2018 Gratitude Challenge

(This 2018 Gratitude Challenge is based loosely on guides that Ann Voskamp has shared over the years in relation to “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”)

January –

  • Gifts heard – “I Can Only Imagine” (always seems to play at just the right moment), Chris Stapleton’s new album, Turnpike Troubadours radio on Pandora
  • Gifts to treasure – The generosity of photographers from horse shows assisting me in gathering the last of Brooke’s show pics
  • Gifts that are sour, sweet, and perfectly tasty – A tie between dill pickles and the fresh squeeze of citrus (especially lime); Sweet is my jam!! (unintentional pun) But I’ve been trying make a break from the sugar addiction. Danielle Walker’s Mint Chocolate Milkshake is the perfect answer to my sweet tooth; I’m hooked on a copycat recipe for Starbucks Egg Sous Vide bites that can be made in the Instant Pot (or even in the oven)
  • 3 Yellow Gifts of Fresh Mercy – (Admission upfront – this one is a stretch for me, but here goes.) My bowl of fake lemons. They add a punch of color to an otherwise neutral apartment and they’ve come to grow on me even though I don’t like the color yellow too much. Added bonus, they remind me of Brooke because she thought the bowl of fake lemons was ridiculous. The yellow sun! I’ve grown to have a whole new appreciation for the sun living in MN. It is in short supply here. #LovePurpleLiveGold – Yesterday marked 300 days since Brooke’s accident and we received a beautiful gift from LSU. On September 27, 2017, LSU flew a flag in Brooke’s memory. Yesterday it arrived in a case with a marker that included the last line of the Alma Mater – “…and may thy spirit live in us, FOREVER LSU!” So, those are some yellow things, but how do they relate to “mercy?” The way all things relate – I am undeserving of such gifts, but God provides them anyway. (In hindsight, it was easier than it first appeared)
  • Gifts Above, Beneath, Beside – As you know, the transition from 2017 to 2018 was a difficult one. Ironically, I can see all three of these gifts in those moments as we bid farewell to 2017 and stepped bravely into 2018. On the beach in the Dominican Republic, there were fireworks in the sky above me. There was warm sand beneath my feet. Most importantly, I didn’t face the New Year alone – I had my family beside.
  • 3 Things about Me that I’m grateful for –  My physical health; without it daily life would be a struggle. My ability to adapt. My talent for cooking.
  • 3 Ways You Glimpsed the Startling Grace of God – An orchid that bloomed even when I was convinced that it had succumb to my murderous, green thumb. The friends and family who have spearheaded efforts to raise donations for charities in Brooke’s memory. The friends, family, and strangers who wrapped their arms and hearts around us in our darkest hour.
  • A Thing Worn, Given Away, Shared – A good, heavy coat when the temps are below zero. Extra furniture for which we had no room but were able to pass along to a wonderful charity. Inspirational books shared amongst friends.
  • A Saving Grace – Tamiflu!

February –

  • 3 Things Red- Cardinals appearing when a sign is desperately needed; The beautiful red, white, and gold of the Delta Biscoff cookie package; and the deep smoky red of Tabasco Chipotle hot sauce
  • 3 Gifts on Paper – an acceptance letter from Dallas Theological Seminary; a map of the Minneapolis Skyway and schedule of #SB52 (SuperBowl LVII) activities on Nicollet Mall; and a prescription for Tamiflu (yes, it is worth mentioning twice)
  • A gift stitched, hammered, and woven: Stitched: I am blessed to have not one, but two, “t-shirt” quilts that so beautifully display different chapters of Brooke’s life. Hammered: The thin band on the “I Love You” bracelet that my daughters gave me for the first Mother’s Day after losing their sister, Brooke. Woven: The matching #LoveYourMelon hats  in the “Welcome to Minneapolis” swag bags that I put together for the family arriving for Super Bowl LVII Weekend!
  • 3 Gifts found outside: Footprints across the snowy, frozen Mississippi River; Sweet Olive plants; Warm sand, salty air, crashing waves
  • A 1,000 Thank Yous – that either no one looks at this page to notice how behind I am or that you are all kind enough not to call me out!
  • Random Gratitude for February –  #WeekendtoRemember getaway for time to nourish my marriage; Long talks with my daughter … about nothing … and everything; not breaking something as I fell on the ice while curling; new friends and experiences continually unfolding in our new city

March –

  • 3 Gifts Green –  The live plants from Brooke’s funeral that I haven’t  killed; artificial plants that I can’t kill; and colored pens – especially the green ones
  • 3 Gifts at 3 p.m. – sliced apples; it’s almost time for Jeopardy; and Starbuck’s iced  latte with blonde espresso and coconut milk.
  • 3 Gifts in the Kitchen – the InstantPot (need I say more!); a good, sharp knife (nothing feels better than they rhythm of chopping); and Sun Basket (I love getting to try new meals each week that I might not have tried on my own)
  • 3 Gifts Hard to Give Thanks for – Mistakes and poor choices that I’ve made along the way that far outnumber three. Sadly, I’ve learned more on the broken road than I’ve ever learned on the smooth path. But, all of my choices and experiences – good, bad, or otherwise – make me who I am today. A work in progress, but, as my daddy used to say, “not too shabby.”
  • 3 Gifts Wore – a warm coat on a wintry day; comfy “soft” pants in the evening; and a breezy sundress on a summer afternoon.
  • Wrap Up for March – Thankful that I didn’t challenge myself to post a blog daily. Just trying to update this page on a regular basis is a challenge. Especially thankful for the love and support from so many friends, families, and strangers as we marked the first year of living without Brooke. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

April –

  • 3 Gifts Budding/Blooming – About 16 plants received after Brooke’s accident have survived my black thumb. Even better – two of the four orchids are actually blooming!!!
  • 3 Gifts in a Book – “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that  people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the sort of thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool; you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us no come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity); “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4); “The believer in God has to answer the question of why there is evil and cruelty in the world. But the atheist has a more difficult challenge. He has to explain why there is love, honesty, generosity, courage, and altruism in the world, and why it feels so good and so right when we let those qualities into our lives.” (Harold Kushner, Who Needs God)
  • 1 Great Big Thanks: That no none keeps tabs on this page because I am awful at updating it!!!
  • 3 Gifts Written: I completed a 5-page paper on the Doctrines of Scripture, prepared a mechanical layout of part of the book of Philemon, and wrote this week’s blog within a matter of days without going completely insane. I’m especially grateful for this week’s blog (coming April 26, 2017). The words just seemed to pour out.

May –

  • 3 Gifts Tasted: Jeni’s Ice Cream (Chicago) – Salted Caramel, Gooey Butter Cake & Brown Butter Almond Brittle
  • 3 Gifts About Our Home: Lots of windows; comfortable; and so close to everything we love
  • 3 Gifts Flat:  photographs, sweet notes, and book pages

June –

  • 3 Gifts Orange: Those who know me know that I despise the color orange – at least as far as wearing it against my skin. So, I had to laugh when I saw that I was challenged to come up three orange things for which I am grateful. First – bright orange mangoes and peaches. Second – a golden sunset. Third – Brookes’ bedroom, which is painted Sherwin Williams “Navel.” It is as bright as it sounds. However, that bedroom is the cutest one that she’s ever had. I can no longer imagine a home that doesn’t have a bit of “navel” somewhere. priceless-sherwin-williams-front-door-colors-orange-front-door-colors-navel-sw-sherwin-williams-paints-sherwin-williams-front-door-colors-l-d15875851df5dc24
  • 3 Gifts Funny:  My brother. He’s hilarious. My daughter. She has the driest sense of humor. My dogs. They’re just funny.
  • 3 Gifts in What You Are Reading: On Grief & Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. and David Kessler – confirmation that it’s not my imagination; grieving is hard. Dwell: Life With God For the World by Barry D. Jones – “mission” starts across your back fence. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves – the existence of a triune God is the best explanation for how evil is not part of God’s plan.
  • 3 Gifts Painted: Several furniture pieces that have been given new life through chalk paint; Clouds of Joy by William Hemmerling; and the Impressionists Gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • 3 Gifts Smelled: fresh grapefruit; fresh mint; and Sweet Olive tree.

July –

  • 3 Gifts Heard: Harry Styles Concert! (That counts as three)
  • 3 Gifts Read: The Book of James; Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown; The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
  • A Gift in Faith, Family, and Freedom: Knowing that the war is won even when the battles continue; Our church families at Hope Community Church in Minneapolis and at Hosanna Lutheran in Mandeville; the ability to write this blog without fear of political retaliation
  • 3 Gifts Fresh: ripe nectarines; pretty pink peonies; fresh basil and mint

August –

  • 3 Fresh Starts: A new school year; the excitement of finding a home in a new city; knowing that it is never too late to start fresh
  • 3 reminders: In just one day, I was given three opportunities to share this blog with other bereaved parents. That’s too many, but I am ever grateful to know that the words that I spew into cyberspace have some meaning.

September –

  • 3 (or more) Birthdays: Samantha, Katie, Ada, Jay (Happy Heavenly 49th!), Blanche, Chelsea, Tom, and me!
  • 3 New Hangouts: Mt. Adams Bar and Grill; Monk’s Cove; and Bowtie Cafe

October – 

  • 3 Gifts Accomplished: The movers packed, loaded, and delivered our things from Minneapolis to Cincinnati.
  • 3 Gifts of Change: A new home in a new city in a new state; finding new daily routines; sprucing up our new home to make it our own

November –

  • 3 Gifts of Remembrance: Lots of memories of Brooke – Playing hooky with both girls in 2013 to hang out in the French Quarter with my brother, John; Remembering her die-hard love for LSU and the Saints; Taking her campus tour of LSU in 2016 and how excited she was to become a Tiger; November is a month that was typically filled with horse show weekends. The smell of hay and horse barns bring me back to her instantly.
  • 3 Gifts Red: Apples (Brooke ate one nearly everyday and now I do as well – good habit); Red Cardinals to remind me especially of my Aunt Lee and Brooke; Clifford the Big Red Dog (a reminder of a simpler time when my girls were small and we were all together)
  • 3 Gifts from My Window: even though I live in the Big Ten, I can see the SEC out my back windows; the view reminds us of the French Quarter back home; the sunrises from our windows are AMAZING!

December –

  • 3 Gifts Ice Cold: I can do better than that. We received 5 pints of Jeni’s ice cream this week: Brambleberry Crisp, Churro, White Chocolate Peppermint, Milkiest Chocolate, and Coffee with cream & sugar
  • 3 Gifts Sweet: Crisp apples, Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bar; Biscoff cookies
  • 3 Gifts “Green” in the middle of winter: New blooms on an orchid that was gifted to us at Brooke’s funeral; Peonies in the stores much earlier than I had expected; new blooms on Brooke’s sweet olive tree (that sweet smell is too sweet for me but it was her FAVORITE – so I now look forward to the mild headache that tree gives me – a little like having Brooke right here next to me.)

3 thoughts on “2018 Gratitude Challenge

  • is this the David Kessler I knew in Minneapolis in 1974 when you visited me at my rented house, and were robbed on your way to visit me? You sent me the most amazing free-verse/Rapidograph renderings of you dancing, addressed to “hello Sara,” and thoughts that “laugh from the recent past.” Your missal is framed and hanging in the interior hallway. I think of you every time I pass it, and hope you are doing well and content (and warm!). I will send you a photocopy of your work if you provide an address. I can’t bear to part with the original. A guest who read and saw your piece asked me, “is there anything happy here?” and I said the “Hi Sara,” and the “We’ll be happy to bore a hole in your head.”

    I remember when you said you painted your apartment white. Do you have more color in your life now?

    We were so young back then, and you are yet younger than I.


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