Will Increased Thanks = More Joy?

That is the question I look forward to researching myself over the next several months. I have recently returned from a 12-day spring break vacation/college touring experience with my family, and during that time, I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know I’m late getting to the party, as this book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a crazy long 60-weeks, and it just hit one million copies sold. This was not a book I received from Booksneeze, but one of two I picked up independently to read while away.

If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’m a true non-fiction reader. If I’m needing “escape”, I’ll turn on the television. Therefore, after I had finished the book, I was surprised to read that the criticisms of One Thousand Gifts have centered upon Voskamp’s ‘poetic voice’, ‘too many metaphors’ and ‘long descriptions’. Usually, you’ll find this type of writing in novels and I’m the first to close the book. I’m impatient with all the flowery-stuff and just want information. So, I wondered how I could have fallen so head over heels for this treasure that I’m presently re-reading.

As I turned the final pages of One Thousand Gifts, I leaned back into the chair I was in at my father-in-law’s place in Florida, and had two immediate thoughts:

1) Do I even know Him? I was overwhelmed by Voskamp’s willingness to pursue God at the depth she does.
2) I too began searching for God in the endless, seemingly small things as I hadn’t before. I was practicing eucharisteo at a baby-level and didn’t begin writing anything down until last week.

I don’t know if my new decision to record 1000 gratitudes on paper will elicit the same joy, adventure and peace as it did for Ann Voskamp. I hope it will, because like her, “I am a woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall – discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied.” (Page 46).

I wouldn’t classify myself as a gloomy person by any stretch, but I can definitely lean toward the serious, joke that I’m humor-challenged (thank God my kids have a well-developed sense of humor!), and often believe that I should be experiencing more joy. Without a doubt, I have been ungrateful for what I do have, often laser-focusing on what I ‘should have’ but don’t. This is not pressed upon me by anyone. I “self-condemn” all on my own. I usually see a better way of doing many things, and while that “critical eye” is valuable in my professional work, on a personal level, it simply increases the “never-satisfied”. After reading One Thousand Gifts, I’m fairly confident that my discontentment is attached to my ingratitude.

Although my daily life is strikingly dissimilar to Ann Voskamp’s, there are threads of sameness that all of us as parents feel – the routine; the often mundane; the wish for more joy but the inability to capture it while immersed in the time consuming family responsibilities. Throughout this past week, I have (coincidentally?) come across no less than four other affirmations that this relationship is real between thankfulness and contentment.

Beyond the search for thankfulness in everything – even the “hard eucharisteo”, Ann openly shares the journey of her deepening faith over the months numbering gratitudes. She reveals the slow overcoming of a painful childhood, and confusing and self-condemning young adult life. Immediately in Chapter 1 she acknowledges believing the same lies we often do:

“..that God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.”

“…(that we are) discontented with what He’s given…I have desired more.”

“If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold…”

She is also generous to show us that the daily challenges remain, despite the new found joy in thanksgiving. The daily challenges are now viewed in the light of gratitude.

With my newly begun list sitting at a mere 33, I confess that I’m enjoying the “chase” as Ann calls the hunt for gratitudes. I also don’t need much prodding to write in fresh notebooks, like most other writers/bloggers reading this post! If you’ve read One Thousand Gifts, I welcome all of your thoughts about the book.

34. For the small blog I keep; the visitors and commenters; the followers, and the interesting people I communicate with across the globe. 🙂

Ann Voskamp’s daily blog.

Image linked to One Thousand Gifts on amazon:

AnnVoskamp

Ann Voskamp, Author

The Storm Inside

The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are by Sheila Walsh was a pleasant surprise. I made the wrong assumption that this would be another “self-help-sort-of-book” with a Christian base, but it was sincerely so very much more.

The book is written for women, and dives into the depths of their internal and often unspoken struggles. Confidence and insecurity are addressed, but other topics such as the prison of regret, shame, and the feeling of unworthiness make this read highly meaningful and relevant.

Throughout the book, Sheila is careful to explain that no woman has it all together, none are perfect Mom’s, daughters, wives, etc., and she tells readers how to stop believing the lies. Walsh states, “We must replace the lies we have believed for the truth of who God says we are.”

Sheila Walsh’s intention is for women to live free of fear and the feeling of insignificance. She wisely notes that women can often feel things like shame, without even having a reason to be ashamed! She also seriously deals with letting go of past mistakes and not allowing them to define you.

“…believing is a choice. If you wait until you “feel” worthy of the love of God, then you will die waiting. We must receive by faith the truth that Christ has made us worthy.”
Sheila Walsh, The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are

I received a copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.The Storm Inside

 

Downside Up

The essential theme of Downside Up by Tracey Mitchell is to deeply believe in our personal value despite varying forms of rejection.  Although we all experience rejection at some point, Mitchell determines for her readers to “not revisit the pain of rejection”.  Instead, she reminds us that “you are worthy of relationships where you feel loved, treasured and appreciated.”   

Mitchell covers relationships and a host of other practical, real-life examples where rejection can gain a strong hold on your mind and negatively affect your future.  She emphasizes being “selective in what you hear and speak.” Words are indeed powerful, and we should be cautious about who we listen to.

The book’s greatest strength is its foundation upon biblical truth.  If we strive to see ourselves as God sees us, we will be overcomers when faced with rejection.  This does not come naturally and requires “self-talk” that reflects His love and absolute truth. The end of each chapter contains Chapter Principles, Words of Wisdom, a Power Quote and Plan of Action.  These are worthwhile sections to read and meditate upon.

In summary, I’m not sure that the title of the book effectively previews the contents.  The writing is much more than “transforming rejection into your golden opportunity”. That tag almost sounds like a business proposal.  Instead, it’s a deeply meaningful read about a regular renewing of our minds, living life intentionally and growing in self-acceptance.  Mitchell shows us that if we practice her suggestions, our lives will be richer and more satisfying as a result. Thanks to BookSneeze for providing me with a copy of this text in exchange for my honest review. 

Billy Graham in Quotes

Billy GrahamCollected from his astounding 7 decades of boldly proclaiming the Gospel message, Billy Graham in Quotes, is a treasure.  Compiled by Franklin Graham with Donna Lee Toney, this 400+ page book is a wonderful reference that anyone would want on their desk for wisdom and encouragement.

An “anchor verse” is provided at the beginning of each of the 107 alphabetized categories.  Subjects range from “Billy Graham on Abortion” to “Billy Graham on Young People” with 105 topics in between.  Examples of the book sections include: anxiety, character, God’s will, prayer, success, pride, encouragement, family and religion.  As stated by Franklin Graham in the forward: “The quotes contained in this book are taken predominantly from my father’s writings from 1947-2010…”

The book is well-organized for easy access to the variety of topics, and the majority of the quotations are brief enough for quick inspiration. I’ve highlighted several scriptures and quotations throughout this comprehensive reference.  This is a text that I will reach for again and again.

I’m confident that most people will enjoy reading Billy Graham in Quotes.  It provides guidance for living a life of integrity every day. This book will be on my must-give list this Christmas!  Thanks to Booksneeze for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

Is College Worth It?

There are two dominant themes throughout the book Is College Worth It? by William J. Bennett and David Wilezol:  1) overpriced higher education and 2) considering the heights of underemployment and unemployment currently rampant among recent college graduates – a questionable return on students’ investment.

Bennett and Wilezol provide an impressive amount of outstanding and worthwhile research connecting everything from the underlying social reasons for attending college, to the “prestige” associated with high priced universities. They ask meaningful questions with potentially life-altering high priced answers.  Should everyone go to college?  Does higher education actually produce graduates who are trained to begin working?

This book is an excellent read for parents and students who are starting to consider their college decisions.  While the research and tone of this book are largely designed to inform families with traditional-aged college applicants, the book contains information for non-traditional students as well.  I also recommend searching out and reading the highly informative charts in the book, such as: Best Value Schools, Colleges Ranked by 30-year Net ROI (Return on Investment), and Top Ten Majors by Midcareer Earnings.

Bennett and Wilezol aren’t saying that no one should attend college, but they subtly question whether so many should be attending.  As a college educator who has taught adult students for 16 years, I have some insight into this topic.  Observing the financial strain and severely limited professional opportunities for those who do not have a college degree, my verdict is:  everyone needs some form of higher education.  To even have an average middle-class lifestyle, my personal primary research indicates that an “affordable” college degree is a vital means to that end.

BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. pic_giant_is-college-worth-it_051813_A