A Book Review:
It’s a few minutes after 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, just under 48 hours since my much anticipated copy of One Thousand Gifts arrived in my mailbox, and I just finished the last page.
I hadn’t intended to plow through it so quickly; I’m certainly not a speed reader. But the book is powerful. It merits a second or third read, which I will do while taking part in the online book club at DaySpring that begins in a couple of weeks.
I am so eager to share my thoughts about the book with you. But first let me say this. A week ago in our small group, I mentioned that God has given me three words for this particular time, three words that He keeps putting up as holy billboards along my spiritual path as I read and study His Word. Those three are: the Word, grace and servant. And yet again, through One Thousand Gifts, God is using Ann Voskamp to reveal so much to me about His Word and grace and being a servant. Thank you, Ann, for serving with your words.
That said, what’s the book about? Well, Ann took on a friend’s dare to list one thousand gifts from God. Written down by hand. This inventory process, this counting of blessings, revealed to her Whom can be counted on, and it profoundly changed her life.
In the book, she shares some of that gift inventory and weaves in many of her life experiences and struggles for joy. Some are raw and heartbreaking. Some are poetic and magnificent. All are real and honest. Throughout the telling, Ann vividly illustrates how grace and thanksgiving lead to joy and the full life Jesus came to give her — and all who believe in Him.
Ann has contemplatively weighed each word of One Thousand Gifts as a skillful painter mulling over each brushstroke. Collectively, her words become a true masterpiece — inspiring humility, encouraging gratitude, challenging ingratitude, and pushing readers on to trust God, to serve Christ and to experience life more abundantly: joy in Him.
What I love about Ann’s writing is how descriptive she is and how she carefully crafts her stories to tie in the everyday ordinary — like dirty laundry and mud-tracked floors — with extraordinary spiritual insights. I also love that her writing overflows with quotable, memorable lines.
So, here are 21 of my favorite lines from the book:
1. “On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.”
2. “Life is dessert — too brief to hurry… I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks and see God.”
3. “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).”
4. “…suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart — and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty. Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son? What in the world, in all this world, is grace? I can say it certain now: All is grace.”
5. “All beauty is only a reflection. And whether I am conscious of it or not, any created thing of which I am amazed, it is the glimpse of His face to which I bow down. Do I have eyes to see that it’s Him and not the thing?”
6. “How we behold determines if we hold joy. Behold glory and be held by God.”
7. “The truly saved have eyes of faith and lips of thanks.”
8. “The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. And it is the art of gratitude that makes joy possible. Isn’t joy the art of God?”
9. “Christ incarnated in the parent is the only hope of incarnating Christ in the child — yet how do I admit that people made in the Image can make me blind to God, my own soul contorting, skewing all the faces?”
10. “Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry. We can only experience one emotion at a time. And we get to choose — which emotion do we want to feel?”
11. “But the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”
12. “And trust is that: work… Are stress and worry evidences of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, to keep gaze fixed on God? …Isn’t joy worth the effort of trust?”
13. “Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism… I can’t experience deep joy in God until I deep trust in God.”
14. “Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks. Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks — from known to unknown — and know: He holds.”
15. “All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him.”
16. “Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing — and are filled.”
17. “While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.”
18. “The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy — nothing else.”
19. “My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy.”
20. “It’s the astonishing truth that while I serve Christ, it is He who serves me.”
21. “The servant-hearted never serve alone. Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone.”
I’ve read the phrase “All is grace” at the end of Ann’s blog posts. I’ve probably read it more than a hundred times. And now I am starting to understand. All is grace. All is grace.
Ann, how you have blessed. Thank you! And please know that I thank God for you! You’re on my list!