Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thoughts on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts

One Thousand Gifts - a bookI finally finished Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, approximately one month after I was supposed to have it read for a book group. Total fail, I know.

It was interesting. She has the mind and heart of a modern day mystic. She dwells on the small things, the beauty around her. She's a farmer's wife and the mother of five (?) children, and her writing just oozes the picturesque homeliness of rural life. Hard work, raw honesty, family, home-grown faith. The hints of her life story are gritty and raw, and I do love that she's so obviously worked hard to study the scripture and wrap all of her theology and belief in it. It's a contrast to many homemakers who leave personal study to others.

Ann has a really unique writing style. I really still don't know if it drove me crazy or I loved it. It is filled with metaphor and incomplete sentences, but she is consistent and intentional in her style. For instance:

A soap bubble, skin of light and water and space suspended in sphere. Who has time for that?...
 The wonder right in the middle of the sink. Looking for it like this. I lay the palm under water and I raise my hand with the membrane of a life span of moments. In the light, the sheerness of bubble shimmers. Bands of garnet, cobalt, flowing luminous....
 The bubble in my hand quavers, a rainbow at fringes. 

And blind eyes see: it's this sleuthing for the glory that slows a life gloriously. It's plain, bubble straight through: Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention. In this space of time and sphere, I am attentive, aware, accepting the whole of the moment, weighting it down with me all here

The book is sort of a life theology built around gratitude/thankfulness/praise, which she encompasses in the word eucharisteo.  It is all a stream of consciousness, beginning with a vivid description of the life and beauty around her as she works, then melding into her thoughts and pondering. In that, it appeals to women like me. Daily life and beauty mixed with theology makes it come alive. She wrestles with the reality of suffering, with the daily grind of life, and how it all relates to grace and love.

I love her passion for beauty, for raw spirituality, for love and truth implemented into the quiet ministry to her family, kids, community. I loved the reminder to worship. I love Ann's heart - it's evident in her blog and in the way other bloggers she encounters are changed and refreshed by her quiet love.

I was skeptical (what? me? skeptical?) at a number of points at the suggestion that the problem with the world and humanity can be summed up in ungratefulness and can be solved with thankfulness. It got deeper than that, and some of what she has to say is quite profound. Still, I think that some of what Voskamp wrestles with throughout the book may not be the same things that others are wrestling with, and so the disciplines that are her solutions really may not hit home with others who struggle in other ways. Personally where I really resonated with her the most was in her wrestling with the reality of suffering and evil in the world.

All in all, interesting book, gorgeous writing, and a stunning heart. I also wrote of my more emotional response to the book here, specifically how her writing reminds me to look and long for beauty.


Jaimie said...

Great review! I am a fan of Anne Lamott for this kind of thing; I think because she's less family-oriented which better matches my stage in life. I should read another book by her. She's so inspirational.

I love that you are skeptical!

Kacie said...

And you know, I thought I'd love Anne Lamont, because usually that style of writing is my type of thing. But I didn't. She felt... rootless. Does that make sense? In any case, I had a hard time putting my finger on why I really didn't enjoy her writing.

Jaimie said...

Rootless? As in, she doesn't have a husband...? Not very family-oriented?

Kacie said...

haha, no no, nothing on that sort of thing at all. More in the way she works her theology and philosophy about life. I like it when people think out of the box with Christianity, but I felt like she was taking the parts of faith that suited her and throwing out the parts she didn't particularly like. It seemed one-sided to an extent I was uncomfortable with, which made me feel conservative - hah.

Jaimie said...

Oh I gotcha. Yeah, she does do that a bit. That's why I like her. If something doesn't work, by all means throw it out.

Anonymous said...

Her point about gratitude reminded me of what St. Ignatius of Loyola said:

"It seems to me, in light of the divine Goodness, though others may think differently, that ingratitude is one of the things most worthy of detestation before our Creator and Lord, and before all creatures capable of his divine and everlasting glory, out of all the evils and sins which can be imagined. For it is a failure to recognize the good things, the graces, the gifts received. As such, it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins. On the contrary, recognition and gratitude for the good things and gifts received is greatly loved and esteemed both in heaven and on earth."

-St. Ignatius in a letter to Simon Rodrigues, March of 1542.