Q&A: Ann Voskamp

Previously unknown author Ann Voskamp became a publishing phenomenon in 2013. Her book One Thousand Gifts came from nowhere and ended up spending more than a year on the New York Times’ best-seller list. Ruth Mawhinney finds out more.

Q: One Thousand Gifts has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 60 weeks now. Was there any fear attached to it being so successful?

So much fear! It’s one of those things where we say we want to live surrendered to the Lord and we offer up our story to the Lord to do with whatever he likes.

I have shed many tears and bowed my head very, very low, because you feel like you’re in the presence of God doing something that makes no sense. I’m a farmer’s wife in Canada, there was no platform involved. There was nothing involved in terms of marketing it, so it’s only what God’s chosen to do.

Q: What does the book capture?

The book talks about two sides of one coin, which are joy and pain. Augustine says the goal of man is ultimately to find joy. At the same time we’re dealing with excruciating pain, living this side of heaven, and brokenness. The book is exploring how we find joy in the midst of our brokenness. In the last three years, one of the greatest gifts for me has been to hear the stories of other people going through such difficult, dark places, and how Jesus has met them as they have chosen to bend their knee and surrender and thank God in the midst of everything. This is how you can live through anything.

Writing down things we’re grateful for gives us a new perspective

Q: The book talks about thankfulness as a key part of finding that joy. What do you say when people tell you, ‘I can’t be thankful; life’s too hard. But I want to start’

I think picking up a pen or a pencil and starting to write down things we’re grateful for ‐ it gives us a new perspective and changes things for us. Satan doesn’t want us to do that or step into any kind of light at all, as the scales fall away.

I tell people to use that pen like a sword, and use it as a weapon to fight for joy in the Lord.

Q: How have you seen this exercise in thankfulness change you?

For me a lot of it has to do with fears. My first memory is my sister being killed in front of me when I was four. So I had ulcers by the time I was seven and was cutting myself through my teen years, and then having full-blown agoraphobia and panic attacks by the time I was 19 years old. So fears formed me. The world seemed like a terrifying place.

I knew in my head that ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 John 4:18, NKJV). But it’s about migrating what we know in our heads down to a much more visceral level, to our hearts. For me, writing out the things I was grateful for really made me realise ‐ we see it all the way through the Old Testament, the Israelites ‐ their theology is the theology of thanksgiving. Again and again they recount their blessings, they recount all the ways God has been faithful to them. Then, as they look towards the future, they can have faith, because they can recount all the ways God has been faithful to them in the past. For me, that really has been my story.

One Thousand Gifts ‐ the book, DVD and study guide, all published by Zondervan, are out now.


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