Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Subtitled A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.
Published in 2010 by Zondervan. 237 pages.

"He hath filled the hungry with good things" (Luke 1:53).

Last fall when a new-comer to my long-time book club suggested that we read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts this year, I knew nothing about the book. I knew nothing about Voskamp's popular blog. I had no reason to support that suggestion other than an attraction to the idea of learning to be more grateful in my daily life.

One Thousand Gifts ended up being our read for January, and I fell in love with this life-changing book!

Just for balance, before I rave some more, I'll say that most of the group did not love the book. Several of them found the poetic, not-necessarily-grammatical nature of Voskamp's writing to be distracting, even annoying, and they didn't read far into the book. I will admit that Voskamp's writing style is far removed from my own - but it didn't take me long to come to embrace her beautiful words. One group member chose to not read the book at all, with the assertion that she already knew how to keep a gratitude journal. It is true that the basic concept of creating a list of things for which one is grateful is nothing new. This book, however, is so much more than that!

Because all of the members of the book club are Christian, though with different church affiliations and levels of activity, I don't think that the book's religiosity was a deterrent to their enjoyment of the book - but so as not to misinform any potential readers, I will mention that Voskamp's premise is solidly based on Christian theology, and she references the Bible frequently.

For me, reading One Thousand Gifts was the perfect way to begin the year 2012. I found the book insightful and meaningful, and I learned a lot about myself as I read Voskamp's thoughts. The title alone was an impetus to my choice of Fullness as my "one little word" for the year. (For more information about the "one little word" concept, see Ali Edwards' blog posts here.) As I read I learned more about what "fullness" can mean for me, and I felt immersed in the abundance of God's grace. I enjoy books for many reasons, but much of my reading is for "fun." A lot of it is escapist, taking me to other worlds just for the experience. The books I really love, though - fiction or nonfiction - change me somehow, allowing me to see myself or the world in which I live in a new way. One Thousand Gifts is such a book.

On the surface, I don't have much in common with Ann Voskamp. I'm an accountant who works in a downtown office building. She's a farmer's wife, attached to the land in ways I doubt I'll ever understand. She homeschools her six children. I have half as many kids, and I'm a big advocate of the public education system. I have a master's degree. She never finished university. Nonetheless, I feel a connection to Ann Voskamp, as we both strive to walk a grace-filled life.

By the way, I bought One Thousand Gifts for my Kindle, which allowed me to easily mark some the passages that I loved most. Here are just three:
Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks - take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks - and He miraculously makes it more than enough.
When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God's people daily eat manna - a substance whose name literally means "What is it?" Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery. They eat the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, is "like wafers of honey" on the lips.
Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on. ... Is that why the Israelites kept recounting their past - to trust God for their future? Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, a way of thanksgiving, this turn of the heart over time's shoulder to see all the long way His arms have carried.

I suspect I will be thinking about Ann Voskamp's ideas for a long time. Just today I discovered a 19-page readers' guide on her website. I think I'll use that guide as I re-read One Thousand Gifts in the coming months, seeking to more fully live it.