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Practicing Gratefulness

  • November 2012

Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, writes “the well of joy is always there…we have to choose to see it.” She adds that intentional gratitude reminds us of the blessings that help us see joy.

Jean Davidson, life coach, says “we see what we look for.”

So does this mean all we have to do is look for our blessings, give thanks, and joy is there? I’ve been contemplating that thought throughout November. I’ve watched family and friends on Twitter and Facebook accept a challenge to post one thing they’re grateful for each day in November.

Voskamp accepted a challenge to list 1000 blessings. #119: Still warm cookies. #243: Clean sheets smelling like wind. #783: Forgiveness of a sister. She sees the blessings, is thankful, and works on not forgetting them in times of piled-high laundry and forgotten homework.

In the first months of dating my husband, I gave him a list of 100 things I love about him. #10: You smell good. #24: You love your mom. #36. You don’t just dream about going places. You go. You bring people you love with you. #47: You shop sales and freeze meat. For our first wedding anniversary this month, I added to the list. #101: I love your name. Thanks for sharing it. #105: I love the sound of your voice. Thanks for reading aloud to me, softly telling me what’s on your mind in dark sleepy hours, and saying I love you out loud, every day.

What if we practiced gratefulness every day? Not just for 30 days in November. For 365 days. Would it make a difference? If the first thing each morning we said thanks and at the end of each day we wrote down one more thing we’re grateful for…

It’s interesting to me that November is the time we choose to remember to be thankful. It’s a transition month for those of us in colder climates. An in-between place. Geno and I used the idea of seasons and transition in our wedding last November. The pastor greeted everyone and explained that on that day we were bringing both our hopes and our histories. It was a special time of transition that Thanksgiving weekend, past the color of fall and not yet to the heart of winter. A time of thankfulness for our blessings, a time to celebrate with family and close friends, a time of honoring the lingering color of our recent past and preparing for the next season of our lives together. One stop on a lifelong journey. One moment of transition from season to season. A time for joy.

In moments of joyful transition, it is easy to see blessings. But what about when we’re caught in muck? Can we be thankful for storms named Sandy? For a lost job, destroyed home, friend’s cancer? When we find ourselves in a darker transition of rebuilding a home, a heart, a family, is it really just a matter of seeing grace in the moment? Is it the dark that helps us appreciate the light?

I think a list of gifts won’t solve the challenges. But maybe it’s not meant to. Maybe looking for blessings to count simply gives us enough strength to feel compassion, enough patience to forgive, enough energy to laugh, enough perspective to see the joy.


I’m three days into my challenge of 1000 blessings. #11: Chocolate. #16: Artistic skies. #34: Faith. #42: Just the right song on the radio. #63: People who read what I write.

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Karen’s life experience is intertwined with her roles as a wife, mom, stepmom, writer, publisher, photographer, traveler, and woman of faith. All these elements tend to make their way into her blog posts.

“Writers have to write. It’s something deep inside us that pushes and pushes until we let it out. It’s part of the air we breathe, this need to make sense of the world around us and to somehow find the right words to express and influence the way we each feel and interact and love and live.”—Writing is Risky Business