A Good Gift Giver

by Maile on June 8, 2012

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So tonight we begin the final leg of our journey. Two nights ago Shawn and I sat across from each other (he on the couch, myself in the booth) and decided that his grandma’s failing health was the call beckoning us back a week earlier than we had intended.
It seems like such a small alteration to the plans: one week. But as I took a walk at our campground in rural Indiana after our decision, I felt so strange. By the end of the existing week, our trip would be over. My heart was fragmented with feeling:

Excitement (anticipating the tight hugs and grinning faces of so many folks that we love and miss.)
Regret (were there things left undone on this trip, moments I missed or didn’t hold quite long enough?)
Sadness (when anything great comes to an end, sadness is always an appropriate response.)
Celebration (likewise, when anything great comes to an end, celebration is always an appropriate response.)
Fear (that our great adventure has come to an end; that a humdrum existence is all we can expect from here on out.)

I shared that last feeling with a friend over email yesterday. But as I wrote it, my fear dissipated; fear has gotten more feeble on this journey. So I wrote this to my friend: “But I also know that God is far more wild than that.”

In the past 4 months, I’ve seen more beauty than in my entire life up to this point. It was holy yet tangled, majestic yet terrifying, serene yet treacherous . And I found myself often asking this question: What kind of a God makes a creation like this?”

A wild one.

Two and a half years ago, our goal was to own a bigger house and a nicer car. But God was too good to leave us there. He dreamed bigger than us. So He gently as possible, laid us at rock bottom, stripping us of our biggest earthly possessions (my husband’s business as well as our home) and calling us to the basement of my in-laws.

I remember the night after we discovered rock bottom. I awoke, my heart aching with questions and sadness. I laid on the floor beside our bed, my forehead buried in the carpet, my fists pressed against eyes, asking many questions of God. And as clearly as I’ve ever known anything, God told me this:

“What I’m doing is a gift.”

Immediately, my response was “Well, it’s a pretty shitty gift.” I quickly learned how very wrong I was.

Today, we’re still unwrapping that gift. It didn’t show up the next morning on the kitchen table as a simple box wrapped in patterned paper with a stick-on bow. No, it’s arrived in pieces over these years: multi-faceted and deliberate, strange and fantastic. Parts of it came in the garden in our backyard, others in the contented smile of my husband after a day of waltzing with words or our childrens’ shouts of joy after discovering freshly laid eggs in the chicken coop. Pieces came in new friendships enjoyed over egg casserole or glasses of wine.

And the biggest portion so far has came in the form of this cross-country trip.

At one point I questioned God’s ability to give good gifts. I don’t question it any longer. I don’t ask why he took everything away because I now know that it wasn’t everything. It was such a small pile of brick and metal that wasn’t worth the price of my life.

And He gave me an adventure instead. Because the best gift giver doesn’t give you a photo of a waterfall. No, He takes you to the foot of that waterfall, let’s its billowy mists dampen your hair, the thunder of its lusty descent vibrate in your chest, and the coolness of its waters quench your thirst.

So this leg of our journey comes to an end, but I sit on the edge of my seat, forehead pressed against the window, eager for this adventure to continue.

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