(I’ve been mentored by Ann Voskamp for the past four years. We’ve never met, yet through the power of the written word and the internet’s magic, I sit on a regular basis at the feet of this humble and wise soul. She gifted the world with another book and I have a story I can’t help but share with her. You get to read vicariously over my shoulder because I think everyone needs to absorb Ann’s wise words into a new way of living.)
I mostly shop for groceries at Walmart. Our town is low on options and quite frankly it’s convenient, close to home and work. It is also close to the apartment complex right across the parking lot where my friend and her two darling daughters live (I’ll call her Laura because the internet can be weird.)
My friendship with Laura began in earnest last fall. I think we were a little scared of the great wall of differences that stood between us at first. (I’ve learned that those walls usually blow away as dust if we stick around for a hot half second.) We connected fast and deep because kindred spirits could care less about age or backgrounds or bank accounts. Laura and I recognized a Jesus stamp on one another’s soul that drew us like two flies to honey.
This was just a few months before her second daughter was born early with lungs that made her tiny chest heave for sips of air. I watched as my new young friend maneuvered the terror of an ambulance transfer to the pediatric ICU and a long stay through Christmas and New Year’s at the Ronald McDonald House 30 miles away from home.
When you walk a scary season together, it can seal the deal on a friendship. This year we’ve shared our lives. She allows me the privilege of being an auntie to her babies and I give her carefully measured spoonfuls of advice. She brings so much laughter and I feed her as often as possible. She encourages me and I chase her out of hiding.
Guess what Ann? Now we get to also share the love of your new book called The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life.
You see a few weeks ago, I sat with Laura and listened to her heart bust wide open with a heaviness no 20 something single mother should have to carry. Ground down to the nub is the only way to describe her. My heart broke right alongside hers, frustrated and angry over circumstances we had absolutely no control over. The few words I managed to speak fell lame and powerless over wads of tissues.
“How in the holy name of God do you live with your one broken heart?”
24 hours later I “happened” to see your Facebook live post launching The Broken Way into the world. I watched and wept for the second night in a row. God’s timing as always was on point. I clung to your message like a life preserver because I knew what it meant to be broken and helpless. I couldn’t wait to share with Laura.
We watched your video the next night and decided to birth a book club.
When Amazon delivered the books, Laura reverently took off the cover to keep away the girl’s dirty fingerprints. However, we quickly dirtied up the insides with highlighters and starred exclamation marks. We are gobbling up your words a couple chapters at a time. Truth is pouring out into the broken places of our hearts.
“The way through brokenness is, and always has been, to break the sufferer free from the aloneness of the suffering by choosing to participate in the suffering with them – koinonia – choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, and let it all be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”
Today after work I stopped by Walmart for a short list of necessities and impulsively tossed in the basket a longer list for Laura and the girls. Because child support can be insanely inconsistent and the first of the month doesn’t automatically mean payday. No one should have to negotiate with the state the number of grocery sacks they carry home each month.
“It’s strange how that is: everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved.”
A quick text and then I drive right around the corner. I dropped the sacks on her cabinet, mumbling something about an early Christmas present and picked up my favorite three year old. We’re getting more and more comfortable with a kind of sharing that feels like family. Ann you say, “The abundant life doesn’t have a bucket list as much as it has an empty bucket –the givenness of pouring out.” It’s only logical then to want to love an exhausted and stressed out little sister.
Once the love starts pouring out it has a way of getting dumped back in greater measure.
Laura lit up and said she too had an early gift to give. She brought out a gift bag topped with tissue and gave the disclaimer: “Not many people would understand this, but I think you will.” And then just stood there grinning.
Ironically wrapped in too much bubble wrap was a snowman mug, with a small tea light tucked inside. Intended as a Christmas eve gift for her daughter, somewhere along the way it had gotten beaten around and come up broken. Feeling dejected and discouraged that even gifts got broken, your Broken Way words kicked into gear within her. Laura made these broken pieces into a greater gift. A little glue and a candle created something in which light could shine through as a reminder to both the giver and receiver.
I’ve never been so humbled and blessed by a gift in my life.
Ann, you are teaching us to not be afraid of broken things, not in self or in others, because it’s the beginning of better things. “The best yields always start as broken fields.”
“Let love break into you and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and give and hurt because this is the only way to really live.”
Your Broken Way words mentor me toward greater sanctification. They rattle the cage I’ve built of steely selfishness and pride. Ann, you continue to challenge me to step out of the broken idea of my safe life. Healing light pours out of the broken cracks as you encourage us all to Be the GIFT.
Laura and I are shaking our heads in agreement with you sister. The process is messy yet utterly holy for us both.
As the first week of Advent comes to a close, I am drawn in awe to the mystery of Emmanuel, the ‘Christ with us’ reality. Our broken snowman mug is grinning like he’s got it all figured out. The light in Christ, the darkness in me. His light in me, breaking through to confront all that is dark and broken in this world. What a mysterious reality to be living.
“Why does it sometimes feel like everything in the universe is colliding in some kind of supernova of serendipity?” (One of my all time favorite lines!)
I thank you for your obedience and for sharing the upside down Part Two of living a Eucharisteo life. As one on her 8th round of naming 1000, I’m soaking this new gift in with joy.
Peace and Love, Kelli
(This is the kind of Christmas present that folks will be thanking you for all year long! Click Here to order.)