Ann Voskamp seemed to have it all – a loving husband, six strapping children to raise and educate, a farm in which to live the rural dream. But her discontent ran deep: “I look in the mirror, and if I’m fearlessly blunt – what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I’ve got – this simply isn’t enough.” However, she started stepping into a nourishing new way of living through a simple dare emailed to her by a friend: “Can you name a thousand things you love?” And this list-making mother/writer/homeschooler started a new list: “1. Morning shadows across the old floors; 2. Jam piled high on the toast; 3. Cry of blue jay from high in the spruce.” Her life has never been the same.
Through the act of naming things for which she is thankful, Ann started to see God’s handiwork where before it was hidden. As she says, “This writing it down – it is sort of like … unwrapping love.” Where as previously she felt anxious, weary and tired, now she was feeling joy: “I can hardly believe how it [makes me happy], that running stream of consciousness, river I drink from and I’m quenched in, a surging stream of grace and it’s wild how it sweeps me away.” A new habit is born through the glimpses of graces throughout the day. A new habit that shapes her soul, reorienting it back to God. Moving from clenched hands to open, cupped hands, ready to receive.
Many friends had recommended Ann’s book before I got a copy. The day it arrived I read the first chapter through a veil of tears, being moved by her account of the death of her toddler sister when she herself was just four. But other books got in the way and several months passed before I read it on holiday in Ireland. The amazing rugged beauty of my surroundings provided a stunning backdrop for the beauty of Ann’s prose. Her writing calls forward striking images from the earthy setting of farm life. Spiritual truths are grounded in the stuff of life – making them all the more compelling.
As an editor I couldn’t help notice the times she flouts some of the rules of grammar – and gets away with it. Such as with adverbs: “…feel my pulse quicken fierce” or “…the sun rolls across wheat warm.” Her unusual usage made me slow down and ponder her word pictures.
One to read and reread slowly, for the spiritual truths she unpacks are deep and potent – namely, that to live fully in God’s kingdom, we must give thanks. And so on holiday I too started a list of thanks: “1. Sound of waves lapping on the lakeshore; 2. Fluffy clouds kissing the tops of mountains; 3. Irish soda bread…”
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp (Zondervan, ISBN978-0310321910, £10.99)