Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19, 20

It’s pretty routine to pause at the end of the year and think back. To give thanks for the good things we’ve been given and all the difficulties from which or through which we’ve been delivered.

But how often do we stop and follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to give thanks? In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it so very easy to forget. I know I’ve been guilty of that more years than I can count.

Giving Thanks For Everything

It would take more time and space than I have on this blog to list everything for which I’m thankful and it would be too indifferent to simply say I’m thankful for everything.

So I’m going to list fourteen specific things for which I’m giving thanks today.

Things for Which I'm Thankful

14 Things for Which I’m Thankful

1. Creative stillness

I know what you’re thinking. What an odd thing for which to be thankful, especially as an artist.

2016 wasn’t my most productive year (nor was 2015, for that matter.) I spent most of both years separated from two activities that used to be my very life: creating art and writing novels. 2015 was completely still in both arenas; 2016 was improved slightly.

Things for Which I'm Thankful - Creative Stillness

For most creative people, that’s the worst thing that could ever happen.

For me, it’s been a blessing.

God put me in this quiet place to show me that I’m not “all that” (a belief of which I’ve been guilty for quite some time.) It gave me time to take a good, hard look at the way I live and the things I do. I’m grateful for being slowed down and given time to recharge in so many ways.

2. Freelance writing

Being freed from making art and writing fiction gave me all kinds of time for writing nonfiction. Blog posts, freelance articles, potential books. Journaling. I wrote almost one million words each year. A remarkable amount.

3. Art students!

I have never considered myself to be a teacher. What did I have to teach?

But one online art course led to another.

One online art student led to another. Then another and another. Enough students to show me it could be done. Not so many that I was overwhelmed. The perfect balance!

Things for Which I"m Thankful - Art Students!

Assisting students with their projects kept me doing art when there was little else to draw throughout 2015 and 2016.

4. The encouragement of art students

Some of my students have been so warmly appreciative of the online art courses, they’ve made me blush. But I routinely minimize my abilities and my work, so this kind of unsolicited encouragement was a Godsend for which I’m very thankful.

5. A New Portrait

After nearly eighteen months without a portrait order, I received a commission. A portrait for Christmas. It was a struggle to get back into the routine of painting for someone else—it was a challenge to get back into the routine of painting—but it was done. The portrait has been finished and delivered. Praise God for His mercies, by the time I finished it, I was beginning to think my horse painting days weren’t over, yet.

6. Coloring Pages

I’ve long been aware of the adult coloring book fad, but have never paid much attention to it. It just wasn’t something I was interested in.

Then came a desire to work on something that wasn’t what I considered fine art and with I could experiment quickly and easily.

Things for Which I'm Thankful - Coloring Pages

That led to the creation of numerous geometric designs and that led to printing and coloring some of them.

Much to my surprise, it was fun! And informative. I found a whole new way to practice pencil strokes, blending, and a number of other things that may soon find their way into a new lesson series.

7. Lesson Downloads

That leads me to item number seven on my list: Lesson downloads.

Sometime during 2016, I realized that the books I’d written could be better used as lesson downloads. I took the bold step of unpublishing them and converting them into lessons.

Of course, once I’d done that, I realized there were other lessons to write, too. The Basic Drawing Series is one of the results of those labors. I’m hoping to launch others in 2017. Stay tuned!

8. Printed Lessons

Many of us prefer working from printed material. Requests from potential students asking for printed lessons led to finding a printer, working through all the details of formatting a book for printing, and finding a way to make them available. A lot of things that don’t sound all that creative, but that really are. Just in a different form.

Once I did one printed version, it was easy to see the possibilities for others. It may not be what I’d consider artistic, but writing and designing lessons and getting them printed is a creative endeavor nonetheless. I am thankful for it.

9. Snow

I grew up in Michigan and love snow. It’s one of my favorite weather things. I wished I was back in Michigan when a letter arrived early in November and contained mention of the first snow in my hometown. Two inches of wet, heavy snow. My favorite kind!

Things for Which I'm Thankful - Snow

I often joke with people here in Kansas that I’m still waiting for my first real winter since moving to Kansas. We’ve had decent snow—meaning two inches or more all at once—a couple of times, but there have also been years when we’ve had little or no snow!

I hoped for snow for Christmas this year, as I do every year.

I prayed for snow for Christmas this year.

It reached 60 on Christmas day, so there was no snow. There was, however, an almost thunderstorm (another favorite weather thing.)

But we did have snow early in December and another taste of snow at mid-month. It didn’t linger very long either time, but sight of snow falling always lifts my spirits.

An early Christmas gift from the Giver of all good things.

10. The gift of art

I’ve been painting and drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon in a chubby hand and draw on a wall. Being separated from that activity for so long has made it all the more treasured.

Things for Which I'm Thankful - The Gift of Art

11. The Gift of Words

Very little gives me more pleasure than stringing words together on a page. There’s power in the written word that few other mediums possess and I’m grateful to God for entrusting me with this marvelous gift.

12. The Gift of Readers and Subscribers

That’s right. You! Without you, this blog would be like the sound of one hand clapping. You make it work! Thank you for your interest in what I do and what I teach.

13. My Husband

When I turned 40, I was still single—as in, never married—and was still living with my parents. I thought the best part of life was over and it was all a downhill slide into old age.

Then along came my husband through a process that’s unique and astounding and still takes my breath away when I stop to consider it. Definitely, another God Thing, and proof that new things can happen at any time.

LORD willing, we’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary in 2017. I still sometimes stop and wonder what I did to deserve such a blessing.

14. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I mean real liberty and real happiness. Joyous happiness. The kind of joy that transcends circumstances. Something that comes only from God above. Without His blessing and sustenance, none of the rest would be possible.

God created me to live in this time and in this place. That means there’s a purpose behind it all. I may not always like the circumstances, but there are no accidents in God’s economy and for that, I am more thankful than words can express.

So there’s my list for 2016. It’s by no means complete, but taking the time to write it has made me more aware of the blessings—large and small—that have been showered upon us in the year just past.

Praise God from Whom all blessings really do flow!

What about you? What are you giving thanks for from 2016?