I felt immobilized by grief last week. Maybe it was the relentless rain, the gloomy gray clouds an external gauge for my internal turmoil. My girls were restless and so was I. It could have been self-pity; a series of days where even the thought of my to-do list feels paralyzing. I’m in the midst of a busy month, and I’ve found myself wishing that I was better at saying no. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve heard one-too-many stories of hurt and heartache lately, and I’m wearied by this world.

But really, all of these things merely added up to a vague discontent until a sweet text from my sister Kendra became the tipping point one day. She was passing on a story from a friend, something that reminded us all of the loss of our oldest sister, Katrina.

“Wow — I miss her!” my Mom texted back.

“Me too,” Kendra replied.

“Me three,” I responded.

Even though it’s been more than eight years since she died from breast cancer, every once in a while the grief rises up unexpectedly. This morning, though the text was sweet and my memory sweeter, I absorbed it like a physical blow. As my children tugged on my knees to gain my attention, chubby fingers smeared with peanut butter from breakfast reaching up to grasp mine, I felt the weight settle on me. Smiling through tears, I grabbed the excuse of getting out the My Little Pony coloring books to wipe my eyes.

What do you do when you try to reach for gratitude and find yourself grasping only air? I am surrounded by daily graces, but today feel only the burdens, and none of the blessings.

And yet — we hear it said that love is a choice. And it’s true: There are times when my husband and I are at odds, and I make an intentional choice – to love. To forgive. To accept him, just as he is. And he extends the same grace to me.

And aren’t we called to be intentionally grateful as much as we are called to intentionally love? To show thankfulness. To make an intentional choice to recognize the blessing.

So, today, I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful.

For grace and the salvation of the cross.
For the necessities of life I have in abundance.
For the loving husband who encourages me to follow my dreams.
For the daughters that love me, even on bad days.
For family and friends that walk through this life beside me.
For good health.
For good books!
For freedom.
For the ability to help others.
For my sometimes-dubious cooking skills.
For the little things my girls get excited about, like seeing squirrels in the backyard and having pickles for lunch.
For things that aren’t necessary but I love them anyway: pretty dishtowels, chocolate, coffee, vacations, and anything from Anthropologie.

And, today, I’ll add a new one: For the sweet memories I have of my sister Katrina.  My life is better for having known her.

In our book, we wrote: “Only where there has been great loss can God show us his great gain.” And it’s true. Even though the tough days or seasons may hurt the most, it’s the painful things, the rainy days, the waves of grief that have taught me joy.

What daily graces can you thank God for, even during days and seasons of hardship?