Sunday, July 6, 2014

One Thousand Gifts

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

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A few years back a friend recommended I read One Thousand Gifts.  Voskamp is an author and blogger, a farmers wife and mother of six.  At first blush the book didn't pass the 50 page test. I put it aside but opted not to take it to the used bookstore for trade as I usually do.  Rather I re-shelved it in my 'going to read soon' pile.  

I have three piles - Currently Reading (overflowing from my nightstand), Going to Read Soon (neatly lined on my writing desk), and The Book Shelf.  Actually there are three book shelves.   Once it is on a bookshelf it is almost a certainty that it won't come out again.  Those are mostly reference books and classics or favorites to lend and share with others.

Because of the recommendation, I kept One Thousand Gifts near but I wasn't crazy about it.  In fact someone suggested it for our small group and I vetoed it.   It was poetic.  Lots of adjective and not enough verbs.  Run-on sentences and incomplete thoughts.  I want action, I want the purpose to be clear, I want efficiency in writing.  I am so glad I gave it another chance.

This book is amazing and life changing.

 Yes, that is a strong charge to make especially for my first book review.  The book is written is such a style that forces the reader to stop, slow down, and intertwine her life with the experiences of the author.   I was initially frustrated that the author didn't just TELL me how to live fully…instead the author SHOWED me how to do just that.

Voskamp chronicles the many specific things in her daily life for which she is thankful.  You don't actually see a whole list unfold at the end, but spread throughout the stories she stops to make her lists known ~

748. Mama delivering chicken soup to the back door
783. Forgiveness of a sister
882. Toothless smiles
891. Earthy aroma of the woods

And you feel the gratitude as you witness it transforms her.  This book is more of a memoir than a 'how-to' guide.  The character development of the author is beautiful and it is raw and it is real.

She writes

"I make soup and I bake bread and I know my supreme need is joy in God and I know I can't experience deep joy in God until I deep trust in God.  I shine sinks and polish through to the realization that trusting God is my most urgent need.  If I deep trusted God in all the facets of my life, wouldn't that deep heal my anxiety, my self-condemnation, my should holes" (p. 149)?  I love this passage because you see the unfolding of normal mommy life duties as we struggle for greater holiness.    As mothers we don't have the 'luxury' of sitting in a chapel all day to pray.  We don't have the quiet of the monastery. We pray while we wash dishes and fold clothes and break up quarrels.  

The poetic nature of her prose which bothered me so much at the onset became therapeutic for me.  You can't skim this book.  This book must be read.  The writing style forced me to slow down, to take everything in, to journal as I read, to digest her quotables.  She writes as a busy mother and she teaches me that in the mundane I am able to not only recognize God but also to commune with Him.  I have read about and heard lectures on ordinary holiness…but I didn't understand it until I read this book and witnessed someone else discovering it herself.

I could tell you that the 'secret' to living fully and living joyfully is to do X.  But if you really want to change the way you live, you have to let Voskamp SHOW you through the book.  The answers are there for you to discover as she takes you on her own journey of discovery.

So read it.  Slow down.  Take a moment and take your time.  It may take a month, it may take a year.  Just start it. And keep at it.  Savor this book and let Him transform you.

Thanks for stopping by!

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