“Does anybody ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”
“The saints and the poets. They do some.”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town

a welcoming-home like never before | 9 January
an excerpt from life together at osprey point, in more ways than one | 19 April
white dust and a pipe organ that reminded me what beauty is | 22 May
a divinely-appointed flight from Houston | 28 May
coming back home | 28 July
lost luggage and the beauty of simplicity | 29 July
an emerald green sari, breaking heart, and dancing feet | 7 August
a new season, a new space | 14 August
pomegranate frozen yogurt, and other sweet things | 16 September

for the wonders of the world, from one baby’s eyelashes to the Taj Mahal
for things of beauty; the veins in his forearms and midnight peals of reckless laughter
for the joy and grief and work and love and traces of eternity in each fine day,
I am grateful.



June’s blushing warmth became December’s lamp-post pools. Summer branches kindled winter fires and she traded her flowered dress for charcoal tweed.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,” and it was by no means time to celebrate.

The stars in her eyes turned to ice on her lashes. Tinsel reflection went grave, tears fell hot and stinging, winter winds wrestled bleak and blistering. A heavy heart ached for home.

But in the depths of her search for solace, something changed. The remedy was neither in forgetting, nor sleeping, nor seething, nor denying, nor un-feeling, nor un-forgiving, nor blaming, nor in anything but giving. The cure for pain? Hardly. The cure for apathy and eyes unseeing? The only.

Giving. Giving time, drops of life from a bottle best shared. Giving worship, heart yearning to praise His name forever. Giving thanks, the lifeblood of miracles. Giving out of abundance and less-than-abundance to meet a greater need. Giving energy, working muscles for the kingdom of Heaven. Giving words when necessary, being the momentary ink in another’s story. Giving hope, awaiting the day He makes all things new. Giving love, the great setting-free.

Even as the weeks tumbled by unclear, she suddenly had the greatest expectations, ignited by a glimpse of His heart.

Joy fell white as snow and keeps falling. Joy, as eyes close eager to live another day tomorrow. Joy, as she waits. Joy, as she laughs, sways, pulled close under starry lights. Joy, as she sees His mercy even in lingering griefs. Joy, for the bittersweet is not without hope. Joy, even when tears run for things forgotten and remembered. Joy as eyes open to abundant beauty once again.

Joy, for He is good and what He does is good.

Joy in the light of grace unwavering.

The surplus.

What do you want?, He asked.

To be whole. 
To be free from bitterness.
To see the good, true, and beautiful.
To live fully.
Ultimately, to give thanks.

Have you?

I have thanked Him. For many things.
For His grace, His kindness, His goodness and mercy.
I have given thanks for my few accomplishments.
I have thanked Him that I am so fortunate
And so blessed
And so full
And so able to get it all done.
(Silently, bitterly
Grieving the emptiness
Counting failure after failure.)

False gratitude.
Easy gratitude.
Like thanking my Savior for helping
(the same way I’d thank a small child for “helping”)
when in reality, I owe Him my life.

I haven’t thanked Him. For many things.
Consciously, unconsciously, I don’t really know.
But I know how bitter I remain
How it gnaws and aches in the silence
How I don’t understand
How I cling to “This shouldn’t have happened,” and “I never deserved this,”
How I wonder what I did wrong
And still think I could have prevented it.

I’ve conceded His goodness
Thanked Him for redemption,
for evidence of grace,
for sparing me from a harsher fate.
Thank Him in all? I’ve tried.
But thank Him for all?

How? Is that even required? 

Can I force my soul to do the seemingly impossible,
To be thankful for that which reason does not permit us to appreciate as “good”
To be thankful not for the byproduct or some secondary effect, but for the very circumstance
To acknowledge as worthy that which pain deems unworthy of thanks
To call the deficit itself a surplus of grace


But He can change me.

I ache to be thankful.
Not to tally my losses, because our God is not a glorified thief
Not to even the score, because our God is not a scorekeeper
Not to make it easy, because our God is an artist of broken pieces
But to live with unreasonable gratitude
And in so doing, to live fully
Beyond the threshold of joy.

I am not trying to rob you. I’m trying to help you.
Gandalf to Frodo

Let’s be thankful again.

Remember how easy it was to be thankful in November? Gratitude was in the air, and we all were in the mood to talk about how we’ve been blessed. But now, as winter marches on, are we still living thankful lives? Or was that a New Years’ resolution that was all too quickly dismissed?

I hope not. It can be a struggle to remember life’s greatest blessings when work piles up, temperatures drop, and celebrations are faint memories. But gratitude is a virtue that should accompany us everywhere we go, no matter what we find ourselves doing.

I am thankful for the occasional relaxed weekend to take things a little slower. For a precious chance to listen to someone pour their heart out. For a word fitly spoken. For beautiful pictures to look at, a look into someone else’s world. For discovering an area of strength. For difficult moments that serve a purpose, and may take on greater meaning later on. For silence. For the knowledge that an ordinary day could become the greatest. For great ideas and greater hopes. For inspiration that sends your heart soaring. For answers and understanding. For mysteries that have no answer. For the day of small things and the day of new beginnings.

What are you thankful for?

“Thank You” | An Essay

Thank you.

by Channing R.

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

If I hadn’t made that promise to loyally tape my brothers’ entire Boyscouts Ceremony on Veterans Day, then I wouldn’t have been awakened at 5 o’clock in the morning—not a favorite hour for one so fond of her pillow—by a persistent tapping on my arm. I wouldn’t have slowly opened my eyes to see Baron—my persistent, puppy eyed brother—urgently telling me “It’s Remembrance Day! We are going to be late!” and I wouldn’t have groaned out of bed to skip breakfast and shriek upon landing on the chilling leather seat of a car frozen in the middle of the garage, ready to greet its passengers with an icy thrill of air conditioning at the turn of a switch.

I didn’t get much sleep on the way to the ceremony, but upon arriving, the sun was finally beginning to peek out of its slumber. “Oh, up so soon?” I grumbled to it. Baron hopped out of the car and joined his troop of fellow boyscouts, preparing for the rehearsed ceremony honoring all American Veterans of all Wars.

Only a few Veterans showed up, but there were enough to fill the petite row of seats lined up facing an American flag and a stone with engraved words: “We will never forget.” The ceremony lasted for thirty minutes—Baron blew his bugle, a few other boys brought a violin and cello to play a hesitant but touching rendition of “Honoring the Fallen”, a few little boys in uniform marched in roll call to raise the flag and salute to the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem. All this was warming up to me, but the thought of my even warmer bed back home kept my lip stiff.

It was the last part of this humble ceremony that brought a tear to my eye and a pang to my chest.

Several boys lined up behind a microphone much too tall for any of them, and one by one, they marched up and gave their speech to an awaiting audience.

“Thank you for the right to bear arms.”

“Thank you for defending the bill of rights”

“Thank you for the freedom of speech”

“Thank you for the freedom to believe God in my own way”

“Thank you for the freedom of the press”

“Thank you for fighting so that we do not have to live in fear”

“Thank you for your sacrifice. We cannot call this nation the greatest on earth without the pains, the efforts, the time you have given to make it that way. The freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, the freedom of speech, the freedom of capitalism… none of this could exist without the sacrifices you soldiers and veterans of war have given. We know that freedom is not free.”

There was applaud, and then a silence—a silence that one could hear, feel, touch. It was a silence that turned the wind into a song and the beating of the flag into drums. One could hear tears fall. It was the unmistakable silence of pride, pain, and joy.

An elderly man with a cap that said “Pearl Harbor: WWII” came up to my brother as I was walking with him to the car, somber and quiet.

There were tears in his eyes, and he gripped Baron’s arm for support.

“Son, your words touched my heart and brought back many memories that were hard to remember. I haven’t heard the sound of a bugle in years, but when I heard that bugle playing, tears came to my eyes. Every memory came pouring back. It was painful, it was hard, it was heartbreaking… But if I had to, I would do it all over again. It is because of the young people in this nation that we risked our lives for. Thank you.”

What am I thankful for?

I am thankful for the men and women who served in this nation in order for we the people to pursue life, maintain liberty, and obtain happiness.

I am thankful that I am a part of this next generation, for I will do the best of my ability to voice the cries of too many lost souls, and strengthen the determination of tomorrow to never repeat what history warns us of today.

I am thankful to God for that moment in time, which will never be forgotten, when the soldier, streaked in tears by the memories of suffering, heartbreak, and pain, said:

Thank you.

Conclusion: The Thanks Given Project

image via audreyhepburncomplex

Many thanks to all who have so far participated in Thanks Given. It was a joy to read all of your replies. But perhaps I’ve mis-titled this post, because this isn’t really the conclusion, but the beginning. (More about that later.) Right now, it’s time to share the replies I’ve already received, but I want you all to know that the project is still open. If new replies come, they will be added immediately. I hope that reading these will inspire you and remind you of the blessings in your life.
Without further ado, let us commence.


It’s so hard to limit what I’m thankful for, so I’ve just listed
some of the things that have particularly stuck out to me this past year that I’m grateful for.
~a dear family
~direct answers to prayer
~going on a mission trip to Panama
~friends who give me a shoulder to cry on and laugh with me
~special memories
~spending almost 6 weeks on a Native Reservation, serving and loving
~my parents’ wisdom and guidance
~God’s perfect timing and plans, even when I’m confused and unsure
~His Word
~opportunities to share Jesus with countless people
~the Lord’s protection while almost paralyzed from a spider bite
~”little” things: a smile, hug from a three-year-old, frosting on my cheek, a thoughtful card, the wind in my face,
~and most of all, my Savior, Jesus Christ
Joanna of Bloom!

I’m thankful that I live in America. The “land of the free and home of the brave.”  I’m grateful for the men who put “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,” on the line, for eight grueling years, so that we might have the God-given freedoms that we enjoy today.  Freedoms we all to often take for granted.  I’m also grateful that God gave us men like Ronald Reagan, who reminded us that freedom isn’t free, that it is “never more than one generation away from extinction.”  Imagine if the founding fathers had said, “We can’t do this.  We’re just a bunch farmers trying to take on the greatest power in the world.”  Imagine if they just gave up and went home.  If they had, well, I doubt I’d be writing these words today.  “I’m Proud to Be an American, Where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men died, who gave that right to me.”  God bless the USA.
— Sam P., 15

I am thankful for:
God’s amazing grace,
Jesus Christ,
My salvation,
The freedom to worship God,
Little children (they make life so much fun),
My family,
Thanksgiving and Christmas,
The opportunity to be educated,
My friends,
The many opportunities God has given me,
My Church,
Color (the world would be a boring place without it),
and much, much more!
— Sarah R., 16
I am thankful for beauty, and the art that expresses it. Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about beauty and art’s relationship with the Christian life, and it’s helped me realize how much I love (and should love) beauty for its own sake. …Truly great art, whether in drawing, music, singing, dance, acting, writing, etc., is about capturing beauty and reflecting the One who created and embodies it. I love being able to have a part in that by enjoying the artistry of others and creating art myself. I thank God for making me an artist.
I am thankful for the relationships that God has placed in my life. I just love the way that God knows how to use other people to bring joy to my life and to shape me. Being with friends and just laughing with them is what I enjoy most, and it is often through my relationships that God decides to teach me. There is much to be gained from a healthy relationship.
I am thankful for the sources of wisdom and insight in my life that God has provided me….
Lastly, as I strive to be more useful to God, I am increasingly more thankful that it’s not about me. I find it a great comfort that God is in control over everything, and I’m just grateful that no matter how much I’ve failed Him, He’ll still work it all out somehow. God doesn’t need me, He can fulfill His purpose without my help. But He’s called me to be a part of His plan, and now that I am, thank goodness that He can still complete His purpose despite the fact that He’ll be doing part of it through me.
–Tim H., 16

I couldn’t be any more thankful for the blessing of a family that loves and serves God, and creatively shares God’s love with others.
— Michael G.

Besides the normal things like friends, family, food, a house, etc…. I’m thankful for freedom. That might seem like a broad answer, but just walk outside and take a breath of air. Or look at our nation’s capital up close, knowing that anyone can vote and even a little kid can make a difference is what truly sets America apart from every other country in the world. And it’s all thanks to the pilgrims who sailed on over on the Mayflower and other ships in order to escape the persecution because they wanted a better life for themselves and their kids. If they could see how far we’ve come and the great country we’ve created I think they’d be moved to tears. So that’s what I’m thankful for.
Catherine T., 17

I am thankful for my family. — Alyrica M., 15

I am thankful for freedom. So many people every single day forget that people are fighting so that we can go … to church without fearing for our very lives. Freedom is taken for granted. Men and women die every day to preserve [our] freedom. They put their lives on the line and have amazing courage. But courage doesn’t come without fear. Courage is having fear and trusting that God will have His perfect way.
How do you think our servicemen and women feel when protest their effort or say that they are “wasting their time?” They sacrifice time with their family to protect your family. Whenever [my family] sees a member of the military, we
thank them for their service, for their time, and for the sacrifice. They have families that suffer. They have children they’ve never met because they were [overseas] when their baby was born. And so many of them are desperately lost and without a Savior.
So, on this Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to be thankful for their freedom, [including] the freedom of speech and of religion. Pray for our leaders and do what you can to make a positive influence on our government. Pray that others will wake up to the battle at hand. Pray that others will wake up to the battle at hand. Not just the battle in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the battle for our souls …
— Valerie E., 15

For my car that purrs
For my cat’s soft fur
My husband’s hands
For God’s best plans 

My children’s health
Our undeserved wealth
The warmth of sun
My sense of fun

The simple pleasures
Too many to measure
For God above and
His perfect LOVE.
–Sally M.

Salvation and a close relationship with Christ, family and friends, freedom, [the] USA, health, wealth, technology, education (especially the ability …to learn ANYTHING you want to), home, sustenance, animals (most of them), foliage, weather and seasons, holidays, beautiful music, books and the ability to read, variety of clothes, people with a smile, rare opportunities, [any kind of] talent, thoughtful gifts/notes, outreach groups, mail, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, [and] gratitude (yes, I am grateful for gratitude).
— Katherine P., 16

My wonderful husband and sweet baby boy!!!
Francesca Battistelli, CCM singer and songwriter

I’m thankful for the gift of marriage and for God’s presence.
–Rachel Dahl of A La Modest

Diversity, snow, peaches, violins, color, laughter, heroism, nobility, and courage, the art of storytelling, fire, photographs, camaraderie, mini schnauzers, song.
— Brennan G.

God’s love for me, a wonderful family, great friends, the gift of life — physically and spiritually, the truth about the gospel, willingness to do more and the desire to help others.
M.Y.R., 16

All of creation
Changed lives
Kind people
Evidence of love
The ability to give
Amazing grace
Truth and the certainty of absolutes
Life, beginning to end
Hope and joy
But it’s hard to scratch the surface, isn’t it?




if I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Host of this universe, who daily spreads a table
in my sight, surely I cannot do less than acknowledge my dependence.
G.A. Johnston Ross

Right here in our house, I have

2 parents
3 brothers
1 dog
15 rooms
100s of books
2 pianos

But that’s not all.

Thank God for changing plans.
This summer, I hoped to leave the country on a missions trip.
Instead, I didn’t leave the state. But my life — perhaps even the very course of it — changed.

Thank God for growth and change.
I saw lots of it this year.

Thank God for words.
I’m beginning to learn how to use them.

Thank God for eyes
to see beauty

Thank God for ears
to hear His voice

Thank God for His timing.
He knows something about time.

Thank God for memories.
Through them, we know His faithfulness.

Thank God for health.
Being able to run and feel the wind on your face is a gift, not a given.

Thank God for moments.
Your life is made up of a lot of them.

Thank God for education.
Apply it prudently.

Thank God for the ability to love.
And continue to open your heart.

Thank God for the stars in the sky.
He created each of them.

Thank God for liberty.
We are free to worship Him.

Thank God for His love.
He has freed us from death.

We know the light of the world.
How can we help but be thankful?

c. 1999

The Thanks Given Project

The unthankful heart … discovers no mercies

but let the thankful heart

sweep through the day and,

as the magnet finds the iron,

so it will, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!

— Henry Ward Beecher

Friends and countrymen,

This evening, I was considering how to celebrate Thanksgiving here at Seeing Beauty, and I thought that perhaps I would start a series on things I am thankful for … then I decided that because I’ve already written several times on that topic, I’d rather take advantage of this (albeit very small) platform to reach a group of people.

Cue (drumroll) the Thanks Given Project!

What are you thankful for?

Two weeks. One question. Infinite possible answers.

Send your replies to Please include your first name, last initial, and if you’d like, your age.

Thank you so much for joining me in this. Gratitude is contagious, and we could all use some more of it.

— Noelle

p.s. Hopefully, Thanks Given will be posted on Thanksgiving Eve. Until then, there’s work to be done. Please share this project with as many people as you can reach. Text the link, post it on Facebook, tweet it, anything. (See those buttons below?) Thank you! I’m excited.