One Thousand Gifts: A Review {of sorts}

Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are For our ladies’ book club this summer, we read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Have you read it?

I found her writing style is a bit hard to take, but once I got past that, I found some valuable takeaways. The overall emotionalism was a bit of a turn-off, but that’s a matter of personal taste. I do believe she takes her desire to experience God a bit far, and I’m not comfortable with some of her language describing the intimacy of our relationship with Him. I guess you could say that I have some theological reservations about recommending the book, but at the same time, she got me thinking. That’s the point, right?

Here are some of the passages I highlighted and my random thoughts along the way. (You’ve been warned. Ha!)

She starts the book describing the loss of her sister when she was a child, and she also mentions some other significant losses in her life — two nephews, her mother-in-law, and a neighbor who evidently had a big impact on her life. This woman knows loss, so I thought this quote was particularly insightful.

Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.

I haven’t had the same type of losses that Ann has had, but we all know loss, and the older we get, the more common it is. It is tempting to crawl into the sorrow of others and dwell there, but I realize that the best gift I can give those who have lost and been lost is to live. To cherish the time that I have. I love how Ann words it — discover joy even in the here and now — even when we’re hurting, whether for ourselves or others. That is how we glorify God.

I tend to be a bit of a Debbie Downer. I know, you don’t believe me, but trust me, if you could live in my head . . . aren’t we all glad that no one else can live in our heads???? I’m not proud of it, but I’m a very negative person. I get annoyed at the littlest inconveniences. I allow the daily grind to get me down. This is no way to live. Ann describes this same struggle at the beginning of the book, and her answer to that is gratitude.

She starts a gratitude journal where she plans to list 1,000 things she is thankful for, and this spirals into a way of life that ultimately changes her from the inside out.

Full attention slows the current.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself constantly in a hurry, always running late, scrambling to stay on top of things. I will look back at my week and hardly remember any of it. I’ve been convicted of this, but not motivated to intentional change until I read Ann’s words.

I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, like in the wake of all the rushing… Through all that haste. I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.

I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment.

That was a huge revelation to me. Perhaps the most valuable takeaway I found in the book — even more than the focus on gratitude, although it all goes hand-in-hand.

I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment.

Sometimes I feel like I’m watching life pass me by and I’m missing so much because I’m all consumed with fitting as much in as possible. If I can just slow down, take the time to cherish the moments, the small things, how much more fulfilling life would be.

Full attention slows the current. Don’t I always have the choice to be fully attentive? Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.

Yes, that.

Maybe disguising my deep fears as stress seems braver somehow.

These days, I think we are sometimes in competition over who can be the most stressed out — like it’s a crown to be worn proudly. But no.

Every time I surrender to stress, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God?

Are stress and worry evidences of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, to keep gaze fixed on God?

That nails it, I think. And this.

Maybe disguising my deep fears as stress seems braver somehow.

When we realize that stress just a cover for fear, it’s not so attractive anymore, is it?

Stress can be an addiction and worry can be our lunge for control and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.

Because I kid no one: stress brings no joy.

So then, what is the answer? How do we find this elusive joy?

Gratitude, of course.

Give thanks in all things.

While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.

And what do I really deserve? Thankfully God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives.

This I know intellectually. But do I live it? Hardly.

Instead I grumble when little things don’t go my way and I spit in the face of grace.

How can I expect to trust God in the storms of life when I can’t even be grateful while it is smooth sailing?

I’m convicted, once again, of my need for God’s grace.

So I decided to keep a gratitude journal of my own. I started  yesterday — using the Notepad on my iPhone, so I can access it anywhere.

  1. The crow of a rooster on my early morning run.
  2. Clear blue skies.
  3. A surprise 55 degree morning in August.
  4. Angels watching over me.
  5. Orange kittens, soft and warm.
  6. The first cup of coffee in the morning.
  7. Silence.

Maybe I will keep posting them here every so often. Want to join me?