Sunday, August 18, 2013

One Thousand Gifts

Okay, I admit it. I really dislike grading compositions.

I never imagined what being an English teacher would exactly entail. I was more focused on the people and the students and the setting. It wasn’t too much of a surprise, however, when I realized that I would need to assign, and thus grade, writings for each week.

It didn’t intimidate me at first. Everything was new and exciting and even reading their writings gave me a greater insight into the lives of my students. But over time, I knew my students quite well and the novelty wore off. It’s a monotonous and times-taking task, and correcting the same mistakes each time around can get discouraging.

During the last week of the second term, as my mind was looking for some distraction after hours of reading and correcting, I decided to count how many compositions I had given (and therefore graded) since the school year started. I flipped to the beginning of a student’s composition book and turned each page, smiling as I remembered the various topics. Finally, I reached the last writing, ending my count at an even twenty.

Twenty-seven students in my 7 East Class and twenty-three students in my 7 West class totals fifty students. And 50 students with 20 compositions each rounds out to a solid 1,000 compositions. Now that’s a lot of grading.

Just as the math teacher in me tried to figure out how many hours of grading that equaled, I was struck by the seeming coincidence of the number. For weeks, I had been treating myself to a chapter of a new favorite book of mine whose words had been providing me encouragement and inspiration in a fresh and insightful way. And the irony that stood before me then was that the title of this book shared the number of how many compositions I had worked through.

One Thousand.

Or, more specifically, the full title:

One Thousand Gifts.

The author writes from experience how she was challenged to incorporate thankfulness into every aspect of her days. Her words dance across the page, illustrating her experiences in a way that allows you to be right there with her, and illuminating her insights in a way that invites you to grab hold of them for yourself. She relates her journey of looking for God’s grace in every moment, whether beautiful and enlivening or dark and hopeless. She dares to express her gratitude no matter the situation, counting her gifts all the way up to one thousand (and beyond!) The book recounts the radical transformation that happened within her heart, ultimately enabling her to live fully.

With that backdrop in mind, my perspective began to shift.

The ability to express yourself through words? A gift!
The capacity to identify a life by the familiar strokes of their pen? A gift!
The chance to aid a child in achieving their hopes and dreams? A gift!
The mental capability to analyze and understand? A gift!
The cool breeze that refreshes while you work? A gift!
The aptitude to learn and grow? A gift!
The opportunity to love? A gift!

Certainly this is only the beginning of such a list, a counting of blessings.

And all of these gifts come from a most giving Father. The God who gives so that we might experience abundant life. Who gives purpose and love and strength and mercy for our days. For days when we remember, and for days when we forget. For days when strength invigorates, and for days when energy lacks. For days when hope rises, and for days when questions surround.

This God is the One who didn’t even stop short in giving of His Son because of His love for us.

Right now, I’m on school holiday, enjoying a bit of a break away from the sometimes endless tasks that lessons can bring. But in a few weeks, I’ll lift my broken piece of chalk to the board and prompt fifty students to write. And when I do, I’ll keep the truths of this book and the truths of my God lodged in the forefront of my mind. To give the outlook and perseverance necessary for the task. But ultimately, so that I can enjoy each moment that God has given me.

To live life with thanks, to live life fully.

(Jesus said) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’” [John 10:10b]

PS. The author's name is Ann Voskamp. Go ahead now.

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