A Powerful Lesson on Gratitude (& an update on Dad)

March 4, 2016 | 8 comments

As many of you know, my Dad had part of his right leg amputated last week. Can I just tell you: He’s doing GREAT. So is Mom. I’ve never seen two people who have been so hope-filled and positive in the midst of trial.

There was this moment — and I’m going to get a little misty-eyed telling you about it. But there was this moment, just a few hours after the amputation. All of us kids were there, gathered around Dad’s bed. And Mom was there. There were some nurses, stringing up an IV bag and pushing buttons on a monitor.

And Dad … he just looked around the room, at all of us. And he had this smile that you could see in his eyes as much as on his lips. It was a smile he felt really deep on the inside of himself. It was a smile that revealed an inner peace.

And then he looked around the room, and he thanked each one of us for being there. He talked about the blessings. He mentioned all that he was grateful for — family, togetherness, love, life, the prayers of friends and strangers, the chance to start again. He remembered what the doctor said: “Don’t think of this as losing a leg, think of this as getting a new leg and moving on.”

I know that “looking on the bright side” comes easier for some folks than others. I also know that my dad is a generally optimistic person, who tends to see the glass half full. But I also know that there are certain valleys where it can feel so dark, that finding the good can be really, really hard — even for an optimist.

Dad is showing us all what it looks like to see the patches of light, in the middle of darkness.

Every morning, I get a little text from Dad, who is in the nursing home, where he is learning how to walk with one leg before he gets a prosthetic leg.

And every morning, his messages are filled with hope and happiness and gratitude.

“The biscuits and gravy here are really good.”

“You’ll have to meet one of the nurses here. She has come to Jesus over the rough road.”

“Got a card from some of your friends. Aren’t folks wonderful?”

And this: “I am open to surprises. Two months ago we didn’t know about what these two months were going to be. God will surprise us…. Often you don’t know what the surprise is, until later.”

This is what I’m learning from Dad about gratitude.

1 – Gratitude is an art of intentionality.

G.K. Chesterton said that “thanks are the highest form of thought, … and “gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” I have seen, through Dad, how intentional gratitude is a high form of thought. And I’ve seen how it has helped his emotional and physical healing.

2 – When you look for things to be grateful for, you start seeing them.

Researchers tell us that when you begin to scan for positivity in your life, your brain actually starts to train itself to see even more!

3 – It costs you nothing to be grateful for what you already have.

It’s right here. In the nursing home. The hospital. My own home. In the middle of the valley. It’s the friends who sit down in the middle of the mess. It’s two girls with ukeleles and harmonized voices. And more: The neighbors salsa, in glass jars. The smell of rain. Clean sheets. Park benches. A sturdy roof. A whistling tea kettle. Reruns of Seinfeld. A flock of geese, headed north. Dad, with a smile so deep you can still see it one week later.

I am grateful. So very. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

(And thank YOU for your prayers. I am so sorry I haven’t responded to all of your emails and comments. But I have read EVERY SINGLE ONE!)





Over on Instagram, there are a whole bunch of us paying attention to what we’re grateful for. If you want to join in, just tag your good stuff with #TheHappinessDare. Here’s some of what appeared on #TheHappinessDare stream last week — at a fashion show in London, a village in the Philippines, an amusement park in Seattle, and a wedding in New England. And over on Facebook, our Happiness Dare video from the lobby of Mayo Clinic has gotten more than 75,000 views in the past week! Maybe you are like us — tired of all the negativity in the world and ready to push back with Happiness.

Here are this week’s featured photos from around the world!

The Happiness Dare

Photos by:

@brucebarone | @shellymiller120 | @karrilee_aggett
@jacque_watkins | @kayla_craig | @marinabromley
@deviduerrmeier | @pippyjbrooks | @lisaappelo

by | March 4, 2016 | 8 comments


  1. Tara Ulrich

    Your dad sounds so amazing. He is teaching you so much. Love that. May we all be that grateful and thankful.

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Oh Jennifer! What a gift your father has given not just you, but your mother, your girls, the whole family, his nurses, doctors and attendants, and your readers…the gift of facing trial with triumph, with trust in God, with tenacity, and with true faith, hope, and joy. He’s given you the gifts of humor and humility. I have been praying for Phil and you, and I’ll admit to not being nearly so courageous. But I can see that God has this, because He has Phil, and because Phil has placed his trust in the One who is lifting him up. Phil is going to be just fine. It doesn’t mean we stop praying or that there will not be adjustments, or that this is easy, but he is getting through this. You are a wonderful, devoted daughter, and I am so glad for this beautiful relationship you have with your father. I continue to pray for his wellbeing and more smiles….many more smiles and joy and wonderful future times together. You are so fortunate to have your father. I still miss mine.
    All my love,

  3. Nancy Ruegg

    Out of trial such inspiration and joy! Praise God for his miraculous work of transformation, and for your dad who is a radiant, shining example. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing his story.

  4. Martha Orlando

    Gratitude opens up the floodgates of love. Your dad is an inspiration to us all, Jennifer. I pray for his continued healing.
    Blessings to you all!

  5. Pam Ecrement

    Gratitude is such a powerful gift and practice! Thanks for the wonderful post and update on your dad. I have been looking forward to hearing how the Lord met all of you! Clearly, He has! I am also impacted by the amazing model your dad is as he leads this family in deeper truths about facing adversity and trusting and seeing God’s provision! What a testimony!! Thanks so much!

  6. Joy Lenton

    “When you look for things to be grateful for, you start seeing them” – so true! We can retrain our flawed and faulty thinking by deliberately seeking and seeing things to be grateful for each day, and immersing our minds in biblical truth. Your dad has sure mastered the art and given your family a wonderful legacy in the here and now. I’m really pleased to hear how well he is convalescing and keeping such a positive attitude! Thanks for the update, Jennifer. It’s so inspiring and encouraging. May he continue to heal and recover well. Blessings and prayers. x

  7. Leah Adams

    I love this post so much, and am deeply thankful that your Daddy is doing so well. I, too, learned the lesson of gratitude and moving forward with a positive spirit from my Daddy. At the age of 16, in 1952, he was a victim of polio. He spent months away from his parents, first in Grady Hospital which was 100 miles away from our little mountain community, then in Warm Springs, 200 miles away from home. He was told he would never walk. He proved them wrong. He walked with the aid of a full leg brace and crutches for the rest of his life.
    ‘Handicapped’ was never a word that I coupled with my Daddy’s name, for he was not. He did almost everything that a man with two good legs would do. He became a successful real estate agent, the commissioner of our county, and a wonderful husband and father. The first time I heard someone refer to Daddy as ‘handicapped’ it was as if someone punched me in the stomach. It had never entered my mind that the word could be applied to him. He simply played the cards that God had allowed to be dealt to him and played them masterfully. He was an inspiration to so many. When cancer took him in 2004, the line to pay respects stretched for 2 city blocks. Daddy had impacted lives that only eternity will reveal.
    I imagine that your Daddy is the same kind of man. Blessings to you and your family, my friend.

  8. Deborah Will

    Jennifer so glad your Dad is doing so well. My mom had an amputation too due to catching a bacteria during surgery to repair a broken leg. HUGS to you. What a story you’ve told sharing how we can be grateful despite our circumstances.


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