I've been reading Ann VosKamp's book One Thousand Gifts and have been for a while, a long while.
I usually can burn through a book in no time but I am soaking this one up.
I am cynical. Bill is sometimes appalled at the amount of cynicism that can ooze out of me. Occasionally he has been fearful that our car will be struck by lightening because of something I have said and yet, he loves me anyway.
I am not a bandwagon person. I don't usually believe the hype about a New York Times Bestseller. I've lived though many "it" phases as a part of church ministry so I tend to shy away from anything that is going to change my life with a prayer or 40 days of anything.
It was with caution that I read the first pages of this book but her riveting story about the death of her little sister and the indelible imprint it left on her family sent through me a lightening bolt of "that's me".
I lost both of my parents by the time I was 17.
My mom became sick and fought cancer from the time I was 3 or 4 until she died when I was 10.
My dad died of an irregular heartbeat shortly before he was to get a pace maker.
Ann relays that when her sister died it altered the family she was born into.
It, in her words, sent the message "no, grace" and "no, God".
I remember having the thought when my mother died; "At least nothing bad can happen to Dad." Seven years later he was gone.
It clearly taught me that;
- There are no guaranties.
- Life is hard.
- I've got to do this myself.
I turned to Christianity as a guarantee, subconsciously, of course. My best chance at making it was to be on God's side even though secretly I struggled to believe in a good God. Anything bad that happened as a normal course of life left me wrestling with the concept of a loving God. A counselor once told me that I needed a philosophy statement of suffering. I took every trial as a personal indictment that I wasn't loved and that He was unnecessarily hard on me. I felt a little like Job when he said; "Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?" Job 10:10.
Ann Voskamp bravely puts out that her family walked through life as if there was no God.
I've very rarely seen such honesty in a Christian book. Most of the time I have found them too formulaic- you do this and you will get this. I don't get that impression with this one.
She relates the story of her sister but doesn't dwell on it. The subsequent chapters talk about finding joy in life and that the wellspring of joy is thankfulness. She begins the journaling of 1000 small gifts and the lessons learned in the process.
Since I have mulled on this for a while, I am ready to begin my list. I don't want it to be a trite, "I am thankful for my family or my job" kind of thing. I want it to be a deeper gratitude of things simple and complex.
I woke up determined and purposeful that I could begin the list of 1000 things I was thankful for. Ten minutes later the determination and joy making was already challenged and thwarted. Oh well.
I'll begin anyway.