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?

Comments

  1. says

    First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I personally had a major wake up call regarding gratitude, stress, worry… all those things this book appears to cover. Nothing like a wicked cancer diagnosis to make one reconsider their approach to life. That was when I abruptly realized how very little is within my control. In fact, one of the few things I have control over is my attitude….a lesson I wish I had learned long ago. I will be joining you in recording things for which I am grateful. And just so you know, by God’s grace and for reasons I don’t understand (and will not question) I have made a full recovery. Considering I lost 2 dear friends to this same disease while fighting my fight, I can do nothing more than be thankful for a second chance.

  2. Kelly O says

    I am so glad to hear someone who had, well, a less than glowing review of this one. It came so highly recommended, and I went into it hoping that perhaps the writing would be different than her blog (which I have to admit, I had to stop following because it was just not at all my style.)

    If it helps you at all you’re definitely not the only one uncomfortable with some of the imagery. I’ve dealt with loss in life too, and I guess I just handle it differently, or approach it from a different perspective. I don’t think I’m Debbie Downer, necessarily, but more realistic and pragmatic. Those are good things – a pastor friend told me he wonders sometimes if we don’t understand that our relationship with God is a real, everyday thing, and that not everything is going to be flowery and beautiful.

    Although journaling is definitely a powerful thing. I have been working on that for some time as part of accountability for a small group I’m participating in at my church, and it does make a difference when you look for the “God Thing” in your day.

    • says

      I think there is a place for the flowery stuff – lol. It’s not my bag mainly because I don’t think in that way, but I do envy those who can. I believe there is a place for both. I had a hard time getting to the meat because it took me a while to chew on her language, but I also found her book more compelling that the drier styles of devotional books – not that I consider this a devotional, really, but you know what I mean. This kept me reading really engaged, where I find myself skimming other writers.

      I really didn’t intend to get bogged down in discussing her style. I know some love it, and that’s great. I believe that God uses all types of writing to reach all types of people, ya know? :-)

  3. says

    Well you certainly got my attention with this post. I have read this book and I have done the listing things I’m grateful for – it is effective. I certainly understand that her writing style is not to your liking. I have several friends that are of the same opinion. They simply cannot read her work. I, on the other hand, love it. I love the imagery. I love finding God in everything and I do search for Him in all things.

    One of my favorite posts is http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/01/3-marriage-habits-every-marriage-needs-to-fall-in-love-again/
    Learning to fully receive the love of Christ!

    I could go on and on, but I realize this is a review of this book not all her writing. I would like to mention that this comment in your review, “More importantly, I 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.”, well it kind of stung a little. What greater desire should we have than to experience God?

    • says

      Yes, a valid question. We discussed this a bit in our book club. Of course desiring to experience God is a good thing, but I don’t care for the sexual references. I know that God refers to the church as his Bride, but the analogy stops there, and I believe that Ann takes it too far when referring to making love to God and that sort of thing.

      Please understand, I am not condemning her; I can see that she is a godly woman striving to serve Him and I consider her a sister in Christ. But I did include my opinion about her description of intimacy with Christ because I can’t endorse that. There is SO much in her book, though, that I appreciated. I didn’t allow myself to get bogged down in the pieces that I didn’t care for, and I didn’t want that to be the focus of this post.

  4. says

    I have a hard time reading her style too, so you are not alone, and as for some of the imagery in this book I am definitely of the same mind as you for the same reasons. But I do love some of the quotes gleaned from this book.

  5. says

    I, too, enjoyed the book overall….and also couldn’t endorse it wholeheartedly due to the same imagery you’ve mentioned. It did inspire me to begin a list near the beginning of 2013. While I’ve passed 1,000 gifts, I’m going to continue listing blessings. I like how it helps keep my focus on being grateful for what I have.

  6. says

    You can also join the “gratitude community” by tweeting your moments of thanksgiving with the hashtag: #1000gifts

    I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion the other night and hearing everyone’s thoughts. I agree with the flowery part but I do love the challenge to not only count your blessings but to be a blessing, to live our thanks to God, be the thanks. Great practical message under it all.

  7. says

    I think the imagery in the book must have struck a nerve with many Christian women. Your review isn’t the first I’ve read concerning this. I downloaded the book when it was on sale a while back but have yet to read it. Mainly because of the reviews I’ve read as well as a few of her blog posts. She seems like a wonderful, Godly woman but sometimes I have a difficult time reading her posts. I guess I’m not “deep” enough. Thankfully, God loves me anyways! :)

    I do love the gratitude journal idea and keeping it on your phone is a great idea. Keep posting them! I might post mine on my blog too. And maybe one of these days I’ll actually give the book a try! I appreciate your honest review.

    • says

      You know, I didn’t read it for the longest time for those same reasons. Then when my ladies’ book club decided to read it, I figured I couldn’t put it off any longer. :-) If you’ve downloaded it, give it a try. You might like it. Once you get past the style of writing, there is a lot of meaty stuff in there that convicts you to think about your priorities (or it did for me).

  8. says

    I’m so glad you were honest about this! I think Ann is a wonderful woman and I applaud her for sharing her inner journey… but the style of that book was so hard to swallow. I couldn’t even finish it because I find her writing so awkward.

    I DO place a lot of value on gratitude in my life. I’ve kept gratitude journals off and on for years and love it. I would love to do it more on my blog though. What do you have in mind? (I’m no good at making graphics and stuff, but if you did and make it a weekly thing I would participate every time. I heart memes.)

  9. says

    I really appreciate your vulnerability here, friend. Yes, there may be some stylistic differences among us, but the heart of the matter is what really makes a difference in our lives, and, for me, being mindful of blessings and developing a greater attitude of gratitude has changed my life and the life of my family for the better. I’m glad that in the end you came to appreciate that message. I hope it changes your life too! :)

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