What a capsized canoe taught me about gratitude (and why I won’t stop talking about it)


10 years ago, if you had asked me what the theme of my life was, I would’ve said survival. With three children under the age of three, multiple ministry moves, 17 different houses, struggling to make ends meet and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was all about survival.


Of course, by God’s grace I did survive but I wanted to do more than just survive. In my mind, survival looked like hanging onto a rope, dangling over an abyss and not letting go. I preferred to climb that rope and end up on top of the mountain enjoying the view. Gratitude was the key that took me from surviving to thriving.


Gratitude gradually became my life’s theme


I write about gratitude a LOT. So why am I writing about this again, you ask?


I guess because I keep thinking about the Bible verse, “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light’ and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops.” Matt 10:27.

Yeah, I know that’s a little out of context, but this blog? It’s my housetop and this former woe-is-me-woman can’t help but shout, “Look what the Lord has done! He healed my body he touched my mind, he saved me just in time!”

Literally. Just last week, in fact.

My husband and I just got back from a short getaway to the river shore on the coast to North Carolina, where my mom grew up and where I spent my sunburned childhood summers. It’s a special place to us filled with memories of sand between the toes, sharks teeth, crab stew, uncles and cousins gathered around, mosquito bites, jellyfish and dolphin sighting.

It’s a place where God never fails to meet me, a place to rejuvenate and I am always grateful for a chance to visit there, even if it’s a day trip.

This time though, it was three nights in a sweet little Airbnb cottage high on the bluffs with its own little sandy beach, perfect for daydreaming, reading and painting for me, and for my husband, fishing


Our expectations were high


Did I mention we just bought a canoe and this trip was going to be its debut?

Lazy paddling when the water was calm, and a base for Roger to catch all those red fish he dreamed about. We had done a test drive in a pond nearby prior to our trip, because, you know, a POND is so much like paddling on the RIVER with the WIND and the WAVES.

The test drive was lovely except for figuring out how to lift the canoe onto the roof the car ( and get it off again without decapitation) and then there was the puzzling/terrifying moment of actually getting into the canoe.

Apparently we were/are in denial about the fact that we are in our late 60’s, not in the greatest shape and the canoe purchase may or may not have been the wisest recreational purchase for this stage of life. Ahem.

But I digress. 



We had experience now. We were canoeists. 


I’ll make this short: 

  • Zero fish were caught
  • We swamped the boat and had to bail it out three times
  • Roger lost a fishing rod when it fell off the canoe
  • I fell into the river trying to push Roger off the shore
  • We capsized when I reached for a floating seagull feather, (of course, I did) Roger lost his prescription eyeglasses in the process and we had to swim and pull the boat to shore from a long distance… a really long distance
  • Did I mention it rained almost the entire time? And we unknowingly stumbled onto a pile of red ants?


I won’t go into it here but the entire fiasco brought up a LOT of buried marital issues. There was sooo much opportunity for a major blowout. Not gonna’ lie, I was tempted to let (make) that happen. 


Disappointment, frustration, weariness and irritation pound on the doors of our hearts. Gratitude gives us the grace to keep the door locked to all but our Master.


Gratitude didn’t make our situation better. 


It made ME better. 




Better able to be compassionate, to find the humor, to see it as an adventure, to look beyond the present debacle and experience the pervasive demonstration of Gods love for us. 


Am I just being a Pollyanna here? Ha! If you really know me you know I am no Pollyanna. That trip was hard. Disappointing. Fraught with excuses to fight and flail and shake fists at the sky ( and each other) 


It was also filled with opportunity to Count it all Joy. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits. Benefits referring to ALL of God’s dealings with us, swamped canoes and all.


Gratitude helps me to engage with my heart so that I can reengage with my husband and with God.


Gratitude Brings Joy


Gratitude lessons from a canoe trip


I remember a spiritual direction session last year with Summer Gross, where we talked about all that was going on in my life and how I felt about it. After listening intently, Summer replied, “It sounds like joy. It sounds like you are experiencing joy.”


I remember being stunned.


“Glass is half-empty me… joyful?”

Who knew?

Here’s what I know now:


Gratitude doesn’t change my circumstances. Gratitude changes me. 


It changes the way I think

It changes the way I pray

It changes the way I talk

It changes the way I process

It changes my countenance

It changes the way I relate to others

It changes how I feel about the future

It changes my anxiety levels

It changes my actual brain

it changes my heart


That fleshy heart of mine, so prone to dry up and turn to stone—gratitude softens it and pumps it full of joy.  Share on X




Gratitude is my theme and I can’t stop, won’t stop shouting it from the housetops. 


Father, forgive us for forgetting to give you thanks. We ask you to help us be gripped with gratitude for your gracious loving kindness which you show in myriads of ways. Teach us to see your goodness even in the hard things and to respond with thanksgiving. Help us, Oh Lord, to Count it ALL Joy. May the dark clouds that loom be a reminder to seek Your light. Help us make gratitude a practice until it becomes effortless. You are deserving of all our praise. May we count our blessings so that we live lives that count.


P.S. Know anybody looking for a good used canoe? Paddles included.



Canoe adventure





Hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, Please share.

14 thoughts on “What a capsized canoe taught me about gratitude (and why I won’t stop talking about it)

  • September 24, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    Susan, this is so good! I have learned over the past few years that gratitude is a key that unlocks more of God’s blessings. God loves a grateful ❤

  • September 24, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    You had me laughing out loud. I felt like I was in the canoe with y’all. But boy am I glad I wasn’t! Glad you found gratitude amidst it. No small feat, I’m sure. 🙌

    • September 24, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      Wish I could tell you the story in person, I’d have you rolling on the floor! God is so good to help us find humor in tough situations. Real life beauty for ashes. ❤️

  • September 24, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Reading this while waiting to get a scan. Needed. Thank you. ❤

  • September 24, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Don’t give up on the canoe! We have recently purchased kayaks, water fun even at our age! Good adventure story to remember. Gratitude has its humorous side too😜. Love ya cuz!

  • September 24, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    I was asked recently “how things were going”. I replied great! and really meant it. Marc’s mom has just moved in with us. She has Alzheimers. She can’t remember what day it is, where she is, she misplaces things daily, she is down in the dumps, she mutters to herself, etc. The other things she does, do, is talk about family memories, she sketches in her many sketch books, she tries to crochet, she sits on the patio swing and tells me how to garden, she feeds the birds, she laughs at silly things the dogs do. She is still here, and for that I’m truly grateful.

    • September 24, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      I loved reading this! What a testimony. It made me smile so big. Much love to you and your family!

  • September 24, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    What a great read & reminder!

  • September 24, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    Loved your message of gratitude being the key to survival. It truly does change the mind (brain) and heart, So thankful to call you my brave, adventurous friend.

    • September 25, 2020 at 8:54 pm

      Thanks Susan for sharing these thoughts. They were so encouraging.

      • September 25, 2020 at 10:41 pm

        💓 Always appreciate you taking the time to read and commenting!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email