catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 1 :: 2013.01.04 — 2013.01.17


Forget ten things -- what about 1,000?

I’m not sure what I expected from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Perhaps I thought it was just going to be another bland Christian how-to or maybe a nice coffee table book full of snappy quotes and glowing photos, but I had no idea.  Instead, it has turned out to be (not to be corny) a real gift. 

Left to my own devices, I never would have picked this book, in spite of the very pretty dust jacket. Christian women’s lit is just not my thing.  Give me G.K. Chesterton, Newbigin or TenBoom any day of the week, but leave the smooth platitudes and pleasantly cheesy stories out, please.  Don’t get me wrong: these kinds of stories are fine from well-meaning friends in the context of real relationship, but I find them intolerable from perfect strangers. 

Voskamp is the real deal, though.  She starts the book with a baseline of her own life’s tragedy.  She is neither grossly voyeuristic nor belabored as she shares about her little sister’s tragic death as a toddler.  Voskamp uses this defining moment to frame her lifelong struggle, which is to learn how to live out of grace, to live with her hands unclenched and wide open to receive whatever God chooses to give. 

I picked up this book because several friends recommended it to me.  Each time I shared about my struggle of the moment, which has been living the life I have instead of being constantly filled with frustration and dissatisfaction, I would be interrupted.  After the third person interrupted my sharing to ask if I was reading this book, I got annoyed.  “No, I am not reading One Thousand Gifts. No, I have never read it — why? Well, anyway back to my life, blahblahblah…”

It was at this point that I figured I’d better get the book and read it before the good Lord decided to have a pigeon drop a copy on my head. I actually bought the audiobook, since I work full-time cleaning houses and almost never have the chance to actually sit and read these days.  As an audiobook connoisseur, I am very picky about authors reading their own books.  Truth be told, many would be better off if a good friend would just say, “Don’t do it!” But Voskamp reads the book herself and does it very well.  She is able to impart the right pathos and emphasis throughout the whole book and she has a very pleasant voice.

Ultimately, though, the power of the book is that it centers on living a real and usually messy life with gratitude.  Eucharisteo is the Greek word that gets Voskamp going down the path of gratitude.  It offers a gateway to a life of richness and power through the Holy Spirit. There is no sugarcoating life and Voskamp doesn’t try to; instead she uses vignettes from her life as a mother of six and the wife of a struggling farmer to draw us down the path with her. The book also contains a dare, a challenge to keep a list or journal and catalogue 1,000 things you are grateful for. 

At first, listening to the beautiful way in which Voskamp describes the items on her list was intimidating — for example #18 wind flying cold wild in hair or #37 windmills droning in day’s last breeze. Ann is more like the other Anne (the one with the “e” and the red hair) than she may realize, since her writing style is more flowery and poetic than I like, but in the end, she’s writing truth and if she wants to put it in a fancy dress with bows in its hair, I am not going to argue. Also, since this is not a competition, but training of the heart and mind, I realized I can list things like #106 iPod and #88 raking leaves — nothing sexy, just the plain old prose version of what I am grateful for in that moment, and that is more than sufficient.

I very highly recommend this book.  Voskamp even quotes Chesterton and few others to boot. I have taken the dare and three months into it, my life is being changed.  I hadn’t realized how negative and ungrateful my heart and mind had become until I tried to find things to be grateful for.  In my experience, Voskamp is right: thanksgiving does precede the miracle!  Thank God.

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