drawing inspiration from books

Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, immersed me in what I’ve come to call the ugly-beautiful — beauty that is found in even the ugliest circumstances. Before reading Ann’s poetic prose, I struggled to see how focusing on the beautiful was not equivalent to ignoring the ugly. Ann showed me how to find beauty in the midst of the ugly.

{my process & my poem}

As I read One Thousand Gifts and considered Ann’s words, I decided to try my hand at writing some poetic prose that brought what she was saying into my own experiences.

Dash across yard, dodging scattered raindrops, to the shelter of tree branches. Mist surrounds me and I smile. I close my eyes and feel – really feel – the moment. This moment, one of a thousand gifts.

Strange cold summer wind takes my breath away. Rain and wind intensify, swallow me up. Me – eyes still shut, experiencing the gift with my whole body. Thinking of the weight of His wind and mercy as water soaks me to the skin.

Dash back across the yard, dodging plentiful raindrops, to the stronger shelter of the porch. Eyes now open, watching buckets and low ground fill with the rain. Thinking of sinking in His grace like an ocean as hair and clothes drip.

A different story plays out nearby.

On the other side of the house, winds push rain onto and into boxed books meant for blessing others. Unusual rain, reaching too far, too fast. People struggle to save anything from destruction.

Is this rain a blessing or a curse? Is it wrong for me to smile, oblivious to the destruction a few yards away? And what of the distant sirens that scream of emergencies worse than warped pages?

These questions are not just for today. These questions are for tomorrow when I will eat three meals and a child will die of starvation. And for yesterday when I wore Sunday best to church while a woman wore rags in isolation all because she believes God is God.

Is it fair to be thankful for a gift when someone else could have it?

Can a child on his way to eat his one meal of the day rightly laugh while kicking a ball made of garbage bags if a child miles away has neither ball nor food?

Far from condemning him, we smile at such a one who can find joy in such a place. We admire the woman in a wheelchair who paints with a brush in her teeth. We long to be like the man without hands who writes and speaks hope into fellow men.

Why? Because they have joy. They have joy not because of what they have or don’t have. They have joy not even in spite of what they have or don’t have. They simply have joy, found in the midst of their possessions, relationships, limitations. In their midst, because God is in their midst.

All is vanity without God. All is joy with Him.

{today’s exercise}

What book has inspired you with its beauty? A story well-told, poems that sing, words of inspiration… what is it that makes this book stand out? Write a poem that reflects the same sort of beauty expressed in a favorite book.