Cultivating a Defiantly Grateful Life

Today you are in for a real treat! bestselling author and award-winning screenwriter, Ami Handrickson is here to discuss gratitude. I first met Ami when I was invited to join a Triberr writers group (to this day I am grateful that I would be included in this fantastic group of mostly published authors!) and she quickly developed into one of my favorite twitter friends. She speaks her mind, we don’t always agree and I know that when we dialog I will be treated with kindness and respect.

What had me invite her here today, was the fact that she is in the middle of a 12 days of Christmas series over on her blog which is entirely devoted to gratitude.  I’ve shared the series on the Bliss Habits facebook page and have literally been waiting for the next installment each morning. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should definitely go now (or rather, after you’ve read this fabulous post and left a comment!) Take it away Ami:

Ami Hendrickson, "Another thing for which I am grateful: my refrigerator of modern art. :)"


It’s easy to be grateful when things go well. Windfalls, promotions, graduation, retirement – these blessings are so obvious that one’s thankfulness is practically automatic. But what’s to be grateful for when life does not go as planned?

I believe that Gratitude and Joy go hand-in-hand. The one engenders the other. Some of the most blessed people I know, in terms of finances, security, and health, take their blessings for granted, express no gratitude for their successes, and – tragically – have little to no joy. They stand in stark contrast to my friend Bev who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and a very limited income. Bev readily finds something for which to be thankful in any given situation. She lives her life aglow with joy.

I happen to believe in a God who is a Higher Power. This belief is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives me a Someone to personally praise when things go my way. But if I’m going to believe He’s in control of my life when it’s going well, I must also believe He’s in control when things go wildly, horribly astray. (“Astray” in this sense can be defined as “contrary to my wishes.”)

In other words, I would be a hypocrite of the first magnitude if my spirit of gratitude were dependent upon how easy my life is. I do not live in the Universe According to Moi.

I’ve recently encountered a question that continues to challenge me:

“If you woke up tomorrow with only the things for which you were thankful today, what would you still have in your life?”

It’s a sobering thought. For instance, I’m rarely overtly grateful for my ability to see. I’m far more likely to complain that these aging eyes of mine require glasses to do more and more things. The same holds true for my ability to hear, walk, run, speak, sing, and think. I’ve been guilty of taking a whole host of blessings for granted. But I would sorely miss every one of them it were to suddenly vanish.

I pondered this today as I took my husband to his daily radiation appointment for a pesky brain tumor that refuses to go away. What’s to be thankful for about a brain tumor? If I’m honest, past experience has taught me that there is probably much to be grateful for, but to find it, I must first cultivate defiant gratitude.

“Defiant gratitude” is a term I coined at a time in my life when things were decidedly out of control…

Robert and I were married for 14 years without having any children. I figured this was all part of some Great Plan, because after only being married for 7 years, the original brain tumor struck with a vengeance and surgery resulted. I was often grateful that I didn’t have a child to care for during his months of convalescence.

I discovered that I was expecting the same week Robert discovered he and his entire department were being downsized and losing their jobs. We both determined that the dire job situation should have no bearing on our attitude toward our coming child. So began our encounter with Defiant Gratitude. We deliberately <i>looked</i> for things to be thankful for. Some days, we were relegated to gratitude for our 5 senses and enough food to eat. But it was something.

As the months progressed, my husband’s job prospects dwindled while I ballooned. I was 36 and it was my first pregnancy, which meant they scrawled “ELDERLY” in black Sharpie across my prenatal files. (I found precious little to be grateful for in that.) I was thankful, however, that Robert was able to go with me to nearly all of my doctors’ visits. He was so excited about becoming a father. Our impending arrival was a very bright spot in a bleak year.

When I was 9 months pregnant (and would have given thanks to be able to tie my own shoes), we took stock of our finances and panicked. Unless a casting company needed a stand-in for a beached whale, I didn’t see how I could go to work any time in the immediate future. Nothing encouraging showed itself. I was grateful to my guy for his constant support, but the tiny tendrils of despair began clutching at the fringes of my attitude.

One night, I spent a long evening of forced gratitude. I literally made myself list things for which I was truly grateful. Once I got started, I was surprised at how easily and readily the list grew. I was grateful that our child appeared healthy… that the pregnancy had been incident-free… that my husband hadn’t seized recently… that we had heat and clothes, water and food. I saw how greatly blessed I really was. Despair’s grip on my outlook slipped.

Not long afterward, I got a phone call from someone I’d met 5 years earlier. He’d been asked to write a book and needed a ghostwriter. Would I be interested?

Would I?

My gratitude required no defiance. I was able to work at home and take care of our baby girl. Since Robert was unemployed, he was able to be an integral part of his daughter’s life. Furthermore, that first project led to others which, in addition to providing for my family, enabled me to travel to exotic places and work with fascinating people.

I may not have the power to control my situation. I do, however, have the ability to control my attitude. Low times are a part of the cycle of life; they’re inescapable. But cultivating a spirit of defiant gratitude enables me to give thanks in all things.


Ami Hendrickson is a bestselling author and award-winning screenwriter. Ami is the ghostwriter for several internationally recognized master horse trainers and other notable experts. She is the editor of the Trainer’s Certification Manual for the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA).

Some of Ami’s favorite things (in no particular order) are: riding her Percheron, teaching writers workshops, drinking good coffee, smooching her husband or snuggling her daughter during a movie.  She graduated with distinction from Andrews University and holds degrees in English and Education. She and her family live with their “vast menagerie” on a 100+ year-old farm in southwest Michigan. She blogs at MuseInk. On Twitter: @MuseInks


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4 thoughts on “Grr-Attitude:
Cultivating a Defiantly Grateful Life

  1. Kathy,
    Thanks for letting me be a guest-poster – and thanks for your kind words. Twitter is *wonderful* for connecting “lone dot” writers all over the world into a fantastic collage of creativity. Ah, and the march of gratitude continues… 🙂

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