the {A}rt of gratitude

i know what you’re thinking…

a blog title in the month of november containing the word ‘gratitude’….it’s probably a post full of pretty pictures and/or an inspirational quote with me going on about all of the things i am grateful for.

i hate to disappoint, but this is not that post

traditionally, november has always been set aside as a the month for gratitude.  a lot of my friends on social media are doing a month-long gratitude series.  even though i’ve been sort of hit-or-miss the past few weeks, gratitude is still foremost in my mind.  gratitude has become a way of life for me.  gratitude has become the lens through which i see my life.

i am so thankful for all of the good things in my life – big and small – from morning coffee to glorious sunsets, from my daughter’s smile to the soft bed i lie down in at night.  i am grateful for the beauty of this world that inspires me and lifts my spirits.  i am grateful for my senses with which to take it all in.

seeing my life through the lens of gratitude is acknowledging all the good things in my life – blessings from a good and loving God.  but what about when life doesn’t feel good? what happens when life is messy and things get ugly?  what does gratitude look like then?

i would suggest that this is when a practice of gratitude is even more powerful.

what is art but a way of seeing? ~thomas berger

like {A}rt, gratitude is really an exercise in learning to see life differently.  gratitude is seeing God’s grace at work in our lives…learning to see beauty and good in things that, at first glance, don’t seem all that good or pretty…finding grace in the struggles and suffering of this life.

gratitude for emptiness?  gratitude for dark and stormy days?  gratitude for frustration and uncertainty?  yes…i am grateful for all of these.  because it was during all of these painful periods of my life that God was working behind the scenes to bring me to into a fuller, more meaningful life than i could ever have imagined possible.  in my darkest days, God was there, strengthening my faith, lighting my path and drawing me ever closer to Him.

give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. psalm 118:1

gratitude isn’t only about being grateful for the good things in life, but rather it is being thankful for your life.  gratitude requires that we challenge our finite view of this life and open our eyes to mystery and wonder.  gratitude is less about enjoying comfort in our present circumstances and more about seeing God’s hand at work bringing us closer to Himself.  gratitude is humbly acknowledging our frailty and our weakness, and in return receiving Grace and Mercy.

in my own experience, it is usually through hindsight where i have seen God’s hand at work in my messy, dark days.  for me, faith and trust go hand-in-hand with gratitude.  i think this is why we say we ‘practice’ gratitude….because there are some days when it is harder than others…there are some days when i really have to work on it.

there are also times when we are faced with the darkness of the world, gratitude feels almost selfish or superficial.  like feeling thankful for my morning coffee in the face of homelessness, poverty, horrific terror attacks, and one humanitarian crisis after another.

but i don’t think that is how gratitude is supposed to work.  because i believe that the real power of gratitude lies in sharing the light and love that we receive from Heavenly Father. the practice of gratitude changes lives when it cultivates in us a a softer, more loving, compassionate heart.  gratitude reaches its full potential when we use these gifts to bring healing and hope to others.

as we move into the holidays, this gratitude is the intention that i hope to carry with me. because even when it’s hard, gratitude allows me to experience joy in this life – not because life is always good, but because God is always good.  because of gratitude, i have hope and peace in knowing that i am loved by an eternally faithful and merciful God.

November 15, 2015-2

happy thanksgiving everyone!  wishing you every peace and blessing.

love, kelly

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around here

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around here i think i added a few gray hairs after watching the OU game last weekend.  it literally came down to the last seconds of the game. i’m not sure if i’m emotionally, mentally, of physically ready for the bedlam game this coming weekend.

around here, we’ve officially had our first freeze.  leaves are fading and falling.  but it’s not just that…it feels less and less like autumn and more and more like winter.  i notice it in the light these days – it’s somehow softer – and i love watching it move throughout the house.

around here i am so thankful to finally be over the cold  i’ve been battling for what feels like weeks.

around here i am in full-on thanksgiving prep mode!  lists are made, groceries are bought. and i am so excited to have my girl home tonight for the long weekend.

around here i am mindful that the holidays aren’t always a joyful occasion for a lot of folks.  this time of year can be especially difficult for those who have lost a loved one – my sister-in-law’s father passed away over the weekend. but my guess is that most everyone is dealing with one sort of challenge, and sometimes the holidays just add to the stress and feel overwhelming.  this time of year is a reminder to me, yet again, how beauty and joy live side-by-side with sorrow and suffering.

around here i am finding peace in nature and the rhythm of the seasons. i am seeking the light and letting it shine in.  and if you could use a little light in your day, well then i am happy to share it with you.

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love, kelly

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because they get it


as much as i loved exploring the desert, my favorite memories from my recent trip to phoenix were the times just hanging out with my friends.

whether it’s photography or music or painting….whatever your passion is….it is so important to find a community to connect with.  that’s what i love about my photography family at focusing on life.

thank you, as always, for letting me share it with you.

love, kelly

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the solace of nature

in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~john muir

like you i’m sure, i was shocked and saddened and dismayed to hear about the horrific terror attacks in paris this past weekend.

tripp and i were at home all weekend, and even though we were busy outside for a large part of the day, we had the tv on in the kitchen the whole time. mostly it was for tripp so he could check football scores. but in between football updates, the networks would interrupt with breaking news stories about the attacks. all day long i felt my heart getting heavier and heavier.

to make matters worse, my social media feeds were also blowing up with new stories, shared updates, and personal rants about the general state of affairs in the county. then came the political analyses and how the attacks affect the looming election year. i mean…i get it. we’re all just trying to make sense of things. we all just want to feel safe. but by 4:00 p.m. i’d had enough. my head was spinning and my heart was hurting…i knew it was time to unplug.


often, when my heart is troubled, i find that talking a walk is very comforting. so i grabbed my camera and set off down the block. as i walked and took pictures, i found myself feeling calmer – more clear-headed. less anxious.

i talk alot on my blog about photography and how it has taught me to see my life differently. photography has had a profound effect in my life and i think my short photowalk on saturday is just one more example of its healing power.


there is the beauty of course. we are at peak season for fall foliage in my neck of the woods. shades of red, gold, burgundy, copper, and coral are everywhere – it’s just amazing. the change in colors is something that never ceases to amaze me.

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but also, nature reminds me that i am part of something much bigger than myself. the seasons remind me that there is an order to things…even if I don’t exactly understand. and the light reinforces my belief in a good and loving God who is always present in the midst of our suffering.


it was exactly what i needed.

everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~john muir


i am not so naive to i think that taking a walk and snapping a few pictures will solve the problems of the world.  i am also not burying my head in the sand and pretending that everything is ok. we have big problems in this world and i know that a ‘mary sunshine’ attitude won’t fix it.  but what my walk did give me was some much needed perspective. and in the process, some much needed peace.  and i think that’s a good place to start.

peace, kelly

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the walking wounded

if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.    ~mother teresa

today was my mom’s last radiation treatment.


even though the surgeon felt confident that she got everything during the surgery, and even though there were no lymph nodes involved, radiation has been an added, extra precaution in my mom’s breast cancer treatment.

this past friday, i took my mom to her radiation treatment.  the radiology area is sort of in the bowels of the hospital…there are no windows so it’s rather dark and gloomy.  once you pass the main waiting area, there is a smaller waiting area where the radiology patients sit and wait for their turn to ride in the 6-million dollar radiation machine.

there are eight chairs lined up around the perimeter of the tiny waiting area.  on friday, an older woman was there to receive radiation treatment for breast cancer. directly across from me was a young man waiting on his grandfather (a world war II veteran) who was undergoing radiation.  and then to the right of my mom was an spunky, older gentleman there to receive radiation on the mass on his vocal chords.

i also went to my mom’s first radiation treatment (three weeks earlier), and although there was a different cast of characters, the stories were the same.  either they or one of their loved ones was fighting cancer.

i specifically recall at mom’s first treatment that there was an elderly gentleman sitting next to me.  he was there with a family member undergoing treatment, but the sadness in his eyes wasn’t only due to their battle.  he had, just a few days prior, lost his beloved dachshund of 17 years that week (a very tender subject for my mom and dad who lost one of their beloved dachshund’s about this time last year).  on that day, there was another gal who was there with her mom who was undergoing radiation for a stage 4 cancer. her mother’s prognosis was grim and she shared the heartache of having to start to make arrangements with very little financial resources.  then on friday, the older fellow to my right shared that he had recently lost one of his son’s to cancer.  and added that he had, in fact, buried all four of his sons.

it’s hard to know what to say to someone who has lost so much.  the capacity for pain and suffering in the human heart is astounding.

the first time i went with mom, i was a little taken aback at how freely these courageous folks shared such painful, personal stories.  this is most likely because when i am hurting or afraid, my natural tendency is to do the complete opposite – i turn inward and fight silently.  but i’ve been thinking about this a lot over the course of my mom’s radiation treatment.  and when i went this past friday, i finally got it.  the patients sitting in those waiting room chairs are kindred spirits battling a common enemy. they are sort of a makeshift little family while they are there.

we all know that sorrow and suffering is not solely reserved for cancer patients though. everyone has a story that will break your heart.  all of us have experienced loss and betrayal.  all of us have deal with disappointment, frustration, and failure.  all of us walked through through the dark valley of doubt and fear.

the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.    psalm 34:18

there is no ‘get out of suffering free’ card in life.  we all have pain and we all have scars. some we bear on the outside – evidence of physical injuries that have taken place in our lives.  some scars though are born deep inside hearts from the emotional battlefield of life. sometimes our wounds leave us with limp, some injuries leave us permanently disfigured. in any case, we are all just part of the walking wounded.


i suppose you’re probably thinking that is a real downer of a blog post.  and indeed, if i wrapped it up here, then it would certainly be a sad and dark post. but the truth is that i believe we can find meaning in our suffering.  because it is our suffering that binds us together.  we are kindred spirits fighting a common enemy in a sometimes dark, cruel world.

i believe that suffering can transform our lives.  so often, pain and suffering make us feel weak and vulnerable and the best antidote to that might seem to be hardening our hearts to prevent further injury.  but if we will allow it, pain and heartbreak can soften our hearts and make us more compassionate and more empathetic.  it is then that we can offer healing in the form a hug, a warm touch, a kind word.  patience and gentleness.  or even just holding space for someone’s sadness. there are many ways we can help bear each others’ burdens.  there are many ways that we can ease the pain and suffering of the world. and i believe that this is how we turn our suffering into something beautiful.

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. psalm 147:30

we must also remember that we are not alone in our suffering.  we are children of a good and loving God who sees our hurt and our pain.  a loving God who came down from heaven and entered into our suffering.  a Savior who suffered right along beside us…all the way to the cross. and the VERY GOOD NEWS is that in Him, we also have the promise of new life….a new life that will be free from the trials and suffering of the life we experience now.


so many of my friends and family are suffering right now…facing trials and dealing with physical and emotional pain and heartache.  in fact, in light of the events in paris, it would seem as if the whole world is hurting.  so yes, we may be battered and beaten and battle weary souls, but we have a good and loving God who walks right beside us in our darkest hours.  and we have each other.

let the healing begin.

peace, kelly

he heals the broken hearted

download this printable here (for personal use only please).

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