"...give thanks in all circumstances..."--1 Thessalonians 5:17 When I first picked up One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan, 2010), I wasn't sure what I was going to expect. I found Ann Voskamp's blog before I saw her book, but I was drawn in by her use of photographic imagery and her unique poetic writing. At first, I thought that it would be more of the "warm and fuzzy" kind of book, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.
The book begins with the theme of the entire book---a single word, eucharisteo, meaning "he gave thanks." This was the word that is used in Luke 22:19 when Jesus gave thanks for the bread at the Last Supper before He served it to His disciples. And this book is about how this single word transformed her journey and relationship with God.Coupled with this word is a challenge from a friend to write a list of a thousand things she loves: blessings and gifts in the ordinary life around her.
Chapter by chapter, Mrs. Voskamp shows how the grace of thanksgiving takes what is broken and turns it into joy. I love how the very ordinary things in life trigger her reflections: a mound of grated cheese, bubbles, happy children. But what is also very insightful is how she finds ways to thank God even in the difficult, frightening and disturbing times of life as well.
What I appreciated most about the book was Mrs. Voskamp's gut-wrenching honesty. At first, I thought, "Yeah, it's easy to be thankful when your life is going well." But as I began to read, I discovered that her life was anything but easy. In fact, some of it was downright painful, things I pray that I would never have to go through. Somehow, knowing where she is coming from has helped me to realize that she really did mean what she was saying. They are not trite words but words borne out of pain and grief.
And so, as I continued to read, I began to realize that even in the hardest, most difficult, ugliest, painful times in my life, I can give thanks. I cannot say that I have been through the trenches as Mrs. Voskamp has, but if she can cultivate a thankful heart, then there is no reason why I cannot see God's hand in my own life and thank Him for it.
I read the book quickly the first time just to get a feel for it. To be honest, I couldn't put it down because this way of living so intrigued me. It tapped into something in my soul, a desire that I knew that I also had---a desire to see God's hand in every aspect of my life, whether good or bad, and to be full of thanks. I wanted to see how this looked in real life, for I know that I probably do more complaining than thanksgiving.
The writing is earthy, poetic and yet at the same time, deep. I am making plans to read this again around Thanksgiving this year, and this time reading it slowly and savoring it. It's not a book that is meant to be read and then put on the bookshelf, but for its greatest benefit, it must be lived out.
Mrs. Voskamp is an ordinary mom with an extraordinary gift. Much of her experience with her children, running a home, being a wife---these were things I related to. But the way she chose to live is where I am most challenged. I am praying that as I make my own list of one thousand gifts, He will begin to transform me into a joyful, thankful woman that sees Him in all of the ordinary things of life.