Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reflections on the First 82 Pages of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Many thanks to gifted and gracious blogger Kim Arnold at Margery Raves On for giving me a shout out last week. I do appreciate it. But, my greater debt of gratitude to Kim as well as to my friend Marion is for pointing me toward the writing of Ann Voskamp.

“Where have you been?” you might ask.

No, I haven’t been living under a rock. But, in the last five years, I‘ve written almost five screenplays, three fiction manuscripts, and multitudes of devotions and articles. So much of my reading has been instructional (screenplays can be a bear), or in the genre in which I write. My blogosphere reading has been limited. But, after I felt God leading me to write One Ringing Bell, I knew I needed to familiarize myself with what was going on out there.

Kim had quoted Ann several times over the past months, and then Marion showed me her copy of One Thousand Gifts. So a few weeks ago, I clicked over to A Holy Experience.

Oh, my.

There aren’t enough adjectives.

Gorgeous, healing, penetrating, heartening. These are a start, but only a start.

I bought One Thousand Gifts and started reading a couple of days ago. I’m on page 82 now.

Some thoughts:

As I read, I kept having this déjà vu sort of feeling. Whose writing am I reminded of when I read Ann’s words? I couldn’t quite get it, until I came to her chapter “A Sanctuary of Time.” Then I knew. To me, Ann’s style is reminiscent of that of Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard. It especially reminds me of Dillard’s writing in An American Childhood.

When I was getting a major in art, something we kept coming back to is seeing. Really seeing is the difference between just drawing a table, and seeing the nuances in the wood grain, the curve the lathe fashioned on the leg, and the place where someone left a glass sitting too long. It’s the difference between any old table and that singular place where my family has shared life and meals for many years. Seeing means locking into the specifics.

When Ann Voskamp encourages gratitude, she’ s encouraging us to really see the world around us and give thanks to God for his infinitely gracious hand in all things--in particulars and in this moment, which leads me to my next point of resonance.

In the late nineties, I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress due to a traumatic event in the present, which linked to a deep wound in my childhood. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get over it. The intensity of the fear and anxiety cyclically repeated like a ill named merry go round ride in a house of horrors.

One of the ways out for me was to lock into the wonder of the present moment—to stop borrowing trouble and “what ifs” from tomorrow. To look for the good in my time right now. That’s why my post a few days back which referenced Philippians 4:8 is so central to who I am. “.. whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right…think…” In order to get over PTS, I had to allow God to change the way I think, and that meant moving away from negative thinking. When I discovered on Ann’s blog that she had suffered from agoraphobia, I so understood that what she espouses is absolutely life giving to anyone suffering from stress or anxiety. And really, who doesn’t in some degree? I once filled out a questionnaire at a doctor’s office, which posed the question, “Do you suffer from stress?” I laughed aloud and wrote, “Does anyone ever check ‘No’ here?” The doctor later came in chuckling, and said, “Only the ones who are really out there.”

Ann writes about a transformational dream. For me, dreams have brought so much healing to my life. God has spoken repeatedly through dreams in ways I perhaps could not hear in my waking hours.

And about hurry. One of my biggest battles. S-L-O-W D-O-W-N I say to myself many times a day. I learned when getting over PTS, that one of my problems was having a much too long list for the day. I woke in the morning with an agenda, which ten people could not accomplish, and then felt like a failure at the end of the day when I could not finish it all. This all exacerbated the hurry. Now, when I wake, I allow myself three items on my list, my doable list. At the end of the day, I feel good about what I’ve affected. “Hurry always empties a soul,” she says. Yes, yes, yes.

There’s so much more, but this post is already too long. Okay, just one more thing. All the birds and eggs. My office, my entire home is covered in birds. From where I sit now, there’s the bird print in the window treatment, a bird hanging from the rod, birds on a calendar, birds on a table. Even in my screenplay and novel, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, birds and nests play a role. Birds are to me a powerful symbol of hope and freedom birthed out of a fragile shell.

So, thanks again Kim. Thanks for pointing me to beauty. And thank you for being beauty yourself and for your faithful witness and inspiration in the midst of almost unimaginable challenges. I find a blessing in everything you write.

If the rest of you haven’t read One Thousand Gifts, do not delay in getting a copy. It’s been rising on the NYT bestseller list for several weeks now.

I’m done for now, but no doubt there’ll be more later here on Ann Voskamp’s engaging teaching. I'm off to read, but I can't read her work too fast, as I have to take time to digest and savor.

For those who’ve been following the story of the kittens, you’ll be happy to know they came inside last night and we made it through the storm with no incident. We closed up the other two cats from Belle, who is a terror on wheels when it comes to other felines. Have no idea where we’ll go from here, but watch for a Ringing Bell news update later in the week.


Lilyan West said...

I wholeheartedly agree with all you say about Gifts. Was at Border's with my son when the beautiful bird eggs caught my eye. I ditched the book I'd come to read, started that, and couldn't go home empty handed after that. I'm reading it rarely, as I so dread finishing it. L.W.

Beverly Varnado said...

Yes, I'm taking my time, as well. So much to think about.

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