I have a confession to make. I’ve been avoiding Ann Voskamp.
When I first heard about her book, One Thousand Gifts, right at the beginning of summer, I was intrigued. Many of the bloggers I followed were talking about the things they were thankful for on Mondays, numbering each of them and I was surprised to see some in the 600′s and 700′s. When I realized they were linking up with Ann, and that it was because of her book, I was determined to get a copy for myself.
And I did. I bought her book (Kindle Version) when it was on sale in July. I had purchased a few things all at the same time that I had wanted to read for a while, but I was really looking forward to One Thousand Gifts.
Eagerly, I downloaded the book, “opened” to the first page, chapter one. And it begins so innocuously:
Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness. - Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I begin to live.
And I settle in for a memoir of sorts, a winding song-story of words. But she dives in before I can catch my breath:
They say memory jolts awake with trauma’s electricity. That would be the year I turned four. The year when blood pooled and my sister died and I, all of us, snapped shut to grace.
Standing at the side porch window, watching my parents’ stunned bending, I wonder if my mother had held me in those natal moments of naming like she held my sister in death.
As she continued, the tears sprang up and my heart shattered into one thousand pieces. I made it through the first chapter, but couldn’t bring myself to read more for fear of shattering those thousand pieces into a thousand more. Her words, so smooth, were sharp daggers, ripping at me. It hurt to read those words. I was already bleeding from other trauma, my own story, and her story was more than I could bear.
So I put it away. I didn’t go back to it, I don’t even remember finishing the first chapter, though I’m sure I must have – the Kindle bookmark is somewhere in the second chapter.
But that wasn’t the end of Ann. She kept popping up in unexpected places, like a letter written to an expectant mother, and I stumbled upon a wondering about finding time to pray. And people just kept quoting her, over and over again.
Then she wrote about Velveteen Mothers, shortly after I felt to write a velveteen story of my own. And I thought she was so much better than me, I built a false pedestal. I didn’t worship the Ann sitting on this pedestal, I feared her. I feared that she would challenge me to be better, to be different and I was happy and burdened with what transformations I was already going through. So I learned to recognize her words before reading them in my heart and I would just skip over what she had to say. I put her words into boxes with labels like “Not now” and “Another Day”. I tied the boxes up and put them under the stairs to collect dust.
And it was quiet for a little while. Oh, I read things that moved me to tears, to a better place, but there was no Ann to tear apart my careful construction of a platform-in-progress. But I peeked at her trip to Ecuador – the one her husband went on – and I couldn’t contain it, so I ran away again.
Her true humility, her honest kneeling accosted me each time I read her words and I put her above me, even though she was constantly lowering herself.
But then she wrote about Radical Christmas and asked whose birthday is it really? And I was done for.
So I’m pulling out the faded boxes, the dust-encrusted book, the heart-transforming words. I’m bracing myself for thunder and rain, and for joy and grace. It’s not going to be easy. I don’t think I have enough tears. But it’s time.
As Ann has said:
It’s time to take mine down and start building the altar.