1000 gifts, ann voskamp, mandy thompson, art

Original artwork by Mandy, inspired by a passage in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

The pre-spring afternoon was warm, layered in pollen, and begging me to go to the beach. But instead, I sit on my couch watching the sparrow play in our front yard, with the dryer drowning out the singing birds outside.

I pass the time by working my way through Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I’ve been reading this book for months, not because it’s a hard read, but because it’s worth the sipping. Slowly. Like warm tea, her words are smooth and soothing. Worthy of a full-sensory experience.

She’s telling the story of the harvest moon and the running out the door into the field and the bowing down and raising up. “See beauty and we know it in the marrow, even if we have no words for it: Someone is behind it, in it.”

Yes, Ann. Yes. As an artist I feel this deeply. I am moved by beauty, both created and Created. And I’m moved to create beauty in and out of my own life, with near-compulsion.

I take in her experience as if I’m watching a movie. I can see the moment. I can see the moon as it rises and her eyes as they look toward heaven itself. I wish I had her eyes, that see God in the Created.

She says, “Looking is evidence of the believing.” These words settle into me. Deeply. Looking—not seeing. What a comforting way to describe belief. My mind jumps to the verse that describes faith as the substance of things not yet seen. Not yet seen. We can believe even when we can’t see, right Ann?

She talks about the snake-bitten wilderness wanderers. They look at the snake raised high on a pole, and they are healed. Simple. Yet miraculous.

I follow this trail of logic she is walking me on with ease. I want to see a pole. I need a pole. I need to be told that my aesthetic nature is a “looking” for the Creator-Beauty. And that looking is evidence of faith. Her words are like water.

Then she invites Tozer to the conversation and I’m left dizzy: “Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”

But what if I can’t see Him? I can’t see Him, Ann. I can’t see Him… Am I among the accursed? The bitten? The deceived? I do not know who or where I am, but I do know I am not alone. There are a multitude of us wanderers. I have read their words. St. John of the Cross talks about a Silent God and Dark Night of the Soul. And I’m learning more about Mother Teresa’s own sense of affliction and blindness to the presence of God: “I look and do not see.” I feel less alone when reading their stories.

But then Tozer says faith is seeing. I don’t know what to do with his words. I don’t know how to find my “eyes that see and ears that hear.” I don’t know where I am on this journey, and I don’t know if I will ever see what Ann wants to show me.

The only thing I am sure of is this: for the sake of my soul, I will not stop looking.

i wish i had her eyes…

by Mandy Thompson time to read: 3 min