I began reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp on Thanksgiving Day, 2013. A friend recommended it to me, shortly after my miscarriage. I didn’t really know what to expect–frankly, I didn’t even know what the book was about–but it was recommended with such enthusiasm that I knew I should give it a shot.
I read the first chapter or two in November and I was truly impacted by the words. The book is unlike anything I have ever read–the words are poetic, gorgeous, heavy. Voskamp’s writing just draws you in to a different place, a different time. I put the book down throughout the month of December, not because I wasn’t loving it, but because I didn’t have a ton of motivation to read and One Thousand Gifts requires full attentiveness. I picked it up again a few weeks ago on a weekend when I just really needed some rest. Five hours and 160 pages later, my heart had been given new life.
Now, I am a firm believer that the Word of God alone can change hearts and change lives, because it is God Himself who speaks through Scripture. However, I believe One Thousand Gifts is one of the most life-changing books that I have ever read, in addition to the Holy Word. The main premise of the book is based on the understanding of the word eucharisteo which is seen in Luke 22:19:
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…”
In the original Greek, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.” A short delve into the makeup of the Greek word eucharisteo reveals its root word is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus gave thanks for the bread because he recognized it was God’s grace, God’s gift. Eucharisteo also holds a derivative of chara, meaning “joy.”
In a recent interview, Voskamp explains this concept best:
“Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo; the table of thanksgiving. The holy grail of joy, God set it in the very center of Christianity. The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity. Doesn’t the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving?
One of Christ’s very last directives He offers to His disciples is to take the bread, the wine, and to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me. Remember and give thanks.
This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo.
Why? Why is remembering and giving thanks the core of the Christ-faith? Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust; to really believe. Re-membering, giving thanks, is what makes us a member again of the body of Christ. Re-membering, giving thanks, is what puts us back together again in this hurried, broken, fragmented world.”
So what does this all mean? In short, that a life built upon remembering the graces that God has bestowed upon us and wholeheartedly thanking Him for those gifts, is one that will experience ultimate joy. Voskamp reveals in the book her own personal challenge to list on paper 1,000 gifts that God has given. Ordinary, everyday, beautiful gifts. She reveals her struggle with listing these gifts on the hard and painful and I-just-wanna-snap-at-my-kids days, but how doing so allows her to refocus on the Father and His faithfulness to her.
Since reading One Thousand Gifts, I have been compelled to also begin a gift journal to record the everyday blessings in my life. I haven’t physically begun to write these things down yet, but even just dwelling on them for the past few days has greatly changed my perspective. Times when I wanted to respond harshly to my husband, grow in frustration with my son, or indulge in my own selfish desires, thinking about the graces in those situations has helped me to refocus my attention on Christ and alter my attitude or words accordingly.
I so love this book because it reminds me that even in the midst of suffering, pain, and seeming abandonment, the Creator of this world has lavished such perfect and good gifts on me.
All I have to do is look.