Is this the way to joy?

Snow falling cold and beautiful. Warm fuzzy scarf wrapped two and three times around my neck. Hot lunch in a fire-lit restaurant with new and old friends.

Noticing blessings and naming them is one of the things that saved me while standing watch as Hubby slipped away, as I stumbled into widowhood.


Thanksgiving lists. Not just for the month of November, I’m thinking. But rather a year-round sport.

This thought from Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts:

I know there is poor and hideous suffering. And I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I’ve lived pain and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.

Why wouldn’t I choose gratefulness, which is also choosing joy?

Whether you’re learning to cope with cancer, new to widowhood, or facing any of life’s adversities, I challenge you to name the goodness in your life.

Here are a few things — in no particular order — to rattle your brain awake:

Food. Do you shop at a store with multiple aisles and overflowing bins? (Wow, huh?) Are your fridge and pantry stocked? Will you have a hot meal today and tomorrow and the next?

Shelter. Do you have a warm, dry place? What about furniture? A comfortable bed? When you tap a switch, does a light turn on, an oven heat up, a washing machine start to hum?

Clothing. Go count the coats, sweatshirts, jackets and hoodies in your entry closet. How many pairs of shoes do you own? Do you have a walk-in closet larger than most people’s huts in some villages … but still not enough space for all your things?

People. Is there someone special who calls you sweetheart or cupcake? (I’ve never been called cupcake by Hubby, but isn’t that a fun name?) Mom or dad; sis or bro; daughter or son? How about grandma or grandpa? Or friend?

Health. Can you walk to the mailbox? Lift your child into a car seat? Can you read a book, feel snowflakes fall on your eyelashes cold, taste the nutmeg in banana bread? Are there times of joy and peace, when you’re free from fear and anxiety?

Freedom. Can you plan an out-of-state vacation, and then just pack up and go without anyone’s permission? (Well, except maybe your boss’s.)

Paycheck. Do you have a job? And because of this job, are the lights and water and heat all turned on at your place? Will you be able to eat out at a restaurant sometime this month? Or buy jeans to replace the ones your kid outgrew just last week?

Should we not breathe thanks for the good in our lives simply because it seems a little PollyAnna-ish?

Does wrapping self-pity tightly around us help in times of sorrow?

Does ranting—that trendy thing, ranting—help alleviate the pain?

Should I just focus on the hard reality? Is this where I find comfort?

If none of these things have worked for you, I am here to gently say, Try gratefulness. Try looking for and numbering blessings.

Voskamp goes on to say:

Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

I believe believe that one of the main reasons I am weathering cancer death and widowhood so well is because I started thanksgiving lists long ago. Hubby and I practiced looking for goodness. And there was much goodness. Even in our losses, much goodness.

I stumbled across this G.K. Chesterton quote yesterday. What I have been thinking, he says so well:

Here dies another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world round me. And with tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?

Yes, why am I this blessed?

What about you? Is your main focus on the negative, the losses? Or do you look for the good? How grateful is your heart these days?

P.S. If you found this post helpful or inspirational, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Debbie Ritz

    Yes, I choose gratefulness for not just what/who I have in this journey called life but for the very great sacrifice given for me so that I might have life eternal. I too find gratitude opens my heart and life to all around me in a way I can’t explain but enjoy immensely. Sharing that with others is what makes my daily life meaningful, eternally.

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