Why Bother Being Grateful for Mistakes?

Why Bother Being Grateful for Mistakes?

Though we were created for relationships, some days it is tough being around other human beings. For instance, just this last week, without meaning to, I managed to offend two people then, without wanting to, I was offended by a few others. Though I know that moving to a deserted island is out of the question, I find that thought crossing my mind at times. 

Reconciling with Gratitude

Once upon a time, I began a gratitude journal and challenged myself to keep a list of the things for which I was grateful. Soon enough though, this record became redundant and I quit writing down the blessings I found in my everyday life. Yet, this short lived drill did do something for me. It helped me to reflect not only on the things that made me grateful but that gratitude is a state of being. It can become my response to the people, circumstances and every day missteps that occur on any given day. 

To set my sights on having perfect relationships, never being offended, or never offending another is an unrealistic expectation. And though I focus on being kind, caring, empathetic, aware, and fully present in the moment, sometimes things still go awry. I lose my focus, am misunderstood or react impatiently. Can I still show gratitude in these awkward, uncomfortable, and tense moments? 

If gratitude is a response to the people and circumstances that surround me, then I believe I can learn to be grateful even in the midst of the most awkward situation. Not immediately of course, but with practice.

When misunderstood, in the moment of being offended, or when I know I’ve made a mistake, I admit, my first response is not one of being thankful. Instead, I get miffed, blindsided and exasperated. It is only later, when I’ve had time to sort through my initial emotions, that I find a few treasures for which I can be grateful. 

First, I am thankful that my awareness level is growing. It no longer takes me days, weeks or months to figure out where I went wrong. This means that it takes me less time to amend my blunder. An apology might be in order, a note to self to do something differently, or simply not allowing my bad move to hold me hostage for the rest of my life are simple ways to right myself. 

Secondly, mistakes cause me to reflect, reconsider and reach out for help. I have a group of people who know me well enough to keep me accountable. When I’ve been snarky, they tell me. When my approach needs to be softer, they let me know. If I am at fault, they will point it out. 

I am grateful for this supportive group of close friends. 

Why bother being grateful for our mistakes? Life is not perfect and neither are we. But we can be grateful for our mistakes because if we let them, they can teach us to respond with gratitude. 

Why Bother To See Beauty In January?

Why Bother To See Beauty In January?

I know why people go south for the winter— so they do not have to endure cold days, long nights and deep snows. But when they leave the frigid for the balmy, they miss out. Only those of us left who are left behind can appreciate what January delivers; a rare and hidden loveliness. 

  Beauty In The Bleak

I know in the past, I’ve both written and said to others that January is my least favorite month, but I believe it is time to shift that perspective. I don’t want to just put up with January any more. Waiting impatiently for it to go away produces ingratitude. And I do not want to languish for what I do not have— blue skies, sunshine and warm weather. That begets discontentment. Instead, I want to practice gratitude and gratefulness for this particular month called January. After all, it presents us with unique gifts, ones that do not come at any other time of the year. Uncovering and admiring them is my desire.

January offers the gift of snow. Snow changes everything in a landscape. It piles up on roofs creating white top hats. Snow balances on tree branches as well as on barbed wire fences. When the wind blows, it flies through the air like a mysterious white wall of mist. When it drifts it takes on shapes like ruffles, ridges, ravines and motionless ocean waves.

Snow, like a sound barrier, muffles noisy traffic. It forces highway closures, grounds planes, and halts the masses. For public school teachers like me, snow days become slow days. I’m given a gift of time to sit with a book in my lap and a mug of hot cocoa in my hand.  

Snow creates its own sounds. Falling from tree branches it plops, under my boots it squeaks, and sliding from metal roofs it crashes. Snow also leaves evidence of where the deer, mice, and birds have trekked, reminding me of the animals who are still here in spite of the cold. 

Snow has its own texture, sometimes as light as shredded coconut or as heavy as concrete. It is a testament of just how creative our Creator is. Each flake of snow is unduplicated, no two are alike. To think that in the mounds of snow that surround my house no two flakes are the same is a majestic wonder.  

Why bother to see beauty in January? It is worth it to those of us who choose to remain in the land of the frigid instead of escaping to the land of the balmy to uncover loveliness right where we are. As we do, we just might experience a shift in our perspective and gain a sense of gratitude and gratefulness.

Why Bother Being Grateful For Brothers?

Why Bother Being Grateful for Brothers?

I have three sisters, and three brothers for whom I am grateful for, but I identify best with the brother who is only eighteen months older than I. Growing up, I was too young to see the value of Dippity Dew, rollers in my hair, or makeup, as did my older sisters. Instead, I benefited  more from my brother’s world. 

Alongside my Brother

 Bruce and his friends congregated in our backyard on summer evenings and picked teams for kickball, and soft ball. Too young and shy at first to play the games, I’d watch my brother’s gang while sitting on the edge of our sandbox. The boys played seriously with lots of yelling and at times, hand to hand combat to settle conflicts. Compared to my sisters, they were a brazen bunch. 

When we moved from Nebraska to South Dakota, I was older and bolder, and ready to compete. I’d follow my brother and the other boys on my purple stingray bike, fly over jumps made out of  plywood and compete in races down the middle of the street. The front yard across the street from our house served as our football field. We’d stuff red kerchiefs into our back pockets for a game of flag football that always turned into tackle. The first time I got the wind knocked out of me, and tasted blood, grass and dirt in my mouth, Bruce helped me to my feet and brushed me off. 

Like puddy in his hands, I trusted him even when he tied boxing gloves onto my skinny little hands and pointed me toward a circle made by the boys in our dusty alley. 

“Just punch him in the gut,” he’d said into my ear as he gave me a little shove. 

My opponent, a boy about my height, and chubby, stood with his arms dangling by his sides. My target, his belly, was covered by a tight fitting blue t-shirt. Fearful, but not about to back away, I stepped toward him. I didn’t wait for him to put up his “dukes.” I just slammed my gloved fist into his gut. He doubled over and fell to the ground. I reveled in my victory and my brother’s happiness. He won the bet and collected his quarters. 

We moved again, this time to Colorado. The houses in our new neighborhood stood few and far between. No other kids to pal around with, my brother and I became our own entity. I followed him on game trails through thick woods heavy with the smell of pine, and along sandy banks of a fast flowing river. We never talked much. We’d just tromp side by side and that was enough for me. 

As teenagers, and then again as young adults, our paths veered off. He went to trade school, married and became a dad. I went to college, pursued a career and met Jesus. My brother had no interest in hearing about my new faith, and instead, kept his distance, referring to me as a “Bible Thumper.”  But I took no offense because he was my brother and we had a good history.

Then his wife left him and filed for divorce. His world fell apart. He moved into an old shack in the middle of cow pasture and lived alone in his sadness until one Christmas Eve.

 He told me the story later, how he’d wrestled with God and how God won. I was elated. He went off to Bible college, and became a pastor. Now he’s a “Bible Thumper” with a contagious passion, zeal and authenticity that is contagious among the people in his church community.  

Why bother being grateful for brothers? Brothers are worth being grateful for especially when you can tromp beside them along the road of faith. 


Why Bother Counting Your Blessings? Part 2

Why Bother Counting Your Blessings?

Part 2

In my last blog, it seems that listing my blessings only made me think of more. So, I am going to continue with the things I am grateful for in this blog.

Why consider our blessings? Why take note of the great and small benefits in our lives? What do we gain when we acknowledge how fortunate we truly are? Allowing  ourselves to take inventory of our daily, bountiful gifts fills our hearts with gratitude and spills over. This gratitude in turn, creates a wave of gratefulness and splashes into the faces of others, waking them up to gratefulness.  

Mindset of Gratitude

Being grateful begins by paying attention and not taking for granted, the normal and the daily goodness we encounter.  Most days I wake up refreshed and energized with the ability to go through the routine of my day which begins with a swim at the health club, a run, or yoga. I am grateful my energy level and wellness is stable and health is not an issue, it is the norm. 

Friendships old and new bring comfort and encouragement. To share a meal, to take a walk, to converse about hopes for the future and our present trials is more than enjoyable, it is needful. We were created to relate, to know others and to be known by them. I am thankful for the people in my life with whom I have a long or short history and who are willing to call me their friend.

I am grateful for a car that runs, getting me safely from point A to point B and not stranding me by the side of the road. 

I am grateful I can take in the beauty of creation and all it offers in the fall season. It is hard not to appreciate the bouquet of colors displayed on the landscape this time of year. My favorite tree is the tamarack. Its needles turn golden and can be seen on the hillsides contrasted against the green pines. Though I know the beauty of fall is short lived, I get to live in it and enjoy it for the time it is here. 

Then there are the salmon colored clouds in eastern sky just before the sunrise and the orange orb of the sun as it sets. 

In short, there are more things to be grateful for than can be listed and being grateful is sometimes hard to express in words. Yet, I think we all know when we have been with people who are grateful and how being in their presence makes our heart glad. 

Why bother counting your blessings? It is worth it to begin listing the goodness in your life. When you do, you and someone else will wake up to gratefulness. 


Why Bother To Aspire To Be Content?


Why Bother To Aspire To Be Content?

Some personalities are more pleasant to be around than others. For instance, being in the company of a contented person is as enjoyable for me as sitting on my deck, in the sunshine, listening to bird song and enjoying the beauty of spring blossoms. Contented people make me smile, I can relax in their company, and after parting, I look forward to seeing them again. Not so with a discontented individual. Like a cold winter rain, being in their presence is anything but comfortable or warming. 

Benefits of Contentment

Contentment is an attitude we can aim toward and when we do, we gain gratitude, peace, satisfaction and a lighter heart. Contentment does not mean we ignore imperfections in ourselves or our circumstances, but the imperfectness we notice does not dominate the landscape of our thinking. Neither is contentment about never improving ourselves or our circumstances. Rather contentment means we find some tranquility and delight in what is offered in the present  moment. 

When I was hired as school teacher in a rural school, I thought I’d use it as a stepping stone, eventually finding a position in a larger school closer to home. But this year, as I started my fourth year in the same school, I decided to no longer think of my position as a stepping stone, but rather as the school where I want to stay. It is by no means the perfect school, but choosing to be content where I am has diminished the things I’d once thought of as imperfections.

Because of the size of the school, there is only one teacher per grade level. I’d always thought I wanted a teammate, another teacher teaching the same grade level as me, so that we could exchange ideas. But, becoming content with where I am has uncovered  the idea that it doesn’t matter that I am the only teacher teaching my grade level. Everyone of the teachers at my school gives me fresh ideas for instruction.

I drive a twenty minute commute to and from work every day and used to think that it was a long and boring drive. Now, choosing to be untroubled with the distance, I find it to be the most tranquil and scenic part of my day. I view eagles flying, mist hovering along green hillsides and a beautiful expanse of a lake. My commute has gone from being an inconvenience to becoming a time of thanksgiving and contemplation. 

Gratitude, peace, satisfaction and a lighter heart are the result of my choice to be content working at a rural school. Contentment also makes me more of an enjoyable person for others to be around. Hopefully, like the spring sunshine and the beauty of colorful blossoms, I can make another person smile, and look forward to seeing me next time.  

Why bother to aspire to be content. Cheeriness is worth it. Who wants to stand alone in the cold rain when it’s more pleasant on the sunny side?  

Why Bother To Be Thankful?


Why Bother To Be Thankful?

As a public school teacher, I teach more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. I also instruct my students in social graces; no shoving in line, and don’t chew with your mouth open, along with emotional awareness; be kind to each other, and respect one another. Recently, our topic of discussion has been thankfulness. 

“What do you think of when I say thankful,” I asked my group of fourth graders during our few minutes of group meeting.

“I think of Thanksgiving,” one student said, “Because the word ‘thank’ is in both words.”

He was right, but I wanted to extend their thinking of thankfulness beyond the holiday we celebrate once a year.   


“ I listed some synonyms for thankful,” remarked someone else. “Grateful, gratitude and happy.”

“Why did you list happy?”

“Because when you are thankful, you are happy.”

“Nice connection. Now I’m wondering; Do you think people have the choice to be grateful or not?” I wanted to stretch their thinking a little bit with this question.

“I don’t think so because my parents gave my two little brothers each a Nerf gun and my one brother was not happy that his was smaller than my other brother’s, so my parents took the Nerf gun away from him and told him they were going to take it back to the store since he wasn’t very thankful for it.”

“So what do you think your parents are trying to teach your brothers?” I asked, surprised by her observation.

 “To be thankful and if they aren’t then they get their gift taken away.”

“Yeah, but he had a choice to be thankful just as much as he had a choice to complain,” pipes in another student. I watch the heads around the room bob in agreement. The one who told the story just shrugs her shoulders. 

“Do you all know who Eeyore is?” I continue.

“He’s that donkey in the story of Christopher Robin,” more than one student says.

“I want you to listen to Eeyore for a moment, and then I want you to think of some advice you would give him.” The sound of Eeyore’s sad, slow and melancholy voice fills the airspace in the room. Then a dozen hands shoot up as soon as Eeyore’s voice finishes. 

“Chin up Eeyore. You don’t have it as bad you think,” shouts out one student. 

“You need to be thankful, Eeyore, for what you have,” says another.

“You have a whole bunch of friends, and a roof over your head Eeyore, so why aren’t you thankful?” says a third student.

My allotted time for this discussion is running out, but it is hard to quit. My students love to share their opinions, ideas and knowledge, so I decide to ask another question. “Why do you think it is important to be thankful?”

“People will want to be around you,” responds a student.

“You will feel better,” says another.

I squeak in two final questions, “Who is someone you know who is grateful and how do you know they are grateful?”

“We know you are thankful to be our teacher, Mrs. Luikens because we know you like us,” says one of my brightest students. 

“You smile and laugh with us,” says another.

Why bother to be thankful? It is worth it to be as smart as a fourth grader. Even they know how important it is to be thankful. 


Why Bother With Common Courtesies?


Why Bother With Common Courtesies? 

  Merriam Webster tells me that a common courtesy is, “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.”  I don’t believe the knack for practicing common courtesies is something we are born with. Yet every child knows when they’ve been treated impolitely. How many times have you heard, “That’s not fair,” shouted from the mouth of a little child? Innately, I think we all know how we should be treated, but treating others with commons courtesies is not necessarily intrinsic. 

If Parents Don’t Teach Common Courtesies, Who Will?

Raising my sons, I knew it was up to me to shape them into civil human beings. I’d read a book from an author whose forte was the subject of parenting and he impressed upon me that we are just one generation away from producing a riotous and discourteous society. 

At times, teaching my young sons to say the simple words, please and thank you, became a bit of a wrestling match. Though I could give them “the look” to remind them to say, “please,” when they’d ask for another cookie, when they’d grab hold of the sweet treat, I didn’t let go until they’d said, “Thank-you.” Sometimes the cookie crumbled, and other times it did not. Eventually, they caught on and politeness was instilled. 

In my classroom, I get a few students who forget how to be polite. But it only takes one or two bright and mannerly children to remind them how it is done. When delivering corrected papers to a students’ desks, I’ll start with one or two of the most well-behaved and mannerly students in my class knowing I will receive a gentle thank you from them. Their thoughtful words then have a domino effect on the rest of the class. I’ll get twenty more, “Thank you Mrs. Luikens,” as I work my way up and down the aisle delivering papers and they’ll all get a teacher’s smile.  

One of my more polite students began saying, “Have a nice afternoon, Mrs. Luikens,” when dismissing him for the day from my classroom. Now, that is everyone’s habit as they go out the door. Good manners carry a lot of influence in creating a pleasant culture in the classroom as well as making their teacher happy. Who doesn’t want a cheerful teacher?

My husband, a builder, takes pride in carefully crafting each and every structure he builds. From million dollar homes, to modest homes and garages, he uses the same care in measuring, cutting and leveling walls, floors and roofs. He’s just doing his job, but when a client says, “thank you,” then he knows just how much they appreciate his talent. Building for grateful people makes his job site a pleasant place for everyone.  

Common ordinary people do common ordinary jobs, day in and day out. But, when we tell someone thank you, their smile can be as bright as a colorful bouquet on a gray January day. Saying thank you is free, receiving it warms the heart and an atmosphere of  gratitude makes a better space for everyone. 

Why bother with common courtesies? It is worth it to say thank you. The smile you get in return just might brighten up your gray January day.

Why Bother Being Realistic?

Why Bother Being Realistic?

What is something everyone lacks and yet wishes to possess?  I’m just taking a guess here, but as human beings, I think we’d like to possess full knowledge and understanding before making any decision so that we could prevent something “bad” or “wrong” from happening in our lives. I know I’m taking a risk here with this next statement but, I don’t think I am the only one who has attempted to reach toward that pinnacle called perfection only to fall down empty handed. 

If Only

If only I’d known, then I would have….If only I’d known then I could have… Hindsight is 20/20, but we don’t live our lives in a backward motion. Instead, we live them, step by step, going in a forward motion.  Looking back to learn from our blunder, an error in judgement or misstep is one thing. Looking back to devalue, deflate or depreciate ourselves only gives our inner critic fodder that we later hurl at ourselves. Regret, like quicksand, is an infinite sinkhole pulling us down, not forward. 

What If

But, what if we kept walking, steadily, step by step, in a forward motion, glancing back, only with the intent to gain wisdom from the blunders? What if we were to have sane and realistic expectations of ourselves and others?  What if we knew that perfection was not the goal and remembered that we are human beings, not superheroes? If we live within our limits, then we know we cannot swoop into someone’s life to “fix” the “wrong” and make everything “right as rain.”  Neither can they do that for us.  Even at our best, we are awkward, imperfect and only guessing at which step might be the next best one to take in life.  

Even Though

We all possess an expiration date. Our days are numbered and time slips or ticks into the future for each of us. Though our humanness has its limitations and we cannot see into the future to prevent our next blunder, we do not lack a wide variety of opportunities to grab a hold of with each new day.

If you are reading this post, that means that today you are alive. Like me, you get to put one wobbly foot in front of the other and walk in a forward motion. Today we have the choice to laugh or cry with someone, hug or hurt someone, accept or reject kindness from someone.  

None of us are any less in the dark about what lies ahead, after all, we are only human. But as humans, we have the choice to choose gratitude over morose and hope instead of despair. In doing so, we hold each other steady.  

Why bother to be realistic? It is worth it to live within the realm of our humanity. After all, that is where all humans live. Sometimes we just have to remind each other. 


Why Bother Looking Up?

Why bother looking up?

It is easier to look up when the sky is blue rather than when it is gray and raining. As a friend once said to me, “If I look up when it’s raining, all I get is raindrops in my eyes.”

November begins the wet season here in North Idaho and the sky is overcast more days than not. Already I miss seeing the infinite blue of the summer and fall sky. But I still keep looking up, because when I do, there is always something magnificent to see. 

Before moving to North Idaho I’d only seen images of a bald eagle. Now they are a fairly common sight, yet I am deeply stirred every time I see one.

My commute to and from work takes me back and forth across a bridge that spans almost two miles of open water. Most days I spot a bald eagle perched in a cottonwood tree that overlooks the water and I smile. The busy traffic that passes by does not bother this bird. His demeanor inspires me to slow down and notice not only him, but what he’s staring at; a big and beautiful lake. 

Taking a Sunday walk along a dirt trail that parallels the lake I often notice geese honking and either flying off in a V formation or coming in for a splash landing. These birds are so common that people in our area want to eliminate them. Their poop is plentiful and hinders summertime tourists when they come to lay out their towels on the public beach. But those birds keep coming back and I am glad they cannot be eliminated. 

Though the osprey have already migrated south, they will return again in the spring to their nest near my house. Standing in my backyard with my neck cranked back to stare up into the sky, I’ve watched osprey and eagles do battle in the air.  Usually the osprey wins and the eagle leaves the territory.  

Only once a year do I spot the Tundra Swans on their way to Alaska. Instead of a honk, these big birds give a sound I would describe as a hoot. Either way, their beauty and grace make me stand still to watch. 

Though the osprey, geese and swans are gone, and I might not spot an eagle, I can still look up and see beauty. 

Just outside my classroom windows is a forest. The tamarack trees are plentiful, and their golden needles contrast the greens of the cedars and hemlocks. 

Then there is the fog that hugs the hillsides and the sunrise that turns the clouds a muted pink. I stand still and let out a sigh of contentment at the sights that surround me. 

I am an early riser and often go for a run long before there is any morning light. It is in the dark that the stars shine their brightest and I pause to look up at the brilliant, vast and countless lights above me. I am almost giddy. The view I have is all to myself. 

Why bother looking up. I’m only guessing that once you do the beauty you behold will startle your eyes and make it worth the  glance.