Ann Voskamp

Second in the ongoing series of influential contemporary writers

If I’d been thinking more critically, I might never have taken a second look at One Thousand Gifts. I saw it reviewed on Goodreads -- three of five stars. (A good review, or a “meh -- decent but not exciting” review?) But I took it as good, and looked it up on Amazon. And the preview got me.  Thanking God might be a dull concept, something I already know about, right? But it's hardly going to be a book of platitudes when the writer describes mourning the death of her sister in childhood, If she learns to thank God after that, she might have a story to tell. So I purchased the book to read on another trip to Uganda, and started reading it on the first long flight (Detroit to Amsterdam). On the one hand the concept still seemed routine, and the examples seemed repetitious. Surely one could easily complete a list of 1000 gifts in one sitting if you concentrated. Thanking God for every atom in your body would get you into the billions times billions.

But the book also got me thinking deeper, looking beyond the immediate. We had bulkhead seats, so I looked at the airplane door just in front of us. How detailed the manufacturing must be, and how often the air seal must be tested, for it to feel so routine to be flying through the air with an unbreathable and lethally cold near-vacuum just outside.

I reread it again on another trip to Uganda. Voskamp’s struggles with the meaning of her name, “Ann” meaning full of grace, and feeling she lacks grace resonates with me. I take up my list I’d started of named gifts and decide to continue. Restarting the list opens my eyes anew to the wonders around me -- renewed wonder at colors, and shapes. It is this world, and none other, that God has made, and it is good. God surely loves details, for he’s made so many of them.

Another significant thing I learned is to give thanks even for hard things. She writes of Jesus giving thanks for the bread at the Last Supper, thanking even for the suffering he will endure.

I realize too there is something old and familiar in Voskamp’s message. Back in 1975, I’d appreciated Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounting his discovery of God in his Gulag years. “I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: ‘Bless you, prison for having been in my life.’” So thank you, Ann Voskamp, for reminding me to thank.

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