Let me just start by saying this book has to be one of the most amazing books I’ve read this summer. I was deeply challenged by it and I plan on reading it again as soon as possible, so I can make sure I squeeze all that I can out of it. It’s such a simple concept – dare to live fully right where you are. The impact this book had on me was powerful. I was changed and inspired.
The beginning of this book doesn’t start out happy and cheery. In fact, it started out surprising relatable. Life is painful. The author, Ann Voskamp, recalls the death of her three year old sister in their front driveway. Her sister, Aimee, was hit by a truck driver who never saw her coming. Ann watched as her parents held on to their bleeding, dying daughter. This traumatic event shaped the course of Ann’s life and the family she would grow up in. Not all of us have experienced such a life altering circumstance, but in many ways, we can see how life has brought us pain and we have been hurt. We live on a fallen planet and we see the evidence of it all around us.
Each chapter of this book is like a layer. Each chapter builds the foundation for the next. I found it really interesting that it would seem like each chapter in itself could be the end of the story, but as you read you discover that there is more. This was reassuring to me. God didn’t give Ann this great revelation over night. Her transformation took time. She didn’t go from bitter to thankful in the course of twenty four hours. It was a long term process. In some ways the journey to thankfulness was a goal, a determined direction.
Ann was challenged to make a list of one thousand gifts from God. She started to jot down the little things she saw around her that she knew were gifts. This gave her a new found happiness. Through the process she learned to be looking for God’s gifts at all times, always keeping her eyes open for the work of the Lord. She always learned to see God’s gifts in the pain and the things that she wouldn’t claim as positive. The process from joy to pain, from distrust to trust in God, from bitterness to thanksgiving (or thanksliving as Ann puts it) is astonishing.
I loved the simple nature of the challenge. One thousand gifts… it may be many, but isn’t each moment a gift from the Lord. The good moments and the hard moments? I loved seeing Ann discover gifts in the simple moments of everyday life. She is a home-school mother to six children. Her husband owns the farm they live on. At times I found myself so swept up in her domestic life and finding the blessings in the simplest of moments. It wasn’t about big flashy times with God. It’s more about taking the moment to notice how the bubbles in the sink reflect the sun. It’s about smiling as you watch children play in the snow. It’s about the sights and smells of home. It’s about the love that is in your life.
Living life to the fullest right now means truly feeling everything. Ann says, “Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to truly living.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. How many people have allowed themselves to become numb because the pain just hurt too much? How many people are missing out on joy to save themselves from pain? Another quote that deeply impacted me was, “Darkness transfigures into light, bad transfigures into good, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full. God wastes nothing – ‘makes everything work out according to his plan.’ (Ephesians 1:11).” Grief turns to grace, empty turns to full. This is what I want in my life, what I crave.
I could go on and on about the scope of this book. How it can take you so far in only a matter of pages. It has challenged me to look for one thousand gifts. I started a journal just this morning and I plan on documenting one thousand gifts just as Ann did. I expect my journey will look different than hers. I desperately pray that the destination will be similar. I want to have the joy of seeing God in all things, I want to get to the place where I can see the good in pain, and I want my life to be a testimony of thankfulness. One last quote to end, “Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be undone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but one that we yearn for: Joy in Him.” This is my prayer, this is my calling! I want to live my one life giving to many lives knowing that it will be more rewarding than I will ever expect to experience.