For my chapter-by-chapter reviews of One Thousand Gifts, click on the following numbered links: Chapter One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. And one other post. I hope to finish my review of her book in due time.
NOTE: Please notice that I have now begun my reading of Ann's book, probably more in-depth than most readers. So the post below, which was written quite a while ago, has been superseded by other, more current and accurate posts on this author. Comments on this post are now closed.
You know Ann Voskamp. If you're a female blog-reader, you've probably come across her blog, A Holy Experience. Indeed, you may be one of her avid followers. I'm not, but I do read her sometimes, picking out those posts that dig deeper than her poetic style, into the heart of issues that cut into the Christian life.
|This photo lifted from the WORLD Mag article.|
At first I was truly put off by her writing style. Yeah, I know she's a poet, but does that mean she has to remove all prepositions and articles? Okay, that's an exaggeration, but it's the first thing I noticed about her posts. I'm an English teacher; I can't help it. That minimalist style is okay in a poem, but in prose? Nails on a chalkboard to me. And I'll say that in the past two years or so, she's moderated her style. I cringe though, when I read other bloggers who are clearly imitating her. Ugh. She's writing like herself; that's what they should imitate -- be yourself, bloggers!
Ann gives an impression of great intimacy on her blog, as if she's speaking to you, her best friend. Blog ladies find this very appealing. Intimacy, however, requires two, and I found early on at her site that if I wanted to contact her, I had to enter the name and email address of another friend first, and that left a deep sense of "ick!" with me. I didn't go back again for a while. If you want to know how friendly she is, here is her hello-to-the-new-reader page. And for what it's worth, I think she's sincere. But I also think this is a business now, a big business, probably bigger than she was anticipating.
Ann's most known for her new book, One Thousand Gifts, a best-seller and appreciated by her many fans. I haven't read it, but from what I gather, it's a book about being thankful for the gifts God gives us. She did this on her blog -- made a very long list of the diverse things she's thankful for. One thousand of them, I think. And many other bloggers are following her example. If you see a random list of bizarre items on the bottom of a post, numbered #377, #378, #379, you know you've found a Voskamp reader.
And she's been a huge help to so many people. I was prompted to do this post on her, because today I read an article in World Magazine on Ann. The writer noted that Ann does have detractors. I suppose every well-known person does. And I was forced to ask myself, "Self, are you a detractor?" And I am not. I think Ann Voskamp is wonderful. Some of her style and her schtik do not appeal to my preferences, but what are preferences? Phooey, as Nero Wolfe would say. The woman doesn't answer to my preferences.
It's her content that intrigues me. A recent post, "What to Sing in Your Storms," is a good example. She's watching their bean seeds get washed away by rain. A farm family's income for the year. She sits with her daughter, who is thanking God for everything, for every drop of rain! And Ann's assessment of why we must thank Him for absolutely everything was as deep, and hard, and shocking, and as Biblical as it gets. Voskamp says:
"...we have no knowledge of good and evil apart from God; my seeing, it is not omniscient. Can I really see if a death, disaster, dilemma, is actually evil?" (Let's count the human tragedies in history that have eventually worked out for immense good. Corrie ten Boom? Ann Frank? Solzenitzen's imprisonment? Bonhoeffer's death?)
"Giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God." (Excellent imagery there)
And this one, this one cut me to the quick, and I have returned to read it over and over, wanting it to cut again, and deeper, so that the incision remains, a scar that will remind me of its truth:
"But this is not easy: That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem."
All of the things that I refuse to be thankful for, I am denying that God can redeem for my benefit, and for His glory. It doesn't mean He won't redeem them, but it means He will do it while I stand by, saying, "I don't believe." What shame that is for the child of God.
This is getting rather long, and I haven't gotten around to what I wanted to say about Ann Voskamp. Where does the depth come from? This is a woman who is: beautiful, classy, wealthy (yeah, we can see her home, her fabulous school room), with beautiful kids and a devoted husband. She lives near family and has a Christian heritage. From what I can tell, the most gut-wrenching crisis she's ever experienced personally is that she was ridiculed by some other girls in middle school.
I mean, seriously. My daughter's been through that. With one paragraph, I could easily outstrip Ann Voskamp in the category of "personal trials."
And so I'm wondering, where does her depth come from? Because that kind of deep understanding about trials and suffering comes from only one place: experience. She deftly applies God's Word to human suffering, but that's a mechanical task, for anyone who doesn't have the cuts in her heart first.
That's why I'm trying to figure out Ann Voskamp. Because the cuts in her heart that produce these thoughts really should come from more than just some nasty words flung at her out of a school bus window. Not to underestimate the viciousness of an 8th grade girl or anything.
If I could talk to Ann, I'd ask her, where do your deep wells come from? That's what I'd like to know.