One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: A Review

my review of One Thousand Gifts

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

A book review by Jen

One Thousand Gifts is the beginning, a game of sorts, to list one thousand things in life for which to be grateful. Ann Voskamp discovers that with each listing, her joy enlarges and she is soon addicted to the joy, in the very best of ways. It’s easy to dismiss this itemizing as an amusement for the immature, but as I began my own list, I chanced upon a switch.

  • motherhood
  • that breathtaking moment when I first saw Lake Huron, horizon melting into sky
  • that perfect Labor Day at South Jetty in Florence, the warm sand, collection of seashells, children digging, laughing, running from waves
  • encouragers
  • dried desert mud that crackles under your bare child feet
  • the park bench across from the White House in D.C. that supported my lonely, peaceful lunch breaks in ’93.
  • music

The ticking of the thanks triggered something. It’s like when a circuit breaker trips in the house leaving you powerless and dark, only you don’t know where to find the electrical panel to reset it. This is it, my friends! It is the giving of thanks that corrects the problem that caused the breaker to trip in the first place. A ground fault is one reason why the power can go off, and Ann Voskamp identified the root cause of this fault: ingratitude. Breaker! Breaker! Let’s give thanks!

Ann scatters herself, her humanity, just right throughout this book, and I am left knowing that she is an authentic woman who has deep places of pain just like the rest of us. We learn of the death of her little sister, her mother’s mental illness, her own dark interior struggles. And so I connect, I engage, I truly learn.

I had shadows of doubt about Ann Voskamp at various points in OneThousand Gifts, but Ann is like that children’s word game where Grandma loves poundcake but hates chocolate cake, she loves Pringles but hates chips, and you have to know that Grandma’s secret is that she only loves things that begin with “P.”

So it is with Ann. She loves the Christian mystics but hates the idea of wisdom found outside of Christ; she loves to run with the moon and lie prostrate in fields but hates nature worship; she digs deep into her soul to share it raw with the world but hates narcissism. You have to know that Ann’s secret is that she is indeed a woman after God’s own heart.

I did come to a certain point in the book where I thought I couldn’t go on. Voskamp spends an entire chapter describing a bubble of soap, its shape, its color, its chemical composition, more of its color. It was the night I had hit the wall of exhaustion and emotional overload and my husband had to tuck my crying eyes into bed, pulling the patched quilt up over the worry, hurry, fear, condemnation, the crush of life that threatened to undo me, then he finished the dinner I had abruptly left and tended to the four children’s bedtime. And I’m supposed to draw comfort and wisdom from the sudsy bubbles?

I still don’t completely get it, but I understand that a writer has a certain style, and Ann Voskamp is a poet and I love words like she does, though we may play with them differently. So I will let her talk about suds in the sink all day long if she wants because in the end, I rose large the next morning, new grace upon me, and I remembered how much I loved bubbles as a child, the endless joy in swooshing the wand to create the perfect sphere to run after and chase with the wind, and the sheer delight in catching it before it burst into another dimension.

Here’s the thing. I am working really hard at this thing she calls eucharisteo–what Christians know as the Eucharist, or communion, the taking of the bread and wine. This charis grace, chara joy, eucharisteo thanksgiving. I’m working harder than I have in a very long time, because I have to or I will shrivel. There are some tools in this book to help this jumble of myself to begin to conquer life-smothering fear, to reach for a firm grip on His everlasting love for me, to give thanks in all things in such an unceasing way that the power is restored in this short-circuited woman.

A thousand thanks to Ann Voskamp for writing this book.

P.S. I want to know why the sows were losing their litters. A small complaint, but she never tells us.

P.S.S. Thank you, Ann, for ending in Paris, the place where God says, “Enjoy Me.”

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15 Responses to One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: A Review

  1. tipper says:

    Love the picture : ) I haven’t read the book but have read other reviews like yours-they loved it but it was sometimes hard to grasp too.

    The part you mentioned about the bubble reminds me of a lady I who once was showing me her house-in her bathroom she had a handmade light switch-I said I liked it-and she said-it’s just a little touch of beauty that I’m forced to look at every day :)

  2. e-Mom says:

    This is a lovely review Jen. I have written poetry too, but it seems so often that poetry is for the writer, not the reader. Ann’s book sounds very different. (Except for the bubble!) She’s greatly loved in the blogging community, and I happily promote her work for that reason alone.

    ((Hugs)) e-Mom

  3. What a great review. I will be trying to find this book, and will be prepared for the bubble chapter :)

  4. Renae says:

    Jenn,
    Your review is poetry. My friend got this book for me, but we still have to get together so I can get it. That will be a double blessing!

    I think of you often.

  5. Nancy says:

    Thank you for your balanced analysis of the book. I love that, even in a book review, you managed to let us know about YOU!

    Ring true,
    Nancy

  6. Jen says:

    Tipper, I appreciated the comment about the handmade light switch. I need to make sure I create more of those little touches of beauty.

    e-Mom, would love to see you post some of your poetry!

    Halfmoon Girl, you may just love that bubble chapter the most!

    Renae, thank you! Can’t wait for you to read, I know you’ll love it. Are you doing a study with the friend or just reading it on your own? It would make a really neat Book Club book.

    Nancy, thanks for stopping by!

  7. Lynnet says:

    I’m so glad I found your review. I’ve been on my own journey since I started reading this book weeks ago. I could certainly relate to your “motherhood” and “dried desert mud that crackles under your bare child feet.” If I did not already have this book, I would get it because of your review.

    I wanted to know about the pigs as well!

  8. Jen says:

    Lynnet, thank you for your gracious response! Maybe we should ask Ann about the pigs…

  9. Tim S. says:

    My daughter is part of a ladies’ group that is going through this, and she and they are heavy hitters, spiritually. Daughter recommended it to my wife, so I bought it… and read it first so I could vet it, share it, and profit from it.

    The Bible, of course, deserves the top shelf of one’s bookshelf all to itself. It is indeed God’s Word to us.

    But this book deserves the second shelf all to itself. I’ve been reading books voraciously for over a half-century, and this one tops them all. I’m 6’4″, bearded, 375 lbs… and was in full-on tears over the beauty and good news the author brought me.

    Ann Voskamp is weak like me, fails like me, and wants to be who she is supposed to be, as I do. She ‘gets it’. But she tackles the biggest dragon of them all, almost accidentally, as she begins what appears to be almost a childish exercise. Along the way she discovers she’s dealt a mortal blow to the worst sin besetting us, and the denouement of story shows her still living in the real world of dishes and laundry, but living it whole and full and thankful – as the person God created her to be.

    I want to be like her. I’m working on it, and by God’s grace have seen progress. But I’m going to go back to this book periodically for reality checks.

    Read your Bible, folks, with gusto. But then get this and read it for all you’re worth. You will be amazed and astonished… and delighted as God does miracles in you. He certainly did in me, and I pray He will for my wife as well. And for you.

  10. Jen says:

    Tim S., thank you for the tremendous review you wrote, your thoughts as a man on the book are much appreciated and more rare.

  11. So who’s the beautiful woman holding the book? You, Jen?
    The book came in the mail today. Looking forward to the read.
    I notice SWBauer’s blog on your roll. We used to be good friends, when I lived in Williamsburg. We taught together at William and Mary, and I worshipped at her church some Sundays,
    Blessings,
    Anita

  12. Jen says:

    Anita, Glad the book arrived! That’s me with the book sitting on my hearth, yes. Thanks for the compliment. :-) I’ve since loaned the book to a friend and can’t wait to get it back to read a second time.

    Love the SWB connection! I’ve not had the pleasure of knowing her personally like you have, but she is largely why I homeschool the way I do. The first homeschool book I picked up some years ago was her “Well Trained Mind” and I use most of her resources in the education of my kids, like Story of the World and First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease.

  13. Thank you for this thoughtful review. I too, needed to be pointed up…to see the God-things around me rather than the negatives coming from all sides. I get a bit lost in Ann’s word pictures, but got caught by the concept of listing 1000 gifts from God. James 1:17 tells me that every good and perfect gift is from Him. Immediately upon posting the book and concept on Facebook, I got negative feedback. Beware, beware! So I went looking for a more discerning review of the book. Thanks so much for yours! A fellow stranger.

  14. John Stauffer says:

    My wife was given the book by a pastor’s wife when she found out that my wife was in chemo therapy. Cathy read the book and suggested that I read it. I began to read then Cathy took over reading out loud to me as we drove across the Oregon desert from Portland to our home in Hines. This is not a book just for women. It is a book for everyone. I am learning to embrace forgiveness and redemtion in a way that I did not know possible. There is more than just those two jewels and I suggest that wives get their husbands to read with them.

  15. Sheri Lynn Tipton says:

    The terminal illness written about in the book 1000 gifts, can someone please tell me what the illness is. It sounds alot like the terminal illness that my sons have, That illness is Cystic Fibrosis.
    Thank you
    Sheri Lynn

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