Sunday, January 19, 2014

Joy, Sorrow and 1000 Gifts

I've been reading Ann VosKamp's book One Thousand Gifts and have been for a while, a long while. 

I usually can burn through a book in no time but I am soaking this one up. 
I am cynical. Bill is sometimes appalled at the amount of cynicism that can ooze out of me. Occasionally he has been fearful that our car will be struck by lightening because of something I have said and yet, he loves me anyway.

I am not a bandwagon person. I don't usually believe the hype about a New York Times Bestseller. I've lived though many "it" phases as a part of church ministry so I tend to shy away from anything that is going to change my life with a prayer or 40 days of anything.
It was with caution that I read the first pages of this book but her riveting story about the death of her little sister and the indelible imprint it left on her family sent through me a lightening bolt of "that's me".

I lost both of my parents by the time I was 17. 
My mom became sick and fought cancer from the time I was 3 or 4 until she died when I was 10. 
My dad died of an irregular heartbeat shortly before he was to get a pace maker.

Ann relays that when her sister died it altered the family she was born into. 
It, in her words, sent the message "no, grace" and "no, God".  

I remember having the thought when my mother died; "At least nothing bad can happen to Dad." Seven years later he was gone.
It clearly taught me that;
  • There are no guaranties.
  • Life is hard.
  • I've got to do this myself.

I turned to Christianity as a guarantee, subconsciously, of course.  My best chance at making it was to be on God's side even though secretly I struggled to believe in a good God. Anything bad that happened as a normal course of life left me wrestling with the concept of a loving God. A counselor once told me that I needed a philosophy statement of suffering. I took every trial as a personal indictment that I wasn't loved and that He was unnecessarily hard on me. I felt a little like Job when he said; "Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?" Job 10:10.

Ann Voskamp bravely puts out that her family walked through life as if there was no God.
I've very rarely seen such honesty in a Christian book. Most of the time I have found them too formulaic- you do this and you will get this. I don't get that impression with this one.
She relates the story of her sister but doesn't dwell on it. The subsequent chapters talk about finding joy in life and that the wellspring of joy is thankfulness. She begins the journaling of 1000 small gifts and the lessons learned in the process. 

Since I have mulled on this for a while, I am ready to begin my list. I don't want it to be a trite, "I am thankful for my family or my job" kind of thing. I want it to be a deeper gratitude of things simple and complex. 

I woke up determined and purposeful that I could begin the list of 1000 things I was thankful for. Ten minutes later the determination and joy making was already challenged and thwarted. Oh well. 

I'll begin anyway. 

Happy Sunday,



  1. My parents are still alive, so I can't imagine how hard it was for you (and your mother) to lose both parents at such a young age, Katie. I hope you are able to shed the sadness through your journey and I admire your courage to try.

  2. Oh, I so feel your pain and I am still reading the book. I started reading it before Christmas. I'm only on my 50+ gift because I let the holidays steal my quiet time. I've started another book but since reading this, I must go back and pick it up. I lost my baby brother when I was 14, he was 5. He was our late baby.(You can read about it in my blog, 2nd Row Piano Side) Mama's depression made me have to take care of my 9 year old sister and my brother went away to college that same year out of state) Our family went from 6 to 4 in less than a year. Mama was driving the car. I was in there. I realized through therapy that I always thought mama wished it had been me. I lost my parents 3 years ago within 6 months of each other. I then began to deal with the demons of my past. A great therapist and God and soon 4 years later, I am beginning to heal. I can't imagine going through it so young. Grief as you know is a very personal thing and where it may take one person a year, it has taken me a lifetime. God bless you as you are on your healing journey.

    Prayers and Blessings,

    1. Oh my word, Bonnie. Thank you for sharing with me. My brother, John, was the one to be our "mom" after ours died. He has carried burdens from that as well. I've had healing along the way and now it is time to have true joy, something that has eluded me for decades. Prayers to you as you continue to heal.

  3. I don't know this book, but I gravitate towards anything that inspires me to to focus on what to be grateful for. We seem to be bombarded by life's hard knocks, and it really helps to remind ourselves of something positive every day, no matter how tiny. I am sorry for the pain you went through as a child. My mother went through that very same thing. She lost her mother at 7; her father in her early teens. I hope your 1000 gifts bring you peace.

    1. Oh wow. I'd love to hear your perspective of growing up with an orphaned mom. It hasn't always been easy on my family. My first gift is my heated seats in the truck. I'll have to work on getting some that are a little deeper than that, :) but I love the genius behind those. Have a great day.

  4. All of us has an end to this world. God created us and he is the only one can say that he will get our lives back. Thanks for sharing your heart breaking story.
    spiritual thoughts

    1. Thank you, Ren. His timing isn't what we would like but He has a plan and purpose. The path to finding joy isn't easy. Have a great day.

  5. Thought provoking post. I lost my Dad when I was 10 and life has been a struggle for me as well. It's all about recognizing you have a hole in your heart and accepting it. Reaching out a big hug to you, Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. To you as well. I know what you mean about the hole. Have a blessed day.

  6. I have heard of that book but haven't read it. It was good to get your opinion of the book. It sounds like a good one. Sounds like you've had to learn about the hardships of life early on. I'm sure that made a lasting impression on you and affected the paths you have taken ever since.

    1. Let me know if you start to read it. Thanks for coming by, Kelly.

  7. Thank you for sharing such a personal and painful part of your story. I'm so sorry you had to go through so much trauma at such a young age. I came across 1000 Gifts about 3 years ago while going through one of the darkest times of my life. I was browsing books on Amazon and it was down at the bottom of the page in one of those "you might also be interested in..." spots. I had never heard of it, and I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but it was the pretty cover that caught my eye! The first chapter was available to read online and once I read that, I needed to know more. I bought it and read it (3 times) and I have to say it has been (outside of the Bible) the single most life changing book I've read. I, too, was skeptical of another Christian "formula" book or random "gratitude list". I wanted to WANT to really live. Not just to survive this life, but to regain the meaning and joy I had lost.
    I was completely worn down and in so much pain but looking back now, I know it was no accident I came across this book at that time. I continue to be inspired by Ann Voskamp and follow her on Facebook and read her blog regularly { } It is a continuing process for me, but I have so much more hope and joy now.
    Thank you for being brave enough to share your struggle here, and letting us walk the journey with you, Katie! A big hug to you today.

    1. Thank you, Jeanette. I hope the same will be true for me with this book. Thanks for your sweet comments and your willingness to share your journey. I pray your story will help others in their dark places.