It was a night in the late winter of 2010. I had a six-month-old baby and a two-and-a-half-year-old. Life was full of diapers, keeping nap times, and playing with my toddler while my baby slept. I didn’t know where my quiet inner spaces had gone. Life was busy, so busy of here-to-there and everywhere in between.
I had been blogging my family’s life. Complete with their adorable faces, and words I sometimes sought to create, all geared toward my life as a mom of young ones.
So much of how I would process life, from busy mommy brain to thoughtfulness, changed on what I now see as a night of the sacred. I entered a world then closed off from me. It was one of communion and living with God and others through the holy ordinary. I had gone to visit the blog site of a new friend who had taken the time to comment on my family blog. When I did, I “happened” to see a list of blog sites on her side bar. One was called a holy experience. I was intrigued and drawn in just by the title.
So, I clicked.
One click, but oh what followed! There was a sweet pouring out of communion with another. This was Ann Voskamp’s blog. I couldn’t get enough of her beautiful words. I began a creative, writing kind of blog which I called Fan the Flame. My first few posts were simply listing the gifts of the moments Ann was so beautifully calling us to.
Eucharisteo had been her word of the year. This alone was a new practice for me. She was on the road to publishing her beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. And I wanted in for all of it.
In an interview with The Theology of Work, Ann Voskamp described her understanding of the Greek word eucharisteo like this:
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.
Looking deeper into communion as sacrament
The most that I knew at that time about the word eucharisteo was that it was like the word for the Catholic sacrament of Communion. This was somewhat like what I knew as Communion in my church. However, growing up, my Protestant understanding went along the lines of a once-a-month cracker-and-juice experience. The crackers represented the broken body of Jesus. And the juice represented his blood given. I could take Communion because I had been baptized. We observed this sacrament to remember Christ’s sacrifice.
This practice was very nurturing for a young girl wanting to follow Jesus.
But the woman and mother I had become craved a fuller experience of Jesus given for me. And Ann Voskamp’s understanding met this deep desire.
So I began to count and break open those ordinary moments. I thanked God for the picnics of toy food I would sometimes have in the afternoons with my children, in the shade of the backyard of our Florida home. I thanked God for the chance to nurse my baby. I recounted the sweetness of my husband’s sacrificial work of doing the dishes. And I hunted for more.
I wanted not only a life broken open in thankfulness, but the graces of every day which would lead to joy. I craved more—a complete transformation. I also desired to share my inner journey to live this life for God as I began to write creatively again, from the calming inner places. I had been a writer ever since I could remember, but I had gone through an eight-year silence since my mother’s death.
But now, communion with God and others began to run like a flowing river through my life. And the words came to express my heart, my deep desires. I was changed to an understanding of life as one full sacrament laid before God.
Sacrament as a discipline of the Christian life
Ann Voskamp’s influence brought together some key understandings I had gained on the disciplines of the Christian life. These mostly came through Richard Foster’s classic work The Celebration of Discipline. When I read this tome in college, it had also been as transformational as the sacred entering my living, walking life.
Yet as often happens, the fire died out as life came. I’d suffered significant heartbreak and the death of dreams. I’d also lost my mother to cancer. Soon after, I lost my way as I entered marriage and motherhood—their own kind of sacraments.
But here, I had a restart to Communion, to a new understanding of eucharisteo. I learned as well that these graces, the breaking open of moments, often come to us amid frustration and living disconnected from the greatest gift given for us.
However, in a moment of seeing, of thankfulness, everything can change. Everything did change for me that beautiful, hallowed night when I found Ann Voskamp’s blog or rather, the Holy Spirit found me through it.
Life since and the “Hard Eucharisteo”
It is now close to twelve years since that night. Repeatedly, I have found bubbling joy as I stop and think of the graces given. In the process of breaking open these moments, my entire life has broken open through the goodness of God and all of its fruits.
At the same time, it hasn’t been an easy twelve years. I have faced two hospital stays for bipolar disorder, one of which was in another country. I recently lost my dearest father—a rock of faith and prayer to me.
In all of this, the moments of eucharisteo have permeated the dark nights of my experience. And I have also learned in our deep grief, thankfulness and true joy are anything but cheap. They are hard fought and center upon the source of our Communion—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I have learned the “hard eucharisteo”1 as Ann Voskamp calls it. I have lifted with shaking hands a sacrifice of all I want, to receive the goodness God gives.
Tim Keller says his interpretation of Romans 8:28, a verse so often taken out of context, is
“God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows.” This adds to my experience of thanksgiving, of eucharisteo. All is marching toward a glorious completion and the dawn of a New Day. My understanding is so often pigeon-holed, yet here is always the invitation to Communion, to the eucharisteo life.
The deeper life of sacramental living
Also, I have found that deepening my understanding of the holy sacrament of Communion has given me a hunger to enter the fullness of life with God in every way which I can. This is the purpose, the essence, of the sacramental life. It is an invitation to go deeper into the experience of Christ in his utmost nature of committed communion with God.
It is possible. This is what I have learned. When a sacrament feels like such a lofty, unattainable goal, I remember every moment is an invitation to the grace of thanksgiving. Even if thousands, or millions, of moments have come and gone without breaking one open in thankfulness, the invitation remains.
And this encompasses my awakened understanding of sacred life. It is a constant invitation to fullness. A never-ending fountain of delight ready to be partaken. It is the seeming happenstance becoming the most glorious of all.
Notes: 1. Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. United States: Zondervan, 2011, p. 100
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