646.  Mistakes pointed out, keeping me humble in my work

647.  Organizing the cupboards, clearing out the excess

648.  Afternoon nap when the head needs clearing and the heart needs rest

649.  Buddy Cat snuggled up beside me, happy for the company, happy to share the bed

650.  Cooking done for the week, leftovers piled up

651.  Lone bird on the wire, backed by ominous clouds

652.  Lady bug traversing the windowpane

653.  Squinting against the sunlight to watch the lady bug's journey

654.  Buddy Cat bird watching beside me while I work

655.  Finding inspiration for poetry

656.  Writing the first poem in exactly three months

657.  Words finally coming to finish the last stanza

658.  Blue skies at sunrise, half-moon still hanging high

659.  Day without clouds--always, always a gift!

660.  Birthday lunch with friends

661.  Easter Eve dinner with family

662.  Easter baskets for grown children

663.  Staying in pajamas until 10 am

664.  Meal planning going easily--for once!

665.  God Who conquers death, rises from the grave even when the clouds don't break

666.  Redemption flowing down, reaching even me

667.  Messiah Who gave thanks before He went to the cross, opened the way for abundant life

668.  Eucharisteo.  Always eucharisteo

669.  Three peony plants budded with promise in my own front yard

670.  Dogwood tree just coming into bloom, glimpsed on the drive to church

671.  Driving to the Easter celebration while "There Will Be A Day" plays on the stereo

672.  That there will be a day with no more pain, no more fears, no more burdens

673.  And that day is made possible because of this day--Resurrection Sunday

674.  Finally feeling the celebration, the Glory of Easter after a long week of quiet heaviness

675.  God Who knows suffering--His and ours

676.  That our Messiah lived to die so that we might live to live

677.  Hammer shattering glass, shards of truth piercing my soul

678. The fragrance of Christ in us, our brokenness releasing Him to the world

679.  My Book of Days, scribbling down pieces of God

680.  His Book of Days, capturing every bit of me and Him and us

681.  The Love that runs through all my days, in His book and mine

682.  The gratitude that can't be spoken, only lived

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Glory and The Grace

You were the One
First pierced
Poured out on
Hard ground
And emptied of
The Glory and the Grace

Now it is You
Who pierces
Pouring us out on
Broken soil
And making room
For the Glory and
The Grace

Your blood runs
Clean through
And redemption pools
Even in dark places—
We die to live
Full of the Glory
And the Grace

As You fill the
Hollow spaces
Mend the cracks
Of fragile life
We are born anew
Born of You—
The Glory and the Grace

(Written in response to this beautiful post from a friend)

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Hope and Joy Come Home to Stay

Our vacation was nearly over by the time we ventured out of the lake house together, made the short drive into a tiny town called Wamic.  At our destination, we opened the door and stepped onto the creaking floors of an old house, now home to a coffee and consignment shop.

We ordered our drinks and wandered the house slowly from room to room, upstairs and down.  Treasures lined the walls wherever we looked, and I turned each corner with excitement, wondering what might be waiting for us in the next room.

And then I saw them, perched on a shelf.  Hope and Joy calling my name.

I looked long and pondered whether I had a place for these birds to come home to.  But the longer I pondered, the louder Hope and Joy whispered for me to take them home, take them to heart, live them out.

As I placed them on the counter, my grandma exclaimed over them and my mom told her that Hope and Joy were some of my favorite words.  But I turned and said, "Not just words, Mama."

No, not just words.  Hope and Joy.  They are life and beauty and glory and God

And they are now perched on my desk, perched on my life, perched way down deep in the soul-home of the God who breathed them into me.

Hope and Joy have made a home in my heart.  The gratitude overflows.

553.  Vacation finally here, journey finally beginning

554.  Sun streaming in the car window, landing on yarn blanket

555.  Rainbow's full arc spread out beside the freeway in the middle of a hailstorm

556.  Low wisps of cloud, hovering over hilltops

557.  Wispy afternoon moon blending into cloud puffs

558.  Rainbows in the road spray, sun glinting after downpour

559.  Crocheting hands silhouetted against the seat back

560.  Steepled red brick church standing in the evening light

561.  Green hills at sunset

562.  Dairy Queen stop before the last stretch of the journey

563.  Empty road, empty sky, sun setting beside us

564.  Desert lands still green with spring

565.  Six cows grazing together amidst endless open space

566.  Sitting in the backseat, eyes peeled for Glory

567.  Sun orb slipping behind horizon's cloud bank...

568.  ...then clouds opening to reveal blinding beauty once more

569.  Flat hilltops dotted with tree silhouettes at dusk

570.  No pressing concerns except to watch the sun go to be while we drive

571.  Grandma waiting for us at road's end

572.  Hello hugs

573.  Car unloaded, settled into my room

574.  Discovering an electric blanket on a borrowed bed

575.  Falling asleep warm and cozy...

576.  ...and staying that way all night

577.  Waking up to the sound of geese happily honking outside the window

578.  Lying awake in bed with no reason to hurry and get up

579.  Face buried in Hope, soft and warm

580.  Searching for the Gratitude Journal in the dark of early morn, not wanting to forget His gifts

581.  Sitting across the breakfast table from Grandma, listening to animal stories from country life

582.  Patch of muscari blooms in the middle of the back lawn

583.  Mom and Grandma side by side, bent over a puzzle

584.  Crochet project finally finished, laid out for admiration

585.  Mom recovering from migraine, rejoining the fun

586.  Digging through Christmas fabric, making plans for stockings

587.  Resting in the bedroom, listening to the women chat

588.  Bowl of Grandma's chili for dinner

589.  Pulling out a new bag of yarn, stitching the beginnings of more beauty

590.  Plans made for tomorrow, another day of resting, creating, and being together

591.  Waking up to the sound of geese honking again--this never happens at home!

592.  Yarn laid out across the floor, four women deliberating over color order

593.  Decisions made, blanket taking shape, beauty unveiled

594.  Unpacking Grandma's teacups, listening to stories of the past

595.  Hours in the rocking chair, drinking tea and crochetting

596.  Grandma offering baking lessons, Mom learning how to make the pumpkin roll

597.  Mom accidentally covered in powdered sugar

598.  Mountain of mashed potatoes for dinner

599.  Meatloaf with blueberries--so good!

600.  Sharing the craft table, watching others' art take shape

601.  Laughing over silly things late at night, feeling joy deep down

602.  Plans for tomorrow that involve cheesecake, silk scarves, and Christmas ornaments

603.  Waking up to sun on the water after a day of all rain

604.  Lake smooth like glass and reflecting the trees

605.  Pulling out the blanket project first thing, more circles of color being born

606.  Listening to Mom and Grandma as they stretch out crocheted snowflakes, pin them in place

607.  Cheesecake baking in the oven

608.  Putting on shoes for the first time since arriving

609.  Four of us finally read for a trip into town

610.  Wandering through rooms full of treasures, excited to see what might be found

611.  Sipping hot chai while doing the wandering

612.  Hope and Joy sitting on the shelf, whispering for me to take them home, take them to heart, live them out.

613.  All of us leaving Lexi's Place with treasures tucked under our arms

614.  Back to the house and back into slippers

615.  Puzzle coming together, last missing piece found on the floor

616.  Last evening together, full of eating, crafting, and movie watching

617.  Bags packed and ready to go, a few more hours to enjoy

618.  Dozens of scarves piled on the dining table

619.  Four of us gathered around, trying new ways to wear beauty

620.  Laughter at the process and the failures

621.  Discovering beauty, holding it in our hands

622.  Making plans for "next time"

623.  Goodbye hugs

624.  Grandma standing in the doorway, waving and blowing kisses until we are out of sight

625.  A dozen deer grazing in a neighbor's lawn as we pull onto the road

626.  Sun shining bright as we head toward home

627.  Cloud shadows laying across the blue-green river water

628.  Talking about family history on the long drive home

629.  Dairy Queen stop, ice cream for dinner

630.  Space Needle finally coming into view, home soon to follow

631.  Car unloaded, bags piled on the floor, knowing the unpacking can wait until the morning

632.  The welcome feeling of being home

633.  Imaging what the real Homecoming will feel like

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wrapped in Hope (Part 2)

(If you missed Part 1 earlier this week, click here to read the story behind this blanket)

When I chose the yarn for The Hope Blanket, I had no idea what I was going to create.  I only knew that I wanted to use one of my favorite yarns, Lion Brand's Homespun.  I picked out three beautiful colors and carried them home to ponder the possibilities.

I first settled on a stitch pattern, opting for the "wavy chevron."  I had tried the standard chevron pattern for the Ocean Lullaby blanket last year and was pleased with the results.  But I wanted this blanket to be a little softer and more blended in the color progression, and the wavy chevron seemed perfect for that.

Then I needed to decide on the arrangement of colors and the length of each section.  I didn't want the blanket to looked "striped" exactly, which meant varying the order of the colors as well as the size of each segment.  To come up with a pattern, I shaded sheets of graph paper with colored pencils and cut them into strips.

After much deliberation (i.e., endless rearranging of paper strips), I came up with 18 sections and this order of colors:

My main goal in choosing color order was to find a pattern that allowed each color to be surrounded by the other two.  For example, I wanted one section of pink to have purple on either side of it...

...while another section of pink had green on either side of it...

...and still another section of pink had green on one side and purple on the other.

And, of course, I wanted the same three scenarios for the purple... well as for the green.

My purpose in this was to explore the variation in each color's appearance, as I am always intrigued by how the surroundings of a color influence how that color appears. 

Now I needed to figure out the length of each section in the pattern, trying to vary not only the sizes but also the order in which those sizes appeared.  I used one strip of paper to represent each inch of the final blanket length (originally 60 inches) and eventually chose sections of 2 inches, 3 inches, and 5 inches.  And somehow I arrived at an arrangement that made me happy.  It's still a mystery as to how I knew this collection of paper strips could turn into something beautiful.

Of course, no plan is perfect.  Once I began stitching the blanket, I realized that the height of each row was less than an inch, so I had to adjust my section lengths to reflect that.  I ended up converting the measurements to 3 rows, 4 rows, and 7 rows, which added about a half-inch to each section and 10 inches to the entire length of the finished blanket.  And I carried an index card around with me to help keep it all straight.

Makes perfect sense, right?  Or not.

With the hard work of blanket design completed, The Hope Blanket came together smoothly and steadily over the next five months.  When I finally, finally reached the end of the pattern--and had a blanket that stretched to 6 feet long--I used what was left of the purple and pink yarns to add a simple border--one row of single crochet followed by two rows of half-double crochet.

Although the entire creation process for The Hope Blanket was rather long, it was mostly enjoyable.  And I am exceedingly happy with the finished piece.  I received a multitude of compliments along the way, many from complete strangers at the coffee shops where I regularly worked on The Hope Blanket.  Those who know me well have remarked how very me this blanket is.  And it's true.

Honestly, there is nothing I would change about The Hope Blanket.  I love the colors themselves and the way they blend and shift and interact with each other.  I love the softness of the waves and the warmth of the yarn.  Most of all, I love everything this blanket represents:  Hope healed.  Faith finally returned.  Saying yes to who I was made to be.  God in all of it.

Yes, indeed.

Hope is beautiful, beautiful thing.  And oh so full of God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wrapped in Hope (Part 1)

Remember these colors?

Their names are Amethyst, Pesto, and Great Plains.

My mom bought them for me the moment I told her I wanted to crochet a blanket just for me.  After making 11 blankets as gifts over the years--along with innumerable scarves, hats, and amigurumi animals--I was finally ready to create something big and beautiful for me.

It was just weeks after my diagnosis and already changes were happening.  Changes I had never expected to come.  Life after diagnosis was like stepping into a new beginning, mostly because of a not-so-little thing called hope.

A few months before I was diagnosed, I wrote about hope dying.  Not all hope, of course.  Hope Himself has already conquered death and will never leave us abandoned.  But the hope of finding health and wholeness here in this life--that hope was slipping through my fingers, dying.

And I was nearly ready to let it go.

But something--no, Someone--kept me holding on a little longer.  And three months later, after nearly a decade of waiting, Deliverance walked in the door and handed me a diagnosis.

That diagnosis was just the beginning of my road to recovery.  A road that still stretches out long in front of me.  But it was also, nearly instantaneously, the healing of my hope.

In hope, I stepped onto a path I'd long yearned for but never expected to take.  In hope, I let go of responsibilities and expectations, turned my attention to rest and recovery.  In hope, I finally, finally, finally found my faith again.  And in hope, I realized something that had always been true.

I could no longer care for others in the fullest and truest sense until I learned to care for myself.

In a sense, life after diagnosis has been about learning to be me.  Not the person others expect me to be.  Not even the person I think I should be.  Just me.  The person God created me to be.  The person I am right now and the person He is making me into.

And part of learning to be myself has been about finding the boundaries.  Respecting my need for time to breathe, rest, create, live.  Understanding that saying yes to others begins by first saying yes to who He has made me to be.

I didn't know any of that, really, when I stood in the yarn section choosing colors to love.  But over the long months of laboring to create, much has happened.  I have changed, learned, grown, become.

And it's all because of the One called Hope.

It's no wonder I've decided to name this The Hope Blanket.

Isn't Hope beautiful?

(Read Part 2 here to see more pictures of The Hope Blanket and learn about my creative process for the project)

Monday, April 11, 2011

In the Silence

On days like this, I wonder where all the words come from.

And where they go when they're gone, what pushes them away and dries them up.

I call myself a writer.  A poet, even.  And still I find myself sitting here without words.  Empty and weighed down, all at the same time.

It's been a long week, one full of juxtaposition.  A clear reminder that my body isn't well yet--and a fresh infusion of hope that I will be well one day soon.  A decision to pursue expensive testing--and a demonstration of God faithful provision in unexpected ways.  A desire to write, to speak, to be known--and an emptiness of words that leaves me silent.

In the end, I am left feeling a little weary from the journey.  Too weary to search for words that don't want to be found.

And then I remember.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

The Word God lives in me.  And all the words that need to be written, spoken, heard--they are all His.  To give or take, to hide or reveal, to silence or give voice.

Today the words are gone, but He isn't.  And isn't that what all the gifts add up to in the end?  Him.  Here.  Now.

Words aren't enough to say thank you for that anyway.

519.  New journal full of blank pages and possibility

520.  Mug of extra-hot chai on extra-cold Spring day

521.  Thought-provoking discussions between friends

522.  Crochet project in hand while telling stories from the week

523.  Willow tree blooms dropping in the wind like tiny snowballs

524.  Surprise rain shower on the way to the doctor's office

525.  Doctor and I on the same page.  Finally.  An all-out miracle

526.  Treatment moving forward.  Finally.  Another all-out miracle

527.  Perfect white heaven clouds beneath a stormy grey sky

528.  Brightly colored bags to carry the around with me

529.  Dad who climbs trees, trims branches to let in the light

530.  Stuffed peppers baked to perfection

531.  Laughing hard enough to make the stomach muscles hurt

532.  Pink-tinged clouds scattered across blue sky at dusk

533.  Counting down days until vacation

534.  Leftover rice for breakfast, with milk and cinnamon--childhood memories in a bowl

535.  Giving myself permission to write instead of research

536.  Cat playing with pens while I write about life

537.  Friday finally arriving at the end of a long week

538.  Sun finally returning after too many days of darkness

539.  Fighting the cats for sun spots on the floor

540.  Strength for extra hours of work

541.  Reminder that my body isn't ready to back to those extra hours

542.  God's faithful provision, on the heels of a financial commitment

543.  Skeins of yarn staked up tall, new blanket ready to begin

544.  One tulip blooming in a pot full of winter's defeat

545.  Homemade molasses cookies to accompany each cup of tea

546.  Folding laundry late at night, knowing tomorrow will be better with one less thing to do

547.  Climbing into bed for an afternoon nap--oh the bliss!

548.  Rainstorm coming while I rest, making music on the glass

549.  Words finally coming together, letting me move forward

550.  Word God Who is always here, now.

551.  Knowing the words will come back when it's time

552.  Knowing He will never need to come back because He will never leave in the first place

Monday, April 4, 2011

Finding Grace in Dark Places

I've known for a week and half now what I would write about today.  But it was just yesterday that I sat down to consider what I needed to say.

In the meantime, all this week the Gratitude Journal has lain quiet and mostly closed, only gathering a few handfuls of grace here and there.  On the heels of the previous week, so full of Beauty and Glory and God, this one has felt silent, heavy.

Maybe because I've known all these days what He's been asking of me.  And even though I knew, in the end, I'd say yes to Him--I wasn't ready to say it yet.  I was still holding back, still living the no.

I suppose He's been asking since this grace counting began, but I didn't hear Him clearly until I read this post by a fellow thanks-giver.  Oh, I've understood for a while now that this Gift List isn't just about counting all the things that look and feel and seem to be good.  It's also, and maybe more importantly, about finding God and Grace and Good in even those things that look and feel and seem to be bad.  Because really, who am I to judge and say that one moment is full of God and another not?  Isn't He always here with me?  Isn't He always at work in all things to bring about Good, to bring about His Will?

I nearly walked away from the Gratitude Life when I first read it in Ann Voskamp's book that "all is grace,"  that the ugly can be beautiful, that giving thanks for the hard and the painful is what allows Grace to transfigure all of it--all of us--into something beautiful.  But in that moment, He nudged me on, pressed me forward, gave me eyes to see Grace in places I never wanted to find it.  In death and loss and grief and pain, I saw His fingerprints and felt the Grace trickling down and through and over it all.

And it's true.

Finding Grace in the ugliest, most soul-crushing moments of a life somehow makes them beautiful and full of God.  But without even realizing it, there was one thing I held back, one thing in which I didn't even try to find Grace:  The illness that has haunted my body for decades, devoured my strength, devoured my independence.

It shouldn't be harder to find Grace and God in chronic illness than it is to find them in the loss of relationship, the crumbling of faith, the death of one I loved.  It shouldn't be.

But it is.

Maybe because this illness is never past tense.  It isn't a matter of looking back to trace the Hand of God.  It's a matter of staring illness in the face here and now, every day, every hour, and somehow seeing straight through it to Grace and God Himself.

But that isn't even the hardest part.

The hardest part, really, is wanting to see Grace and God Himself in the illness that has torn me apart.  Because looking for the Good, giving thanks for the Grace, finding God in my illness--it feels as though I am telling God it's okay not to heal me.

And I want so desperately to be well that I can't even bring myself to utter those words.

Still, I hear Him asking for the thing I don't want to give.  And I know the only way to the full life is in the grateful acceptance of everything He gives.  Even the hard.  Even the ugly.  Even the one thing I don't want to see as Grace.

So today I am choosing to lift up my eyes, gather what little strength I have, and whisper this out loud:  Show me Your Grace.

And with open hands outstretched, I begin to count the gifts...

505.  Weakness that teaches me to rely on Your strength

506.  Emptiness that leaves me open to Your fullness

507.  The constancy of illness reminding me of the constancy of Your love

508.  Failed attempts at healing that bring perseverance

509.  Daily battle with illness that develops endurance

510.  Suffering that breeds compassion for the sick, the weak, the broken

511.  Sweet, soul-bursting promise of no more illness for all eternity--a promise that wouldn't mean much if I didn't know the suffering

512.  Body broken but still able to live

513.  Legs that can walk--not far, not fast, and not without pain, but I can walk

514.  Ears that can hear music, the wind, the ocean

515.  Eyes that can see beauty, light, God everywhere

516.  Heart that can feel pain but also joy, love, God in me

517.  Soul-eyes opened to see Grace in dark places

518.  God who gives illness as a gift, uses it to make me into something beautiful

More gift counting for this week (#480 - #504) can be found on my One Thousand Gifts List