What are you yearning for this season? {Book Club}

Here’s the schedule for this month’s book: Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift

December 3rd: have read December 1-3

December 10th: have read December 4-10

December 17th: have read December 11-17

December 24th: have read December 8-24 (maybe the 25th if you just can’t wait!)


True confession. This is the first online book group I’ve lead 🙂 … so I’m not totally sure what I’m doing (unlike the rest of my life. HA) and I want this to go well. My hope is that whether or not you’ve read Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift, this will be a place we can come together and connect on a level that is part cross cultural, part female, and all child of God.

OK, now that we’ve acknowledged my nervousness, let’s bid her adieu and get on with the book.

In the introduction, Ann writes: “This, this, is the love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning. It is possible for you to miss it. To brush past it, to rush through it, to not see how it comes for you up over the edges of everything.”

It is possible to miss Advent even when it comes over the edges of everything. We picked this book so that as a group we could slow down and focus on what’s important over what’s urgent. The urgent is always going to be there, tugging on us, vying for our attention. May this be a year that we don’t miss advent for all the voices and tasks — real and imagined– calling out. (Question for the comments: what helps you to slow down?)

Can I tell you how much I love that Ann didn’t start with the angel visiting Mary? She pulled our eyes off of the Christmas tree and put them on Christ’s family tree (Including four women, oh the horror! In a culture that didn’t count women, Jesus did and does). She took us back to the garden and the prophets that came after, reminding us that hope remains. Those of you who know me pre-Velvet Ashes know my obsession interest with Eden and life before the Fall. Life as we were truly meant to live without all the brokenness, hurt, sin, and distance.

Over and over she pointed to the love that God has for us. “The authority of God made all of creation. But it was the affection of God that made all His children.”  You know the difference in your own life, right? Whether with your kids, your students, your colleagues, even yourself. Authority is power, affection speaks of desire and longing to be with. (Question for the comments: where have you seen authority and/or affection?)

I love patterns and hadn’t thought before about the first question of the Old and New Testaments. Thank you Ann for day three. Isn’t it breath taking that “Where are you?” in the cool of the day after a shattered trust turns into “Where is he?” from the magi? To know ourselves, we must know Him. (Question for the comments: where have you seen change in your understanding of yourself as you grow in knowing God?)

If you don’t have the book, at the end of each day, Ann has three questions for reflection/journaling. I’ll share one from each day and you can share in the comments or just chat with Jesus about them:

  • In what ways do you feel like a lifeless stump, longing for a tender shoot of hope?
  • What in this whole blue marble of God’s world causes you to pause in wonder?
  • What places deep within your soul do you long for the Lord to seek out during this season of Advent?

And we only read three days!  Get a cup of something warm to drink and let’s talk. What stood out to you? Where have you slowed down today and tuned in?


P.S. If you haven’t been in a book club before, don’t worry if you don’t like the book (or a character or another aspect). Some of the best discussions I’ve been a part of come when there is differing views. So, if you don’t like Ann Voskamp or this book, you’re still in the right place.

photo credit: Hey Mr. Glen on Flickr


  1. emily thomas December 2, 2013

    Amy, it’s going to be great. Just great. And after this, you’ll have your first book study down so you’ll be an expert!
    So this advent I am longing for the Lord to really show me I’m loveable. I’m enough. I realize I know people can stand me well enough but in the back of my mind I’m pretty sure it’s because of something I can provide for them. It’s ridiculously basic, but I want to know I’m loved just because.

    1. Amy Young December 3, 2013

      Oh Emily, I get this. The last two days I’ve had this cloud over me wondering “if what I’m doing is of any value” — I know I’m loved just because I am, but I feel like I’m not contributing to the world 🙂 and there is something about purpose, isn’t there :)?

  2. Danielle Wheeler December 2, 2013

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of story this week. 🙂 Ann Voskamp’s personal story in “One Thousand Gifts” touched my own story deeply. “The Greatest Gift” certainly has a different feel to it, as she draws us to connect directly with The Story. Sometimes it’s easier to connect to Him through someone else’s story, through something NEW to us. The story of Christmas can, let’s be honest, grow… repetitive? So, I guess that points to what I’m yearning for this season, to connecting with Him, to grasping with awe this Story that utterly defines me.

    Now that I’ve been honest, anyone else feeling a bit blah about the Christmas story this year??

    Trusting that we can walk alongside each other this month, and perhaps we’ll find the awe together.

    1. Amy Young December 3, 2013

      Ah, I see what you mean about connecting to THe Story through other’s stories! Last Friday night I was at a decorating party for Chinese folks here in Denver. Sometimes I hear The Story coming out of my mouth and I wonder if I’m crazy 🙂 … anyone else have this feeling? “You really believe God made a girl pregnant?” Um, yes I do. “Oh (the look on their face says, but I thought you were so well educated).”

  3. Rebekah December 3, 2013

    This Christmas holds many firsts for me. It’s my first Christmas season as a mother. It’s our family’s first Christmas season away from the US. It’s my first Christmas season that I have to be ok with Christmas decorations that aren’t my style and I can’t just hop in the car, go to Target or Hobby Lobby and whip up some beautiful things. It’s our first Christmas season that we recognize the opportunity we have to share about the Greatest Gift with those who have never heard it before.

    I long for the Lord to reveal in this Advent season how unique He is and how precious this story truly is. I want to truly feel and believe it is a treasure, and not just in December. I’m with you, Danielle, the Christmas story has become something I overlook and have gotten bored with (gasp!). But yesterday as I was holding my 6 month old and reading the day’s reading from the book, it hit me that this is my son’s first time to hear it all, experience it all. And because we are in China, we get to shape all that he experiences in the Christmas season. Sure, he doesn’t understand at 6 months, but it struck me how crucial it is for me to treasure Jesus as a gift so that my child will one day treasure him as well.
    Even after that realization though and tears stinging my eyes from the preciousness of it, just a few hours later I was grumpy and moody over the “not cute” decorations we found for our tree. Oh how much work the Lord needs to do on me!!

    1. Mikkin Helvig December 3, 2013


      You are totally write in that when you have your child overseas especially at a young age you really can shape his experience.

      I had this experience with my first child. And, now that I am in the States I realize that I really can shape my kids’ experience of Christmas (at least for the time being–a toddler and a preschooler). But, I have to be more intentional to do what I want with it. I have to be more vocal with pushy family or in avoiding certain words and even celebrations that lack the Christ-centered focus I want to impress upon my children’s hearts.

      I am thankful that our years of holidays in China helped empower my husband and I to celebrate as we felt the Lord leading our individual family instead of the surrounding culture.

      Blessings on your baby’s first Christmas!

      1. Mikkin Helvig December 3, 2013


      2. Amy Young December 3, 2013

        Mikkin, what I love about this (and what Rebekah) said is that as the parents you CAN set the tone. I have four nieces who have been raised in the US. So, you’d think that the culture would really have soaked in more than it has (they are in public school, so they are “out there with the peeps”) — and they focus on the real meaning and do not have a strong sense of getting gifts or Santa. The youngest (6) said to my sister the other day, “Mom, I only want a slinky for Christmas.” I say all of this to encourage you — you CAN help set the focus and that this is a season to pour so many streams of truth into those precious kiddos!!

    2. Amy Young December 3, 2013

      I remember my first year in China … and how I felt a Target or Walmart had vomited in my apartment. And things that might have been so “tacky” in the States, suddenly were beloved, homey decorations.

      And I feel like I’m in a season of lasts and trying to balance being realistic about it without being morose. Living with that tension! Last year was many “lasts” in China for this phase of life and we got some news on a parent’s health that makes me wonder if there is another (yucky!!) season of lasts in front of us as a family.

  4. Jennifer December 3, 2013

    Expressing hope… beginning at the beginning… looking with different eyes at the familiar, and touched in new ways. I think it does us all good, definitely including me, to look at things with different eyes. I think this book and this study does enable us, challenge us to do just that. If I was now to put into words what I most wanted from this advent, it probably would be a deepening sense of hope that there will be an end to the challenging times I walk through now, and a new beginning, an end to the silence and freedom to speak.

    1. Amy Young December 3, 2013

      Ah, the different eyes. Yes — the situation may not change, but how we see it can 🙂

  5. Mikkin Helvig December 3, 2013

    hmmmmm…..I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer the question about yearning, even when Ann first asked it. And, I guess I”m still not sure. But, what I did relate to more significantly and what I think actually reflects my heart more is the question in the third chapter, “Where are you?” My answer is probably “I don’t know.” I think that it what I am excited about for this advent season–maybe a re-grounding in a sense. But, it is too early to tell….

    1. Amy Young December 3, 2013

      I know … that word “yearning” seems loaded :). If I was honest, what I’m yearning for isn’t realistic (my parents not to age and life not to change) — so instead, I’m trying to settle for being present in the moment and not borrow tomorrow’s sadness today. I’ll be curious to hear how the “re-grounding” goes this month 🙂

      1. M'Lynn December 4, 2013

        I’ve felt the yearning for my parents not to age recently, too. I don’t think I realized it until you said it, though. I’ve finally pinpointed the sadness that comes when I think of how I remember my mom having my baby sister and then realizing how fast the time went and now she’s by my side while I hold my own third child! Yes, let’s not borrow tomorrow’s sadness for today. Let’s enjoy every moment we have with the precious ones in our lives now!

  6. Jenny December 3, 2013

    Yearning is a strong word, I’m not sure that I often allow myself to yearn for things… That said I feel like I’m coming out of a season with some very specific yearnings- to feel hope, to think rightly about God again, to be healthy. It’s nice to not have those yearnings so present in my heart. And at the same time, being overseas it never feels like the holidays in the same ways as in the US… it’s hard for me to think of it as a “season” in that regard. So I don’t really know what I am yearning for this “season” but am excited to see what Jesus wants to do in my heart.

    1. Amy Young December 4, 2013

      Jenny, I’ve been thinking about the word “yearning” a lot this week — and anyone can comment in on this, I’m just wondering out loud — how much do you think personality is tied into yearning? I think for some, yearning comes naturally. But I also get what you mean about sometimes not letting ourselves go “there.” I don’t tend to yearn for much, deeply yearn. But tend to be fairly content. So, I’m wondering what that says about me :), personality, the relationship between yearning and contentment. I’m also not the most poetic soul on the planet :).

  7. Holly Dove December 3, 2013

    Just got the book today, so some catching up is in order!
    December 1. In what ways do you feel like a lifeless stump, longing for a tender shoot of hope?

    In so many ways, mental and physical! The death of a loved one is something so dreaded, and when it comes is like waking up one morning and finding that an arm or leg has been amputated. You mourn, you are angry, you feel empty, and then you slowly heal. But it is not the healing of a cut, bruise or break. It is a new you. You will never be the same again, and your life will be different in many ways that you cannot yet imagine. You will always be aware of the missing part of you, even when others forget. You feel bruised and tender, even when it looks like you have it together. You mourn in your heart through mundane tasks as well as related ones.
    These last couple years have been so hard for our family, and it is easy to use Ford’s death as the example because it is the most obvious. But because of this and the other things we have struggled through, we are ready for that shoot. That glimmer of hope at the end of a long tunnel with no light. I am not sure in what form this will come, but dispute the setback of a probable diagnosis of CFS this last week, I am feeling the hope, and seeing that pinprick of light.

    I am so looking forward to going through this book with you all!

    1. Amy Young December 4, 2013

      This is a helpful way to view a death! That a new you is born in the process … that life WILL go on, but it’s not the same as healing from a bruise. Holly, your family sounds like it’s been through the ringer! Here’s looking for more pricks of light, eh?!

  8. Holly Dove December 3, 2013

    December 2. What in this whole blue marble of God’s world causes you to pause in wonder?

    My children. It is usually small things too. My six year old who loves to roar and chase, tenderly caring for the baby. My four year old who flutters from thing to thing, suddenly deciding she wants to do school and does over seventy pages of five year old math in a week and a half. My quiet three year old looking up at me seriously to tell me that we need a tank (yes, a real one). My seventeen month old’s cheeky smile, those tentative steps and her nods as she talks to Daddy on the phone. Every day there is something that makes me stop and wonder at how amazing humans are when they are small.

    1. Amy Young December 4, 2013

      I love how children can mirror a deeper reality. No wonder Christ loved them so!

  9. Holly Dove December 3, 2013

    December 3. What places deep within your soul do you long for the Lord to seek out during this season of Advent?

    I want The Lord to seek out and show me who this new me is. I want to see my new place, my new presence. I am still me, there are many things that will be the same when we have finally healed physically, but there will be many changes along the way. What will this open up for me? Whatever it is, I want it to be deeply twined up in the grace and love of God. I want this new me to even more radiate the love and grace that God shows me.

  10. Shelly Page December 4, 2013

    Online book club–a first for me. Let’s see… I can agree with Emily’s “to be loved (and not for what I provide)”, Mikken’s “not sure” and Jenny’s “not allow myself to yearn” comments. Though yearn may be a loaded word, maybe it is a good word to resurrect, to will myself to participate in, and dig deep to learn again what it is that I really desire to do, to have, to be. A friend recently wrote that maybe she “wants too much” and I replied that we have a Father who wants to give so much. But do I live as if that is true? I guess as I write this, I am yearning for a confidence deep in my soul that He sees me, He knows me, He takes delight in me, and in this that I know Him, His heart, His voice, His movements. I am yearning to know that what I do and who I am matters. I am yearning to get past the lies I am so vulnerable to. I am yearning to see the “same old story” with new eyes and a revitalized heart. I am yearning to live by His Spirit and not my own volition… Do I ask too much? No.

    1. Danielle Wheeler December 4, 2013

      No, indeed, Shelly! Beautiful thoughts and yearnings. So glad you shared.

    2. Amy Young December 4, 2013

      I echo Danielle’s no indeed! It’s for lie obliteration that He came. If the story has gotten old, the evidences of its necessity are new every day :), aren’t they? But I know that as much as I delight when someone I know is set free from a lie, how much more HE delights. It can be a slow and sticky process, yes. But thankfully he is patient and kind!

      Maybe we should all dare to ask for more?

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