Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ann Voskamp's 'One Thousand Gifts' - a review, of sorts

My sisters and I wanted to read a book together, but since half of us live in the North West and half of us live in the South, we used a Google document to keep the conversation going. Of the sisters, R writes in purple, B writes in blue, L writes in green, and E writes in red. The book that was chosen was Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and here is the conversation that my sisters had no idea I was going to put on the blog. Do you dare read the full thing? It is lengthy, I'll admit...

7/3/11 - So BOOK CLUB!!!! I’m assuming everyone has their book now so we can begin. My thoughts are to start this Google document, and everyone can write their thoughts as we read through it. You can catch up on reading what everyone else wrote when you post your own thoughts.
You are supposed to write down 1,000 gifts before it’s all over with. I thought using the journals mom gave us would be nice - carry it around with you and write as things strike you. Write thoughts about reading here (does not need to be a tome) and post SOME of your 1000 gifts - maybe the best or most interesting ones.
7/7/11 - Chapter One
I could have written this book if I had the talent so a lot of my thoughts from the first chapter reflect the author’s. The author has a candid honesty about struggles in her life and has found the right answers. She talks about keeping the body moving to keep the soul from atrophying. Busyness keeps us from focusing on the hard things, things we don’t want to confront. “How do I fully live when life is full of hurt?” “No, God, we won’t take what you give.”  There are things I don’t have to say. "Like all beliefs, you simply live them." Why does God not give me what I want, need, the desires of my heart? Why is my life not always happy?  He has a secret purpose to fill me with glory. He is making me into His image. Since the fall, our sin has been ingratitude with what God gives. I do not give thanks in ALL things. I wonder why I should give thanks for things that don’t make me happy, things I think need to change. It is a choice to open our hands to freely receive whatever God gives. The choice to not only take His grace offered at the cross, but also to live life filling with His grace everyday. Grace in the hard things.God’s grace is a mystery. I don’t know why things happen, but do I have to? “Maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.” Like the author, I have found myself groping along, famished for more, and I have refused to let the mysteries nourish me. The holes in our life can become places to see, see through to God. “How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion?”
7/9/11 - Chapter Two
p. 32 - Eucharisteo - he gave thanks - comes from the root word Charis meaning grace. Charis - a gift for which I give thanks.  The author doesn’t start listing gifts until Chapter 3, but I’ve read part of this book before so in Chapter 2, I’ll list my first gift.
1. Sisters

7/9/11 - pp 9-41
At the top of page 15 when she says, 'Doesn't God want me to be happy?', she hits the nail on the head because I think this is a common misconception. Now, Joy can be yours, but the sooner we stop trying to make ourselves happy the better- only then can we seek God's Joy.
She has so much fear and there's nothing she can do with it. One must give it to God, it's the only way to live. This book can only get more cheerful; it's started out so mournful.
Struck w/ the thought that B. will cringe at all the sentence fragments in the book.
Was thinking that I didn’t understand these poetic types writin’! :-)
So she touches on the joy concept... (Questioning whether I do nonfiction....except of course Boethius, and for someone more modern, perhaps Sarah Baxter Emsley. Thinking I need to get R and her kids back on fiction.) Perhaps I will try the style of the author:
I wake.
Am tired.
Pot of coffee.
And another.
And another.
Full bladder.
This is how I would try to write after 3 beers. (That is a joke, btw.:)) I like what she writes at very top of page 39, that the whole life is possible when we are thankful. Thinks she must have hidden depths to be quoting Schmemann. Page 40 is also a gem.
I should never try to write a book review.

7/13/11 - pp. 36-54
Jesus gives thanks the night He was betrayed. I’ve been pondering what to give thanks for. I don’t think you have to give thanks for bad things or evil in the world. Hitting closer to home, I’m not thankful for mom’s death. I am thankful for things related to her death (lessons learned, opportunities to share gospel with others, love from family). Should I be thankful for something “bad”? Can I have an attitude of thanksgiving without being thankful for every detail?
p. 37 - I like the analogy of the wheat dying and rising again in the loaf of communion bread.
One habit must be replaced by another habit. It’s not good enough to just will to stop being discontent. You must cultivate thankfulness to drive it out.  Turning our focus to the good, pure, beautiful...gifts I’m thankful for...
2. hot showers
3. deep sleep on a comfy bed
4. long talks with friends
5. Coffee - need I say more?...
6. ...Yes, I do - Chocolate :-)
I like your poetry? haiku? How’s the ol’ bladder today? Bring on the beer...

Chapter 1&2 (pages 1-41)
First of all, thank you R for the book, the idea, and the opportunity. I love this during the summer and at this season in my life. Tonight (Wed.) I heard the testimony of Linda. The end was where she is now and what God is teaching her with her daughter having a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. She said 3 things she has learned, 1. to thank Him, 2. to trust, and 3. to praise. My small study group after the main group includes Linda and her daughter and it has been such a blessing for me these past few weeks. They are a living example of what this book is teaching. Now to the book...The middle of page 12 says, “We live with our hands clenched tight.” I’ve always liked the analogy of clenched fists being unable to receive (or see) God’s blessings. The bottom of page 13 says, “Like all beliefs, you simply live them.” What a great reminder. My view of God, of my circumstances, of my reaction to hardships and trials will be evident in how I live my life. Do I want it to be one of clenched fists or one of thankfulness, trust, and praise?
Page 14 - “That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt.” and page 15 talks about the sin of ingratitude. It’s so easy to look and think about what we don’t have rather than give thanks for what we do have. I do want an easy life, but I have one of the most blessed lives on earth! Instead of letting my blood pressure get awry when yet another piece of the interior of my van falls off, down, or stops working, I can thank God that I do have a vehicle to drive and that it has A/C in 103 degree weather! The list goes on. I cast sidelong glances when things aren’t easy for me.
Trust - page 17, 1 Cor. 2:7. His purpose in all that takes place in our lives is to mold us, shape us, bring us to our full glory, even the hardest trials. Amazing. Us writing the story would be a disaster (p. 21). We don’t know His purpose but we do have His promise, so we can fully trust His plan.
Seeing God - page 22 When our souls are torn open, we can react in such a way that opens our sight of God, of His heart-aching beauty and grow. We can wither and close our eyes or grow seeing God clearer than ever.
How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die? (p.29) See the wonder all around us. (Reminded me of Nate’s Tilt-a-Whirl book and DVD which I loved R,Thank you!) The goal is JOY (p. 32). Give thanks in everything. “Eucharisteo-thanksgiving-always precedes the miracle.” Thanksgiving allows us to see. (Ps.50:23 - page 39.) Seeing leads to living fully so that we are fully ready to die.

Chapter 3&4 (pages 42-78)
Learning - I like the emphasis she points out in Paul’s verse. I have learned to be content (pg. 47). How true this is. It’s easy to be content when life is easy, but to be content when dishes are everywhere, there are 18 loads of laundry, and everyone is starving although you just fed them a 3 course meal! To be content during times of financial struggle or losing someone or when an opportunity doesn’t happen that you wanted. To be content and thankful for God’s wisdom and providence is a learned thing. I agree that it is a habit (pg. 44). Like riding a bike, the more you practice, the easier it is! Years ago contentment followed by joy was a lot more elusive than it is now. I can look back and see that I have learned and hope to grow even more!
Pg. 45, “I don’t even know they are gifts really until I write them down and that is really what they look like. Gifts He bestows.” I started thinking more about this after reading Nate’s Tilt-a-Whirl book in E’s book club. We...I get so busy rushing through life that I don’t see all of the daily gifts all around me. I agree with her idea that writing it down helps a person to see that even simple things are God’s amazing bountiful gifts...
1. tonight’s dinner, roast, gravy, rolls, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, sauteed cabbage, eating until you are deliciously full with plenty of leftovers
2. Amazon gift cards for the sister I love thousands of miles away
3. the way a 4 year old says words and phrases
4. my dad
5. heavy whipping cream
Thanks multiplies the joy.
Pg. 49- “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” I think this is important when encouraging children and friends who happen to be of the morose personality type. I know with my kids I try to remember to not only tell them what NOT to do, but what TO do. A person has to fill the void. My husband and I have talked about this in regard to being critical of others. Instead of focusing on all their faults (we all have plenty and hope others love covers a multitude of sins!), say one good thing about this person, one thing you are thankful for. This has been good for us in regard to gossip and general frustration with others. In regard to thanks, it’s so easy to grumble, fuss, express discontent. The habit of thanks changes who you are as a person.
Pg.58 - “I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks.” This made me think of R’s comments about the bad/evil in the world. Do we give thanks for death? I agree with her thoughts. No, even the Holy Spirit grieves. Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. But in a sense we do give thanks. We give thanks not for the death but that God is working out a perfect plan, that He cares, that He loves, on and on. We grieve with hope and that hope causes us to give thanks, even in the hard trials we bear. This would be unfathomable to non-Christians. When we neglect to give thanks, we deepen the wound of the world by walking around as deeply wounded people ourselves. Not reaching a point of giving thanks deepens our wounds...bitterness, depression, etc. are some of the results. Thanks when hurt leads to joy, not happiness necessarily but joy.
Pg. 64 - “...the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life.” This is so easy for me to do! Pg. 65 - Rushing! Ends in nothing. Throws time, living time fully away. Leads to regret. This reminded me of my husband’s constant “sermon” to everyone around him. “Live in the present!” Enjoy each moment and truly be in it, not thinking about what else needs to be done, rushing through it, etc. Enjoy and slow down. He’s slowly converting this rusher! Pg. 67 speaks my thoughts during the school year. “I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long...enough time...to get it all done...”
[*Every person has the same time. It’s how we view it, how we let our minds get away from us. I find that living happily in the present makes me laugh more.*] Yes. I like this.
P.70-In the present, “I have time for God.” When I’m not in the present, I often don’t. There are too many “urgent” things to do! Pg. 74.
[*It’s urgent to live slow.*] I think of this the most with kids. It really is a blink and they are grown. It is urgent to slow down with them, really spend time with each one enjoying them, not just rushing everyone through this and that trying to maintain sanity! (There are those moments though!) I’m facing this with my son right now. He is turning into such a little man, starting high school this year. A few years flies and he is graduating. I must remember. Enjoy him! The slower we live, the more we fill, the more we are satisfied (page 76).
[*Wherever you are, be all there!*] This is the way Susie lives and it has been such an encouragement to me and an example to follow.

Thinking more on the attitude of thankfulness...When M. gave me the first gift he ever gave me, I wrote him a thank you note. I don't usually do that now, and it's not because I'm less thankful. I have become more thankful of him and all that he does, says, is, everything, but I'm thankful with my whole being. I want him to see it in all that I do - how I live. Lest anyone run away with the wrong idea, I'm sure I've written him thank yous since- notes, emails. I tell him verbally all the time, but those acts show thankfulness the way those mirrors in your play make-up you got when you were 6 show your reflection. Writing thank yous is a good thing. You are acknowledging a truth, and that's a good start. But as you become closer and closer to God, you begin to feel the truth, to see with your soul. And I don't get that from her "Hammer. Hammer. Hammer." I don't have to remind myself to be thankful for M., it's part of me. My heart acts in spite of my head. Perhaps as the book goes along she will show how she evolves into feeling the thankfulness, instead of just knowing it as a fact, but if she's trying to see using the play make-up mirror, I can see why she's so sad. You want the perfect life? Um...(ahem)...you have it. Open your eyes. Open your heart. See with your heart.
I see your point. I feel this is the beginning that she is talking about. The beginning of her journey out of unthankfulness, calling herself names, depression, etc. For her to think positive probably did feel like a hammer. She (at this point in the book) does not have the maturity you are referring to.
Um, that was a creative essay that just took the cake. It really spoke to my heart (to use a Mrs Jackson sort of phrase) to think of how I do not show my thankfulness enough to those closest to me. It may mean the most but I may not express it the most.

I'm confused as to what this book is meant to be. A theology? A poem? A self-help? A new genre? Am I stuck in the past here, people!?
On the first 1/2  of p46, she says, "I am a woman that speaks but one language, the language of the fall." That is morbid and depressing. God has written on our hearts. We are made in His image. We speak His language.
The thought at the bottom of p49, "for all that would've changed if only I had" is so true, but the context is mournful. She states that she is sad. O  k  a  y .... now think on how great the future is going to be because you've learned this! and THANK GOD He's revealed this sweet truth to you!
At the bottom of p52, her husband tells her, "When you don't have the name for something you're just haunted by shadows." This reminds me of Voldemort- "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" and Hermione telling us that fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.:)
p55-56 she talks about hearing a "lifetime of sermons" about "giving thanks in all things" and goes on to talk about the hard practice. I believe she says it this way, "Practice, practice, practice. Hammer. Hammer. Hammer." Am I the only one who thinks she is missing the whole point? Maybe she needs to skip some sermons and spend the time in an open field lying on the grass or something. Yoga? Meditation? Something. Geez Louise, I feel like that old guy that George on Seinfeld took out to lunch. He ends up telling George that life's too short to waste his time talking about when his time's going to be up, and walks out.
Not that it doesn't take practice, of course, but it's fun, invigorating, the wind in your face, ya know?
I just gotta say that the whole bubble/suds thing in ch 4 sounds like an LSD trip. "Not that there’s anything wrong with that."
At the bottom of p66 she mentions trying to "beat time". This made me think of David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed (a book on British folkways in America). Anyway, he compared the Virginians who spoke of killing time, the backwoodsmen of passing time, the New Englanders believed in improving time, and the Quakers in redeeming time. I imagine that they might think it rather silly the way we moderns try to "beat time". Ha! yeah right! It probably wouldn’t hurt to get back to the redeeming and improving. Heck, passing sounds better than beating (but I guess it would depend on what you are passing). Ahem.
Her writing is so incredibly emotional, and I know it's probably just a clash of personalities, but the more she tries to tug at the ol' heart strings, the more I balk. I hope I'm not being too critical, please feel free to disagree. I am really glad that we are reading this together and don't want to scare anyone off from sharing thoughts! I am super glad that this helps people, and I'm looking forward to it helping me to seek first God's kingdom.
Well said, funny the verbs we moderns use. Each verb has a stigma already attached to it, a feeling that generally tags along even subconsciously. E.g. When we think of cancer it’s all battle terms: fight cancer, battling cancer, hostile take-over. People are so afraid of this looming and unseen presence and people are getting the surprise left flank every day. There’s a random thought for you all. I would rather be improving or redeeming than killing or beating time.

This Thanksgiving discussion made me think of Paul speaking to the Philippians which Mrs. Voskamp quotes on p.47.   A few months ago, maybe April, I was doing a Bible study thru Philippians with a few other ladies and my thought then was Paul knew better than any of us what suffering means. He’s talking of persecution and beatings for the sake of Jesus, saying that he knows how to be abased (live humbly) and live hungry. But do I, do you? I jumped into the car driving like mad to get home before I had to be to work and the radio was on and this man was talking about a missionary friend of his who came to visit him in America, I believe is how the story goes. If memory serves, he said this guy was a Muslim who had accepted Christianity and was now preaching Christ in his own country. Beatings and persecution were a regularity for him  and the man asked his friend how he dealt with all of this expressing how sorry he was for him and how incredibly tough this must be for him. And the missionary friend replied that he was the one who felt sorry for him.  Living in America with all of his distractions and stuff. He told him, “you are the one who has it tough. Me, all I have is Jesus.”  Wow, how easily I lose focus...
As B was saying about busyness I have been guilty of that of late. I have a weird work schedule anyway so before work I’m cleaning up around the house, walking Fen, jogging, and not reading or writing as I should. Not lying on a blanket or enjoying the wind in my hair (maybe I should get a motorcycle). And on my days off giving more hair cuts or I have previous engagements to attend. Passing instead of redeeming time.
We spend so much time thinking of the next thing to do with “our” time, why? To make ourselves happy. To forget that we live in this fallen world. To forget that we’re not perfect. If we have any other choice would we live in this very Ecclesiatical world of vanity and vexation of the spirit? Confessional: I was struggling with some of these things of late, not feeling that i accomplish enough, missing Mom, feeling like the outsider “new girl” of the salon... feeling unsettled. It’s nice to be given perspective afresh and realizing that you aren’t perfect and cannot be so in this world. Me not writing on this nice thought-provoking document earlier has been due to this. I have thought of several things to say, but did not write them down thinking they didn’t sound just right or “I’ll sit and write when I have more good things to say.” I feel fat, tired, and behind “on so many levels!”  But if I was not crude and lacking there would be nothing to shape/mold and until we are the perfect woman there will always be something to shape, (even this shape).
E, I like how you said the sooner we stop trying to make ourselves happy the better then we can seek God’s Joy. Meaning these are two different things or one and the same? Because I’m beginning to think that we can be joyful and have the “joy of the Lord” without being happy. And we can definitely be thankful without being happy, which is R's point.
It felt so good to sit down ad write things I am thankful for, I couldn’t stop! I only have 50 written down at the moment and here are a few:
1. Christ’s sacrifice
2. my husband’s unconditional love
3. Honest, loving sisters
4. Comforts of Home
5. Wine
6. and I do like my coffee!
7. Brothers-in-law who love my sisters
8. Color (God could have made a very drab world)/Beauty of Creation
9. Sunshine
10. Chocolate Chip Cookies
The phrase that impacted me the most and made me start piecing together what she’s trying to say was, “How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?” (29) We can give thanks not only that Christ died for us but that we are given the opportunity to die with Him. (my thought for p.37)
I have to remind myself that the Israelites were made to wander the desert for yet another 40 years because they were not a “thankful people.” So giving thanks is not only the realization that He gives gifts to men but that we receive them in His grace. But Ann did say that we should include cancer along with that cup of coffee in our thank offerings... top of p40. We cannot fully live our lives until we are at the point of giving thanks for everything. thoughts?  
In one of her letters, Flannery O'Connor writes, "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." (Just a little something thought of.)
Commenting on E’s last post:
I agree that she does sound morbid at times, but she is openly admitting that for years she was! She seems to have been a rote Christian who was depressed and bitter about the hurts in her lives. Her style (agree is strange) seems to be her journey.
Is that a genre?  
Nowadays, yes. :-) Her emotions aren’t my style, my journey, but I can gain insight and reminders that are helpful. On to your next post. Mixed in with her early learning to be thankful meanderings are things she's learning. I agree that this is her baby stage and hopefully by the end of the book we will see the growth she experienced as a Christian. Surely she is "living" her thankfulness instead of just knowing she ought to be thankful like you said. I see the early chapters so far expressing that journey. :-) She's showing that she was at the beginning.

7-17-11 Chapters 3 and 4
Comments on sisters' writing. I like B's trio of thanks, trust, and praise. “When we neglect to give thanks, we deepen the wound of the world by walking around as deeply wounded people ourselves. Not reaching a point of giving thanks deepens our wounds...bitterness, depression, etc. are some of the results." That is good stuff. I also needed the reminder to live slow and really spend time with each of my kids.
E- I don't think naming shows an immaturity.
I’m not sure if you’re talking about my Harry Potter analogy or what I said about being thankful for M., but either way I agree with you 100%! It’s not immaturity and can even be said to be a sign of growth. What I’m referring to is when that is ALL we are able to do. Not being close enough to that other person or to God to have it written on our heart, to know it with your heart at a much, much deeper level. Does that make sense?
I think as we go along we tend to think that people know we are thankful by our actions and words are no longer necessary. We think people know we love them. Haven't we shown that all day? It still needs to be said or named. It's not all about feelings. It's about communicating in words too.
I completely agree! I know I like to hear it.:)
I really love your different thoughts. You are a refreshing breath of air and a hope for change.
Wow. I sound like Obama. jk
L - Love your thoughts. I feel fat, tired, and behind too, and like I don't have enough good things to say so I guess that puts us in the same boat. We'll grow together. I didn't start this to be a nice document with all nice thoughts. I intended it to be a document where we can be real and help encourage each other. I know I need to be molded, and I struggle. I can learn from you and B and E.
At this point, I disagree that I need to give thanks for cancer or anything else rotten about this world. I need to give thanks IN the situation. Maybe I need to mature. Thoughts?
Then I guess you are not fully living life according to Ann...? Or did I get confused somewhere along the way?
I knew E wouldn't love this book,
I like reading books that make me know my own mind better and challenge me in what I believe. Thanks again for picking it.
but there is always ebay when you're done with it. :-) I also have a couple friends who want to buy a copy. E can pick the next book as long as it's not The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. At least we agree on Jane Austen.
Ha, Ha.:) Are you sure you want me to pick the next one. There are worse things than G.G.
Nut-hu, you di-ent
This is a little strange...can someone interpret?
Sure. She said, “No way, you didn’t just say that.”
I love the way the author plays with words and uses them to their fullest descriptive power. I also love how her thankful list includes things only God would see. Sun on soap bubbles? So many things God put thought into when He created this world, we miss in our fast lives. This really struck me this year as we were studying Science. Every detail was created by God.
p. 63 "The house is a mess."  The peace dove hangs by one clear thread. I've often wanted more time in a day just to manage the life I have, but God gave me 24 hours and said that was good. "A life so full it can seem empty."
p. 64 our busyness in life leaves us no time for the source of our lives. I think it is true when we get so busy that we forget God and rely on our self sufficiency to get us through another day. I've thought that when I am less busy, I would have more time to read, exercise, have the perfect quiet time. Question for thought: Should a perfect quiet time be a goal in life?
What about just quiet times in life? There is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”
p. 65 Our fistfuls of life can end in emptiness. Ps. 36 Our busy rushing ends in nothing. That puts some perspective on my hurried life. p. 66 OUCH! That hit a little too close to home. Hurry. Hurry. And their eyes brim sadness.
p. 67 is my mantra. I don't want more time - just enough time to fully live the life I've got, to not feel hounded, pressed, wild to get it all done - yesterday.
p. 68 "I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. This totally reminded me of BRIAN! LOVE it!!! This is similar to his latest mantra, and the more I think about it, the more I think he is right on. You really can't enjoy the present while worrying about the future and regretting the past. "Wherever you are, be all there." I like her point about I AM - God reveals himself in present tense.
It's not the gifts that fulfill, but the holiness of God and the reminder of Him in the gifts.
8. Lazy, spoiled dog on the couch
9.S’s BBQ in the oven
10. Sleeping kids safe in bed
11. L’s haircuts! (mine is currently atrocious)
Life is not an emergency. This reminds me of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. God always has things under control. We are gaining time because we stand with our children on the brink of eternity.

Things I’m thankful for tonight:
Neels’s big blues
Deveril’s laugh
LanaBear’s heart
The Sisterhood!
the view from my front yard
neighbors that care about our well being
my parents
summer fruit
7-19-11  Chapters 4 and 5
I would like to go on record saying that I do not hate this book. There is a lot of good here.
Riiiiiggghhhhhtttt. :-)
She is challenging me to see everyday things as blessings to express thanks for. And to say it out loud.
I would like to disagree with Sister L on one, and only one, point. I do not believe God could've made the world drab. That would be against His nature. Oh, wait, I also disagree about the fat part.
Nice, to use my word, and yes it is mine. How right you are to disagree with me on only one point or rather correcting something I overlooked.
When she talks about needing more time, and we've all echoed this thought, it struck me that perhaps it's like money for some people. No matter how much they have they always manage to spend it and need more- lots more. Only when that person changes their spending habits do they have "more". Is time like that for us? If I change my time spending habits, will I have more? In the next chapter she says yes, and another key ingredient, giving thanks, gives you more quality time.
Ah-ha! I think you’ve tripped over something here.
I think R asked about giving thanks for cancer. It seems like the logical conclusion would be to give thanks for Satan or evil. I do believe that we are to be sincerely thankful for God's Providence over cancer or evil and how He works in and through these things. But the Scriptures tell us that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. We can be thankful for how God's Providence is over death, how He uses it to work for our good, how it fits into His perfect plan, but it is referred to as an enemy which will be destroyed. God didn't create cancer in the same way that He created butterflies. Cancer exists for the same reason that divorce or death exist- the curse of sin.
I like these thoughts, sistra. Instead of picking the next book, you should write the next book. Seriously.
So sweet.
I had all these same thoughts, but you said them so well, so my comments will say to read yours E.
The bottom of p71 to top p72 is good. Talking about how Jesus gave thanks and how that made something that wasn't enough, more than enough. When we learn this we will be powerful.
There were several things that were good in ch 5. I like the thoughts on perspective, and how we know a greater grace through "trials" which mightn't be trials at all if we only had God's perspective. Matt. 6:22-23 says it all.
"Who knows when you might climb the mountain of transfiguration?" p97
7/19/2011 mainly chapters 3&4
My critique: I too have to get past the writing style of Mrs. Voskamp. I’m guessing this is a genre too modern for me to appreciate. Poetic prose shall we say, turning each sentence into a haiku. Definitely not a book to be read aloud, because I tried. Guess I’m old-fashioned when it comes to sentence structure (son boy, God-skin, etc).
Glad this isn’t some hoity toity writing where I’m the only one in the dark!
My comments: Her message of thankfulness is good. Living in the moment is something I have focus really hard to do. But I really want to do it.
Hmmm...I thought you were pretty good at this. It does seem to get harder when life speeds up though, and you are one busy woman!
That is a compliment, thanks!
Otherwise we would miss out on so much. Let’s start with p. 58, I like the picture of “thanks soak through pores.” Though I’m not sure what she meant by “offensive to focus... on the minute.” Isn’t that what God does every day? “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not, The way of the eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on the rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid.”~Proverbs 30:18&19  Unless these are things of grandeur whereas a cheese ring is common. But to me these are things of nature, serpent, cheese, an ant building her house, all are worthy of note and no one would find that offensive least of all the Creator.
“Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering.” (58) Good line. Prayer w/o ceasing at the bottom of p. 60 was good. When she talks of having “enough” time I find it hard to relate. I haven’t really been one to think of life in those terms, guess I don’t really feel qualified to to know what enough is.(top of 68) I want to do my life well too but when my time is up I’d like to think I’d be happy to go home and leave the dishes for someone else. Of course there are a lot of things I want completed yesterday because they seem to be multiplying, overwhelming, stagnant, or I just don’t want to do them. So I appreciated, “I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment.” (also 68) Like I said, this is something I really appreciate about Susie. She takes time to enjoy people, listen, ask questions, and she does it because she cares and really loves people. I may take the same time she does and get less out of it. When she is somewhere she is there. I feel like when I talk to people a lot of the time my mind is just running to the next thing. I really have to focus to bring myself back to “they are what’s important right now.”
I’ve been training myself to be this way, but it’s a struggle because my mind has a mind of its own.
I think our fast paced society leads to some of this. Like people having a nice dinner or coffee with a friend only to pick up the cell phone the split second it rings to chat with someone else. Rude! (Unless super important-kids calling, etc.) or texting constantly when friends are all around you...in real life flesh and blood. HELLO! Back to what you two are saying...mind wandering. Yes, is hard, I do it too. Sometimes people don’t notice, but ever have the feeling yourself that you’re not important and someone is doing that to you? Eeek!
“We are always preaching and sometimes we use words.” ~St. Francis of Assisi~
I seem to learn through observation but I guess wordy preaching is good for me too.
Page 70: “Time is the essence of God...Deemed holy above all else.” So Time is His lifeblood. Though He is outside of it it came from within Him? Was it revered above Creation? Not trying to be arduous but get the gist of what she is saying before I’m as cocksure of her statements as she: Prayer can ONLY be prayer if it is with thanksgiving.
Has she read Psalms?
"ONLY can we love God in the present." Arrant. Brassy.
I would add, A bit off.
But she may be right and can ONLY arrive at this doctrine by ‘jumping in with both feet’ as it were.  
Some of what she says is a stretch to me. Don’t think God = time = most holy aspect of God.
I have to share this, this cracked me up: “I lick the chocolate off fingertips and swallow sweet down and try to open it up all the way wide.”
I busted out laughing reading this. Thanks.
I’m not sure what she’s even talking about here
her thankful heart? Weird wording....
but the implications! Sorry, I just found it funny. “Give me an antecedent!” as Mrs Wilson would say :) I do agree with her on p 72, “The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life-in my life- is lack of thanksgiving.”
And the idea of multiplying time with our thanksgiving was appealing. I hope you don’t think I’m being too hard on her. I was taught to not just read a book but challenge it, debate it a little, get a little brain exercise, plus I wan to incite more comments...
You inciter, you!
“This day is not a sieve, losing time.” p.77
Hot water
Running barefoot in the grass
homemade dresses
how lime makes so many things taste better

7/23/11 Chapter 5
p. 84 “Daily discipline is the door to full freedom. This is so true. Freedom isn’t doing whatever you feel like. You are free to get a scholarship if you have studied hard in school. You are free to run a marathon if you have exercised every day. You are free to fly to visit me if you have saved a few pennies a day. :-)
It’s not if, it is when, we will eventually lose every earthly thing. We can expect that we won’t have everything until the day we die. I don’t think this thought makes it any less hard to lose. I think God gives you the grace at the moment you need it.
Thoughts??? God is not in our debt, but if He adopts us as children, can’t we expect Him to fulfill His promises?  I don’t deserve any grace, but can’t I expect it as His child? Maybe grace does not equal what I think is good. A hard grace that makes me fit for eternity.  So far I don’t agree with her blurring the lines between beauty and ugly, between blessing and curse. Can you transform ugly into beautiful? Yes, God uses hard things to mold us, but there is a definite curse on this world. Any thoughts on God being in control of everything, but not being the author of evil?
It does seem in her writing that she isn’t recognizing the distinction. In her effort to not be distant from God, she’s doing a 180 and thanking him for EVERYTHING. Maybe she is thanking him for his work in her life through cancer, death, and fan blades chopping fingers, but she seems to be saying thanks for the actual “curse”. Strange. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Evil pains Jesus. When he was in righteous anger throwing the money changers from the temple, was he saying thank you for this sin?
Come to think of it, she doesn’t mention sin she mentions “hard providence.” So I wonder what she would have to say about that, B.
Some things in the Bible are mentioned as an abomination to God. Do we say thanks for those? Does God? She’s being a bit too simplistic although overall I get her meaning. I agree with R’s comments below that we give thanks for His providence, work, and so forth. Righteous things. Godhead decisions. NOT Satan’s curse.
Our children don't "deserve" grace from us (in the sense that they've done something to merit it), but if we are to deserve/be worthy of the name of parent we give it to them in bucketfuls. This is God's standard, the same one He follows. So, yes, of course you can expect grace from Him! Along with anything else you want! (Just as our children do from us.) He will supply all our needs according to His riches and glory (which are infinite, btw). God shows us through the story of the unjust judge to keep asking, keep asking. There is one OT verse where it says He changed His mind because of their prayers. I want my children to tell me what they want for their birthday, for Christmas. Sometimes it's good when they ask again and again. It lets me know they really want it, that they’re serious about it. (But if it’s bad for them am I going to give it to them as a present? What kind of parent would I be?) It brings me so much joy to see their faces light up and see them smile. God is pouring out gifts on us. I believe He finds joy in seeing our faces light up, in seeing us smile when He gives us something we've been wanting. On the flip side, if the child is spoiled or just so mournful that his eyes are closed, he won't see it as a gift, as a blessing. God says if He loves us, He'll help us on that part too, on how to see. Not to say that we want help. It may be grace to bring a sinner closer to God, but it certainly won't be perceived that way. The sinner feels like he is being tortured, and in a way that's true. Sinners are in the Refiners fire, and there may me a lot of refining needed.
I think having children helped give me a better glimpse of God's grace. I may not have even realized it, but I think I had this idea that God blessed us sort of grudgingly, and only gave what He absolutely had to. To be quite frank, this is bollix. Think back to the day/moment when you would've given yourself "best mom" award. The day or moment that you knew your behavior was pleasing to God. Were you more like Scrooge or a doting grandmother? You gave of yourself. You wanted to give of yourself. You poured yourself out for your children and loved every minute of it. You wanted to shower all manner of good things because of your great love for them. We are fashioned in God's image and sometimes we act like it. The grudging attitude is what we assume of God, and couldn't be farther from the truth. Although, I can see how it is disheartening when we are pouring ourselves out for our children and we forget that God is doing that for us at every moment.
I think sometimes we pray for things that are right in front of our eyes, but God is still working with us so that one day we can see them. Sometimes seeing how far we have to go can be depressing, but it shouldn't be. We are closer to the truth now. "Seek first the kingdom of God" and all the rest will be added to you. But we don’t get all the rest if we don’t seek Him first. And if we seek Him, he promises we will find Him.
It’s a good reminder to read the Bible. It will give us perspective to see, and if our eye is good our whole body is filled with light. Jesus used only Scripture when fighting Satan in the desert.  
Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life. I think dark times are a time to draw closer to God and know His comfort in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.
7-23-11  Chapter 6
I didn't find as many gems in this chapter. Although, there were a few sentences that struck me. The first is, "My head is right spun." And I think that is what my head did when I read that sentence, but I'm not for certain seeing as how I have no idea what it means. The next, "Beauty can slide dangerous." Now, the conclusion that I stumbled upon after re-reading this several times, is that there must be a slip-and-slide involved. Perhaps it is hot summer weather.
I wonder now that the book is getting further along if she’s trying even harder to come up with poetic-y phrases. Some of them are plain weird.
On p113, she mentions Num. 21:8-9, the story of the bronze serpent. This story has always been a favorite. It fascinates me. And remember arguing with B about it once.:) Not that we ever disagree now, of course.
Did I win? ;-)
Of course you did - you always win.
I’m a winner! Yea!

ch 5&6 (pages 79-121)
My first thought was that FINALLY as if hearing E’s early comment, she threw herself down in a field and took a breath! I knew E would approve. (ch.6)
I really enjoyed a sermon I listened to this week in the van by Ben Merkle, “The Principle Thing”. The message was on wisdom. In regard to trials, we see wisdom as a means to an end,  “God give me wisdom to make it through this.” “I can’t wait until life is back to normal” etc. His point is that trials, not wisdom, is the means to the end.
So trials never end? I am coming to grips with that slowly over the course of my life.
The end, the principle thing, IS wisdom. God uses trials to bring us TO wisdom. Yes, we can ask and do need wisdom in trials, but trials should be viewed as God’s obvious molding of us, bringing us to a higher level. When the author talks about perspective in chapter 5, this made me think of that. Often, it’s our/my perspective that’s all skewed up. Btw, another main point of the sermon was that wisdom is to be asked for and God says that He WILL give it to you, not might, not probably, but WILL if you ask. Loved that reminder raising kids, but off the point...
no it’s not
Back to perspective, I think in her case, because of the pains in her life, that her struggles are not our struggles. She is climbing out of a pit of depression (if that’s the right word). In my recent Bible study, a nice Christian lady recounted her past. Her brother died when she was a child (maybe in front of her?). She’s carried that sadness her whole life to the point of being ready to  die, longing to die, longing for heaven. She loves her life, but has a yearning that is good but the perspective is off. I think people who experience these hard trials have a lot harder time finding the joy we have been discussing. Maybe it’s harder to see God’s grace through and in their pain. Seems like the author is fighting to get to this point but is starting at square uno. Chapter 6 seemed like that fight, her thoughts struggling to have a right perspective but still seeming to see life itself as a trial. p115, “That is what makes us persevere through a life: to see Him who is invisible!” Agree, but again, due to my VERY blessed life, I don’t feel every day that I am “persevering”. Life is not one long trial for me. I also think this speaks of spiritual maturity. For years, we all have been maturing in joy, learning as we raise children (L, you’ve done enough babysitting to gain too! :-), gaining wisdom through various trials (Mom, Mrs Smallwood, etc.) This part of this part of the book is her trial, her growth. I’m interested to know the end. I hope it shows what E said re. more than just head knowledge. These truths of God must be in our heart as well.
I know I had other thoughts. I read this a week ago. Next time I plan to post right after I read!
Love to all!!!

7/24/11  Chapter 7
Son A slaps son B with a piece of toast and she wants to grab exhibit A by the throat? Look, I can flare up, but tempted to grab one of my children by the throat? No. She seems to have a lot of anger and she just doesn't know what to do with it. (I think I remarked on this at the beginning of the book.) p123
How does she arrive at the conclusion that she's a blasphemer because she was angry at her son's behavior? She should be upset, because his behavior isn't God-honoring. p125-6
Maybe she sees that her sin of wanting to grab him by the ol’ t is just as bad...worse than what he did toward his brother. Correction like this is not God-honoring. Reminds me of a story in Rachel J’s book on raising kids. Feeling like her frustration was justified because the child was in sin and realizing that she was excusing her own sin in the name of “correcting” another who needed it. That God was giving her a pass so to speak.
It seems she has passed the anger down to him. p127-8
She keeps coming back to how hard it is to have joy, but she's trying to keep herself. It doesn't work that way. She has to give in, let go. Stop gripping the dashboard and hang out the sunroof! She tells her son that having joy is, " Hard. Yes. So hard." p135 She must be willing to be changed. She resists grace. She is trying and she will get there, but, oh my lands, she may kill herself in the process! Which would, granted still be worth it, but is wholly unnecessary.
Ha! :-)
The statement, "We can only experience one emotion at a time." (p136) is absolutely false.
Haven’t read this far, but as a woman you are entitled to multiple emotions at once, thank you!
Under most circumstances, adverbs should really end in -ly.
Oh, and I think I have our next book picked out. (Blame R for giving me permission.) Notice I’m not mentioning the name.:)
Do tell!!! Is it something by Charles Williams?
Please no.:-) TELL ALL! I’m sure I can get it from my library.

Chapter 7 and 8 (pages 122-162)
Back to perspective and maturity. The whole scene beginning chapter 7 shows a lack of both. Children are sinners just as we are. She rages against God in her life, yet becomes so angry with her children when their frustrations lead to them raging with each other. It's all sin. People raising kids lose perspective A LOT! Instead of seeing this situation as an opportunity, a time for teaching and growth, she instantly views it in light of herself. I've failed. I'm sucker punched. Why did he mess up my perfectly good flower-pickin' morning so to speak. Me. Me. Me. I understand this. I know from experience the grip of ME. But I have been so blessed to find perspective change. This sinful child has just spilled his sinful heart on the floor for all to see, now as a mother, I have the opportunity to bless this child. He may need to be blessed with a spanking, verbal correction, teaching God's word, and love, but it's an OPPORTUNITY. Children are growing; they are spiritual flower buds. Stem green. Bud not opened. Hoping for flower maturity not deathly petals falling.
Head knowledge that hasn't reached the heart yet. She seems to recognize this at least. "...make sure you tune your senses to see His grace, urges theologian John Piper." (p. 129)
Very dramatic...son is angry (p.130) "Who can witness the dying, but how can I leave him?" Seriously! A bit of an eye roll here. I've had angry sons, but come on!
I like the reminder to remember God, the well of joy and grace in every situation. To find gratitude in stressful situations. It changes us in that situation. "We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see. " (pg. 135)
Pg. 139, " But wells don't come without first begging to see the wells." She's talking about finding joy, seeing God in the midst of difficult situations, people. This is so true when we are looking to change our sinful man nature. Begging God to change our hearts, seeking Him in the difficulty, yearning to grow into Christ-likeness. It does take work on our part.
The sunflowers have moods apparently, down turned faces during the yelling, upturned faces at the thanksgiving. We don't have that there kind in the south. Must be some fancy Canadian thing. Eh?
Pg. 146 is golden. Stress is a joy-killer. Do not let your hearts be troubled, but trust. Pg. 153, "...remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust - to really believe." Pg. 159, " There is no joy without trust!"
Does she not believe in article adjectives?
HA! No....
The end of chapter 7 was good, but again, she seems to be simplistic in giving thanks for everything. Reading to the end makes things clear. I understand and agree. God must be fully trusted. Our black times are not always understood. Sometimes we may not ever understand until eternity, but we need trust. Some of her writing seems to indicate thanks for evil and it unnerves me. I'd prefer a clearer theology on this.
I’m still wondering what happened with the sick pigs. She never let her husband explain. Ah, well, maybe they flew away along with her antecedents, articles, and adverbs.
Page 85: Ann talks about the dead boy, thinking that could have been her son. “Am I prepared for this?” And how would you have prepared, I would like to ask. People die, hard times come, but do you have to be prepared for it? How can you? She repeatedly questions the motives of grace/God.  As if God’s grace is a band-aid to patch up our wounds every once in a while. Instead of something He wants to give. “A reprieve...” Didn’t she start this book by saying she was a “woman of the Fall?” So what did she mean by that if not that we live amongst sin? But grace picks us up when we fall and brushes off our knees. We smile and say “Thank you, God for being there yet again when I was stupid.” Man did not ask God to die for him. We would never do such a thing, we are too brazen and arrogant. But God chose to send His Son to die for our sins. Grace washes over our whole lives, it rains on the just and the unjust. But He still gives us hard lessons. There is evil in this world since the Fall. It’s like she’s trying to work herself up to being happy all the time and rejoicing in sadness (what a great leap that would be). God is good. He gives grace to the humble. He takes care of His people even if it’s with hard growth, e.g. wandering for 40yrs.
Summary: God is good, all that He makes is good, it’s all about perspective, and it’s Satan who takes joy away. “I grip the card and I know all our days are struggle and warfare and that the spirit-to-spirit combat I endlessly wage with Satan is this ferocious thrash for joy.” (90) Like she’s replaced Eve in the garden and that serpent of old tempts her with the same apple and she keeps biting it, each time saying, “O darn, I fell for it again!” I like 93 about getting more than we even remember to ask for or even when in rebellion God gives us another day. According to p.97 transfiguration is the key, darkness into light, bad into good, grief into grace, etc. Do you see this in your days?... What stuck with me from Merkle’s last sermon: We pray so that God’s will becomes our will. CH 6, p.106, “I’ve only come to witness.” I liked that. I finally felt some sort of culmination in these two chapters. A summer of pain. A summer of grace. Wherever pain there can be grace. (108) As I was reading this chapter I thought of Mom and how she would smile at our differing opinions and thoughts. How she loved to hear them! How we think, how we grow, and how we work together in doing both. I feel like a “grace thief who doesn’t have time for thanks” sometimes. (116) Joy hurts?(top of 117) Has anyone else experienced painful joy? The next absolute in her theology, in case you missed it, “Praying with eyes wide open is the ONLY way to pray without ceasing.” Her moon experience reminds me to re-read George MacDonald’s The Light Princess.
July 27
So, I was reading chapter 7 yesterday looking for gems. Ann takes me through the agonizing toast-slapping scene (previously discussed by E), analogizes herself to a broken Hagar of all people, and my eye catches the bottom of pg 125 with “Because you believe in the power of the pit.” What the H--- does that mean? I continually feel in my readings that I’ve missed something, but then I realize she missed explaining herself. She may be discovering gems along the way that will hopefully stay with her in life’s long journey and give her good reminders. But I feel that if she has to tell herself these things over and over and “slam hands down on the table when I’d like to grab hold of his throat” then she’s just not getting it, and I’m not getting anywhere with her. Some things that she’s been saying and even some of her wanna-be-illusionary wording clicked when she quoted Annie Dillard (127). She speaks of transfiguration, but that means changing shape therefore making “ugly beautiful” a moot point. This book just doesn’t speak to me and I was getting increasingly depressed, esp. pg 130 talking of rejecting joy, not wanting joy, wanting to follow Satan, etc. How do you not want joy?! I have it at the moment and would like to keep it. Joy is the presence of the Lord. I’m so glad if y’all are finding gems in this book and it’s showing you ways to better yourself, but I’m not sure if I can read much more of this. R, please don’t take this as a personal attack, you did not write the book, and you are probably seeing beyond what my dim eyes can see. I’m so glad you got us on this track of writing down our thanks, and remembering to have joy. But let’s have some joy instead of just reading about Mrs. Voskamp’s seek for joy. Let’s laugh together!
The scene where she asks her son if he’s happy and he replies that he’s happy when he’s alone, I thought, “Great Gadfry! If I was living with this woman I’d feel the same way!”
Who the H is Gadfrey, and is he really great? :-)
I’m thinking I need to change my mind and make y’all read the whole book after reading this. Muuuuaaaahhhhaaahhhaaa! It’s good stuff to see the sisters put people back on track and hash out the correct theology/Biblical worldview/how to have joy/etc. I have to admit I’m uh...not even done with Ch. 6 and was hoping for some redemption in later chapters, but for those Type A personalities among us - won’t mention any twin names - it’s time to move on to E’s gem of a book. It’s a short life and don’t even have time for most good books. By golly, I’m not going to waste time on fruf. I did enjoy the first part of the book a lot. It struck some chords, good thoughts in a different way - should have read to the end before book clubbing, but I like making you suffer. It’s good for your soul. Now, go find some joy about it!

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