When Gratitude is Your Wrapping Paper


When gratitude is your wrapping paper, everything is a gift.


If someone had told me ten years ago that I would ever be grateful for my tsunami divorce, I would have thought they were ignorant. Or cruel. Or, at the very least, utterly clueless and insensitive.


But, you what?


They would have been right.


My divorce was a doozy: 16 years of what-I-thought-was wedded bliss suddenly amputated with a single text message. This was followed by the discovery of marital fraud and felony bigamy. In one instant, the life I had was gone and it was stolen by the man who had lovingly kissed me goodnight for my entire adult life.


Needless to say, I was angry. Confused. Heartbroken. As the months carried into the first anniversary and beyond, it was difficult not to remain painfully focused on what I had lost. I was actively building a new life and was joyous in it, yet I drew a hard line that kept that same gratification from touching my past.


And that strategy worked for a time, as long as my past knew its proper place. But it never stayed put in the history books for long. Letters would arrive about new debts that I had to somehow pay, triggers would pounce from the most innocuous of events and fears of trusting again became apparent in my new relationship.


It became clear that ordering my past to simply sit and stay like an obedient dog wasn’t an effective approach.


So I did something radical.


I was inspired by the gratitude lists that circulate social media every fall. I love those lists. I enjoy reading how people are thankful for their families, their jobs and their health. I smile when I see their pictures of cooing babies or mischievous puppies. I appreciate the renewed energy that spills from accounting one’s blessings.

Those lists are beautiful.

Heart warming,

But I also think they’re a cop-out.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in your life. It’s easy to summon gratitude for the people and situations that bring us joy.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s valuable to take the time to enumerate those things you appreciate.

But it’s even more valuable to find reasons to be thankful for those things that bring us pain or grief or anger.


When gratitude is your wrapping paper, everything is a gift.


Much like an oyster encapsulates an irritating bit of sand with glorious mother of pearl, you can choose to envelop the torments in your life with thankfulness.


And so that’s what I did. Every time I wrote a check to pay for the hidden debts that were left in my lap, I wrote a reason I was grateful for the opportunity. I composed a list of reasons I was thankful for my ex, effectively muffling the pain. I taught myself to recognize the negative emotions and, rather than try to stuff them down or ride them out, I actively wrapped them in gratitude.


And it turns out that gratitude was the key to releasing me from the prison of my past. It happened. It altered me. But it does not control me. You cannot always change your circumstances, but you can always change your response. Gratitude is a choice you can always make.


So, I leave you with a challenge that can turn your greatest sufferings into your greatest gifts.


But it won’t be easy.

I call it radical gratitude for a reason.
Radical because it’s intense.
 Almost unthinkable.
 But also because it has the chance of being life changing.

Identify the one person or thing or situation in your life that has caused you the most grief. The most pain. The most anger.

Find that dark hole that bleeds you.

That curse.

Maybe it’s an ex. Or an abusive parent. Perhaps it’s your job or lack thereof. Possibly, you face an illness that has stripped your body or had an accident that stole your health in one fell swoop. Maybe it’s not the presence of a person, but the loss of one.

Whatever it is, identify it.

And then be grateful for it. Create a list of ten reasons that you are thankful for your biggest challenge.

You can share it – here or elsewhere – or you can keep it to yourself.

But write it. Believe in it. And then release it.

When gratitude is your wrapping paper, everything is a gift.



Thank you for sharing!

3 thoughts on “When Gratitude is Your Wrapping Paper

  1. Lisa, I think this was great!!
    I’ve not commented in quite awhile. Sometimes I’ve been horribly still stuck. Stuck with those reminders like you, of debt, of pain, grief…. whatever we can all think of to add. I’ve not progressed much in 5+ years, from the outside looking in but I see in myself that I’ve changed. For the better. Nobody is telling me what’s wrong with my attitude or I’m wearing something “wrong”. I’m being me again, without fear of being mocked or criticized. My laugh is much more real than before. I laugh longer and more often.
    I received a wonderful compliment awhile back that my laugh was contagious, from someone who’d only met me once before at my bank, and I said “THANK YOU” like I’d just won a million bucks!! In the past, I’d have felt awkward. It meant so much that I cried going back out of the bank. A good cry!! A happy cry!
    I come and go as I please except for my dog who goes with me wherever I can manage to take an 85 lb dog. She’s helped me through so much, and I know she won’t be with me as long as I’d like, but it’s my decision if I go out or if I stay in and I don’t feel guilty saying no anymore. I’ve found what’s healthy for my mental state of mind (most times), and nobody is taking care of me but me, and I’m now proud of the horrible times I never thought I’d get through or over, because I did. Without family and past friends, I’ve done it mainly alone, and I’m proud of that too.

    Thank you so much for this piece. It did more than just speak to me. It hollered, YES, this is perfect.
    I am very grateful for a handful of people who’ve become the friends I once thought I had, and I wouldn’t go back to those18 years like once I thought I couldn’t live without. I found what I needed.The ME that was buried for too long, and it’s so good when I notice that I feel a lot like her again, only better.

    Thanks again, & Happy Holidays to you & your loved ones. ✨🌟💫

    1. This brought tears to my eyes😊 I’m SO happy to hear about that beautiful laugh, your confidence and your independence. Go you!! Give that pup a belly scratch for me:)

  2. Thank you for this! I am getting to this point too. The wisdom we gain from pain is as mind blowing as it is heart wrenching. My deepest pain led me to Jesus. I’m thankful for all my exes now. My ex husband left when my girls were 1 and 5 for a woman he worked for. The grief was unlike anything I’ve ever known because I was NOT getting a divorce. I would have stayed had he not left. Now, I get to be chosen. I never would have known this kind of love by him. Flat on my face in pain and agony, the Lord wrapped His arms around me and asked me to share my heart and I lived the rest of this life. We LEARN from pain. I don’t like it, but I’m thankful for it in the aftermath.

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