One Thousand Gifts (Review)

As I think back over the years, three books stand out to me as ones that have especially impacted my life.

  • Mary Pride’s The Way Home confirmed my conviction that children were a blessing, and that we should welcome as many as God wanted to give us! Her creative, entrepreneurial spirit also sparked ideas and projects that eventually turned into our family business, Doorposts.
  • Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking profoundly shaped my approach to bringing beauty and creativity into the home, and fostered a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in my role as homemaker and mother. I reread it regularly as the seasons and responsibilities of my life change.
  • God at Work, by Gene Edward Veith, led to the “Oh-of-course!” moment when it finally dawned on me that God accomplishes His purposes through people. He has given each of us work to do, and He ministers to others through that work.

I’m quite certain that One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, is going to be another one of those life-changing books for me. When I finished reading the last page a few days ago, I simply flipped back to the beginning and started over again. This book will warrant many readings, because I will need to review its message many times.

When she accepted the challenge of listing one thousand things she loves, Ann found that learning to see and name the beauty and blessings around her led to thankfulness. Thankfulness led to trust in a loving, faithful Father, and that trust led to joy.

Writing about her own journey from ingratitude and distrust of God to a life of fullness and joy, Ann draws from her own study of the Word and her own moments of epiphany as she wrestles to process the events of her life. Her writing is open and honest, poetic and gritty. The first chapter is almost torturous. The emptiness she describes, the fruit of her response to pain and deep loss, eventually gives way to the transforming power of choosing to notice and give thanks for the seemingly insignificant things in life.

Below are a few of the many portions I underlined in my copy of the book:

…That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.”

“…They are just the common things and maybe I don’t even know they are gifts really until I write them down and that is really what they look like. Gifts He bestows. This writing it down – it is sort of like…unwrapping love.

God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.

Life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.

…Time, that thing we can’t buy, what we sell of ourselves to get more of what we think we want, what we sacrifice to seemingly gain. They say time is money, but that’s not true. Time is life, And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time.

Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. And when I’m always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter. And time slows. Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows.

The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks – take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks – and He miraculously makes it more than enough.

I’m amputated. I have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments. The chopping that has cut myself off from the the embracing love of a God who “does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lam. 3:33), but labors to birth grief into greater grace.

Take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness…As the surgeon would cut open my son’s finger to heal him, so God chooses to cut into my ungrateful heart to make me whole.

Our endless desires are fulfilled in endless God.

To lack faith perhaps isn’t as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God.

This living a lifestyle of intentional gratitude became an unintentional test in the trustworthiness of God – and in counting blessings I stumbled upon the way out of fear.

Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks. Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks – from known to unknown – and know: He holds.

This is the crux of Christianity; to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo. Why? Why is remembering and giving thanks the core of the Christ-faith? Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust – to really believe.

The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy – nothing else.

But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all.

One Thousand Gifts is a book I plan on reading many times. I recommend it to anyone wrestling to find joy in the midst of pain, evil, and even the mundane, and to those who long for life to slow down enough to enjoy it and to enjoy God. Read it. Then grab your notebook and start naming the God’s demonstrations of His love and grace all around you!

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