I'll be blunt and say right off that I didn't want to read the book. See, the author's writing style just doesn't work for me. (And judging by the reviews, I am the only person on the planet who feels this way.) Where others see "poetic prose," I see odd syntax. Honestly, it's a little hard for me to read phrases like "my eyes have rolled haughty" or "the radical wonder of it stuns me happy," sentence construction which would earn a red mark on a composition assignment. Then there are sentences like "I fly to Paris and learn how to make love to God" which is, grammatically speaking, a perfectly fine sentence, but is way over the top for me. Actually that entire chapter ("the joy of intimacy") is over the top for me. But enough of that; let's get on to the good stuff.
Anyway, I did buy it. Last week I was feeling lonely and edgy because the seminarian was going camping for a couple of nights and I was going to be the sole adult in charge at home. I just don't like that. So, I wanted some comforting reading. I wanted something new. And I read yet another blog post about it and... went right over to Amazon and placed my order. It was inexpensive, I got free shipping, and I had it in my hands less than 24 hours after ordering.
And so I started reading, and I found that... it's a good book. In many places, a very, very good book.
The basic premise is simple, though not easy: start being grateful for the gifts in your life, and you will see more and more to be grateful for. You will experience God and your life in a different way. You may find the joy you've been seeking. This idea of hers has been around for a while; you may have seen blog posts with gratitude lists. Maybe you've posted one yourself. If not, you can see what that's all about here. I think it is true, that the more we find to be thankful for, the more we will see God, and the good, in our lives. It's the stopping to see and notice that's so hard to do.
There is more. She quotes Isaiah:
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungryIsaiah 58:10-11 (ESV)
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
Yes, the more we give of ourselves to others, even to the point of emptiness, we will be filled. Fulfilled. This is good to read on a night when you're exhausted, and anxious, and feel like you've given away too much.
One review I read (don't ask me where, please) included the comment that Mrs. Voskamp is not "someone who's studied theology in a seminary for years" (paraphrased) as a positive about the book. I like theology students; I'm married to one. But this is not a theology book and it should not be read like one. It's a very personal book about one's woman's experience with God and loss and gratitude. And change. It's raw and emotional and sometimes painful to read. Her doctrine and theology may not be a perfect fit for yours. But it's her own story.
So after all I'm glad I read the book. I'm glad I could separate the message from the style. I still think it's odd that I felt compelled to buy it after I hadn't wanted to. It's also interesting that just about every word she wrote about worry applies to me right now. I'm in a sort of worrisome time of life these days. So it was good. Comforting and convicting:
If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting,
then to choose stress is an act of disbelief... atheism.
Yikes, right? Hard to read, hard to think about.
Oh, and I started my own gratitude list. I'm not likely to blog it; I enjoy reading others' but it's a little too personal for me to share with the world (small as my blogging world may be). It's been only a few days but I can see the value in it, particularly when I turn something scary or annoying or worrisome into something to be thankful for. And that, of course, is the point.