Giving Thanks

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by Laura McClellan

This writing adventure can be lonely and discouraging. We spend a lot of time alone with the ideas and words in our minds, and we can work for months, even years, with no “success” as the world defines it. It can wear a writer down.

But I’ve come to believe that much of our happiness comes from how we choose to view the experiences we go through. No matter how challenging or disheartening our journey, there is always something to be grateful for. The poet Maya Angelou speaks to this: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

By training (as a lawyer) and by personality, I find it easy to see how things are going (or could go) wrong. I can always identify where I fall short of expectations–my own and others’–and how life has failed to turn out as I’d hoped. It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong and follow that focus down a path of despair.

But that’s not the person I want to be. So I began a practice earlier this year of keeping a gratitude list, re-reading it daily, and adding a few things to it each day. The list is remarkably long these days, but a few writing-related things on it are:

1. Ideas and inspiration, words to share my heart with others.

2. Technology that makes it easier to create, edit, and share the things I write, and to connect with readers and colleagues.

3. The moments when I’m about to give up hope of accomplishing anything worthwhile as a writer, and someone comes alongside me to encourage and inspire. In the words of Albert Schweitzer, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” I am grateful indeed for those people who’ve spoken a word in due season and rekindled hope in me.

4. God’s grace, which inexplicably redeems my failures and works God’s purposes despite my inadequacy.
This morning I was reading from The Voice, a version of the New Testament that was given to us at this year’s ACFW Conference in St. Louis. I opened it to 1 Corinthians 15 and started reading, and I was stopped cold at verse 10: “Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted.”

I’ve been thinking about those words all day. I know we do not earn God’s grace, and we cannot pay it back, no matter what we do. But if we have been the recipients of that grace, that undeserved favor, it should inform our writing (and everything else we do). The fragrance of that grace, and of the hope that it brings with it, should permeate every word we write, every word we speak, everything we do from one day to the next.

I fail regularly to live like one who’s received grace. But grace never fails. Instead of focusing on my failures, I can start anew each day, each hour, reminding myself that I have been blessed beyond all comprehension. I’m unspeakably grateful for a family who loves me, and for the many daily blessings I experience, including the privilege of writing. But even more, I know that, in the words of a song I heard at church this morning, “the God of angel armies is always by my side.”

Unimaginable, but true. And no matter what else may go wrong, in writing or in life, that is something to be thankful for.

Laura McClellanLaura McClellan has been married over 35 years to the same man (she says she was a child bride). She’s mom to five, grandmother to six, and a partner in a large Dallas law firm. During her “spare time” Laura is polishing her first novel, a winner in several fiction contests.

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