I picked this book up after ignoring it for a long time. In my arrogance, I tend to ignore books that get a lot of hype and popularity. I know I should try to read more of them to know what the good folks of St. Andrew’s might be reading, but I often struggle to do so. Christianity Today had a nice write up about Voscamp and her graceful tone convinced me it was time to pick up her book. I read it over the holidays when so many gifts are flying around it can be hard to keep track of them all.
The critic in my found her use of grammar annoying. She has a little trick of putting an adjective at the end of a sentence, at first it seems graceful, but quickly it felt forced and clichéd. There was a lot of poetry (but in a bad way) to her noted gifts, they too at times felt forced, and like mine would never be as “just right” as hers. Perhaps she just lives on a different plane than I do, but I find Chesterton’s quote, “our perennial spiritual and psychological task is to look at familiar things until they become unfamiliar again” hard to live by compared to the enthusiasm and clarity that Voscamp brings to the project.
Now here’s why you should read the book: we could all use a little more gratitude in our lives. Eugene Petterson once said something along the lines of, “the pastor’s role is to spy out grace.” I like that but I think it is the rightful posture of every Christian to seek to find God wherever He is revealing Himself. This project of Voscamp’s, writing down one thousand gifts as she notices them, could be helpful to many people. I won’t be doing it, such projects rarely increase my level of satisfaction in life, but perhaps it can help you.
I live in a place where the grey of winter has set in and many who live out here could use an answer to the question Voscamp asks, “how to live in a state of awe when life is mundane and ordinary?” It gets no more ordinary than living in a small town with three little kids, grey skies, and energy to burn, dishes to wash, clothes to clean, homework to do etc…
Furthermore, watching Voscamp as she travels her road is a beautiful and intimate act. She lets the reader in on a very personal journey. This is a rare feat. Her transparency doesn’t feel like the immodest money-grab that some first-person journey books feel like (Elizabeth Gilbert). It seems much more as though Voscamp sincerely wants to let others in so that they will know that they are not alone when they struggle, when they lack faith, get bored or tired. She wants to demonstrate the growth she lived so that others who need it might be able to follow the path she trod.
And she seeks to give us a way out of a rut.
I was surprised, but I must admit that her little book has a lot to offer.