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Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

I heard about this book by Ann Voskamp over and over for years, it seems.  To be honest, I’m not even sure how long its been available, but it feels like it was years, anyway.

I always meant to read it and just never got around to it.  And by “got around to it” I, of course, men when I was finally looking at buying books, I never could remember that I wanted this one.

Am I the only one who does this? Resolves to do something and then only remembers at THE most random times, and never in a situation where it would make sense that I would recall such a thing?  *sigh.  This is my life.

Back to what I was trying to say… (sidetracked much?!)

I finally bought the thing.  And it was in a moment where I had randomly remembered it and was just so annoyed that it had taken me so long to finally remember it that I think I just pulled out my phone and bought it off of amazon right away.  Didn’t even give myself the chance to forget again.  Just knocked that sucker out!  Done and done.  I would now finally own “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are” and could check it off the list.  Boom.

When it finally came in the mail, I unpacked it and set it on my night stand.  And it sat there.

And sat there.

And sat there still.

Until finally I picked it up one day, and it wrecked my world.

It was like I had started reading something that I should’ve read YEARS ago!

So much of this book was filled with things I had grown up hearing, but never really heard.  Then again, I don’t think it had ever been spelled out quite so clearly to me before.

Full disclosure, I’m still not even done reading it.  BUT unlike most books, this is one that I read in spurts, rather than trying to get through it all at once.  And in this case, that’s been best for me.  I mean… this book is pretty heavy.  It’s not the kind of book I can read in an airport while people are coming and going and things are noisy and such.  It’s one where I need to really focus in on it.  But that’s really just because it is so spot on for me.  It’s hitting me right in the gut each time I open the thing.

I can read it and be so hit, right where I am, and then go several weeks or a month or two without reading anymore of it.  And then pick it up again on some random day and in a completely different situation and then be absolutely hit right in the face yet again.  It’s incredible.

So I should probably get to the gist of it, right?  Alrighty. Touchy touchy. 😛 Here goes.

According to amazon, here’s the “back cover”:

Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long–and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted…a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!

I don’t even feel like that does it justice.

It’s about gratitude… sure.  But it’s about a kind of gratitude that I haven’t really strived for before.  And I’ve always been one of those people who tries to be sure I’m grateful for the job I have and the house I live in and the people in my life.  Say thank you for even the little simple things people do for you (opening a door, etc) and making sure to seem genuine.  All of that is great, but it’s still not the kind of gratitude that this book talks about.

It’s about a deeper, completely heartfelt gratefulness for what you’ve been given in your life.  Everything from those I mentioned above (job, car, etc) to things like baby giggles heard down the hall, or sunbeams peaking through curtains on a quiet Saturday morning. Everything.

Ann has a blog (you can find her over at www.aholyexperience.com) and started out years ago challenging herself to list 1000 gifts, or 1000 things she was thankful for by a certain date.  And what she came to discover through this process was so much more life-changing then she ever imagined.

I’ve gotta admit, I’m starting to discover the same myself… and I’m not even finished reading the book!  I feel so strongly about it that I can’t even wait until I finish it to recommend it.  It’s THAT good, y’all!

So there you have it.  This book is incredible and I absoFREAKINlately recommend it to anyone in search of peace.

Peace is something I’ve been actively pursuing since picking up this book and it’s the only thing that seems to have brought me any progress.  Turns out I needed to evaluate what it is I even though peace was and daggum I was WAY off!

Please do read this book.  You’ll be glad you did.

~Hope

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Value In This Season

I had an amazing opportunity recently to attend a Question & Answer session along with my mother-in-law just before a Kari Jobe concert. I’m so glad that we did because it was awesome to get a glimpse of her heart in person.

While we were there, she and the lead singer of the Rend Collective Experiment answered anything from questions about her dog, Hippie, to questions regarding their writing inspiration and also gave advice to worship leaders. It was pretty great, and it felt like I was having a one-on-one conversation with them (minus the little fact that the questions were coming from a Twitter feed and not from me, directly). At anything rate, she said something that has played over and over in my mind since that night:

“Never underestimate the season that you’re in.”

Besides just being a great reminder in general, it really hit home with me during my current circumstances.

I whole-heartedly believe that everything we encounter holds a purpose. If we are honest (which is just my m.o.), it’s an easy phrase to file away for the good times, and overlook or try to brush past during the harder times.

Knowing this is true doesn’t make hard times less painful. It doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt or scar. And it certainly doesn’t make us immune to sadness or give us a “Get out of trial free!” card, just because we say we believe it. We are never promised a life free from tragedy simply because we believe in an ever-loving, all-powerful God… But it DOES mean that when we DO face these hard times, we can rest assured that the God of the universe, the one who literally formed each star and placed each individual freckle or beauty mark onto our bodies – this God… MY God is greater than my circumstance at that moment.

The season that I’ve personally been in, lately, has felt full of growing pains. I had been coasting and then suddenly things weren’t as easy peasy anymore. I couldn’t really point out any one difficult moment that seemed to signal the beginning of this stage, for me, but looking back I can see that it has gradually been pushing me further and further.

Difficulties with coworkers that are beyond my control. Family struggles that can’t be ignored. Big changes in Studly’s and my life. Sudden major work projects popping up with near-impossible deadlines. I mean… Even trouble at the vet, with the dog! Just random stuff popping up all over the place. And throughout all of it, I feel like God’s also been growing my levels of empathy, when I’d frankly just rather be mad and annoyed with people.

There’s been this reminder that people have their own “stuff” that impacts their behavior, whether they can recognize it or not. That to some, their perspective is their “truth,” even when it is actually quite the farthest thing from absolute truth.

Man… I really didn’t plan to get into any of that, but I guess it came out for a reason.

I’ve also just been in this state of “transition” for quite some time with regard to my heart and church and music. Studly and I have actually been outside of a traditional church for several years. And it’s important to note that this is not easy for me.

I was raised in church. Pastor’s kid through and through. And in our house, you didn’t miss church unless you’d thrown up more then once before we left to get there. And that was the case for Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and even Wednesday night youth game time… Not to mention any other event that my parents had to attend. Basically, it was not optional and not only did we have to be there, but we had to LIKE it, dadgummit!

So when Studly and I left our church a few years back (which is a Tory in itself), we jumped right into finding another. Unfortunately, it was really not an easy process. I won’t get into it right now, but it really was tough and we just couldn’t seem to find a church that had what we needed at that point in our lives. We prayed and prayed, but just didn’t feel like God was encouraging us to attend any of the ones we’d tried and also didn’t feel him pushing us in any other direction to finding one. I was totally uncool with this.

It took me quite a while to be okay with this, and it wasn’t something that I really became comfortable with at any one point, but it seemed more like it happened gradually, and then one day, I looked up and realized that I didn’t NEED it.

**I feel it’s necessary to add in this disclaimer: I do not encourage anyone to take this as me saying it’s a good idea to leave your church or that I support people not being involved in a church body. In fact, I always always always encourage the opposite. This is just the retelling of a story of a season that we went through, personally. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

I’ve learned SO much through this season in my life. And though it’s something I used to swear I’d never do, I think it’s been extremely humbling. God has had a purpose for this season in our lives and because of that, I’ve grown in ways that I, myself, wouldn’t have if we had stayed in the church or if we’d tried to just attend somewhere to be able to check that box, so to speak, in our lives.

So when Kari said to “Never underestimate the season that you’re in,” it really hit home. I can look back and see the growth. And frankly, I can see some of what I’m having to learn now, even still. Without the season in my life, I wouldn’t be the person that I am, today.

Who I am in Christ doesn’t depend on my status as a churchgoer. It doesn’t rely on how many of my friends are saved or whether or not I agree with gay marriage. My salvation does not require that I read a certain version of the Bible, follow Joel Osteen on Facebook, and repost conservative political articles when I come across them.

My job is to love others; to strive to be like Christ in every facet of my life; to be an example of his grace to this cold and confused world. And I absolutely believe that it has taken this season in my life to truly grasp that on a whole new level.

I hope that this is something I can remember and look back on for many years and that it’s importance and impact doesn’t fade. But more than anything, I hope that I can remember to be present in every season of my life, and not forget to place value in where God has me, rather than where I think I should be…

Ha! As if I could possibly know better than He does.

~ Hope

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