When counting it all joy feels a little like death

I received a message recently from someone who reads my nightly gratitude post, “Counting it ALL Joy” on Facebook. Here’s what it said: “Your Counting it ALL Joy is killing me.”

I’d been posting a lot of things about my new little granddaughter including an adorable picture of her in her hedge hog Halloween outfit, so I thought she meant it in a nice way – killing her with joy. But then I read further.

“ …we face issues that do not have a shred of joy in them. I stand here in front of your words and beg my Father to help me, in faith, believe it and to live it. This formidable mountain casts a deep shadow.”

Oh my heart. She’d been reading not just the gratitude posts but also the blog series on climbing the mountains in our lives. Her mountain was so vast the shadow was blocking out every bit of light. All I could do was empathize because I’ve been there. That’s how this whole practice started—when I was drowning in the depths of my own darkness. It’s one thing to count your blessings when you can look out your rustic farmhouse window, see the sun rise and the light fall on that patch of glorious sunflowers you planted last spring. I looked out the window and all I could see was the dumpster. I get it.

How do you count it all joy when you’re not joyful?

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Everything you need you already have

You have more than enough

Pssst… can I tell you a secret? You’ve got what it takes. Really. Everything you need you already have. You already have everything you need. (Notice I said “need, not want.”)

One of the life lessons I’ve heard people speak about during this season of isolation is they’ve realized the blessings of what they already have. Without the normal everyday distractions of commuting, car-pooling, shopping, movies, concerts, eating out, their eyes were suddenly opened to what was there all along: ENOUGH. And not only was it enough, it was more than enough.


It’s like the whole world stopped for a moment, took time to breathe and collectively murmured, “Ohhhh…..”


And breathe


Of course, now that we’re in the midst of back-to-school craziness, elections, racial divisions and hurricanes x 2, the collective sigh has turned into a groan. NOT ENOUGH. Not enough patience, emotional and mental capacity, clarity; not enough bandwidth to deal.

So, it was a mercy this morning to read this verse in 2nd Peter from The Passion Translation:

“May grace and peace cascade over you as you live in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power.” 2 Peter 1:2-3

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100 Things to Remember

Remember when remembering was easier than it is now? (I’m talking to my older readers. You younger ones—remember this: you’ll be old too, someday.)


I post a gratitude list on Facebook each night and if I don’t keep a running list on my phone throughout the day, forget it! I can barely remember my name by 9pm, let alone remember the details of my day.

Counting it all Joy (the name of my nightly list) is my way of remembering the good stuff. Making my list reminds me (another “Re-word” that I could write a whole post about) to have perspective—to see accurately. When you actively look for blessings, really pay attention (it costs something: time, energy, focus) you realize there’s no such thing as a bad day.


Be observant


Understand please, that no one who knows me well would ever call me a Pollyanna, or Susie Sunshine. But as I continue to ask God to give me eyes to see what He sees, and then to purposefully remember by the act of writing it down, my days have a lightness to them. My perspective changes.

Ultimately what I remember by all that remembering is this truth:


Life is good.

Of course He is. And life IS good. But I forget. It’s crazy how forgetful I am.

Yesterday I totally forgot that I had a facial scheduled even though I had it written down in several places. (But I remembered to go to the grocery.) I remember big things but forget little things. Or I remember little things but forget big things.

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9 Things I Learned in 2018

2018 was a very good year


Every day for the past 4-1/2 years I’ve written an online nightly gratitude post, called Counting it ALL Joy; in it, I share honestly about my search for joy and what I’m learning, because here’s the thing… it’s not really joy unless you count it ALL joy. Searching for joy is like searching for gold; sometimes you find the Mother Lode, sometimes you find nuggets, but you never come up empty handed. There’s joy in the searching and there’s always something to learn.

Here are 8 things I learned in 2018:


1. Momentum is built one moment at a time

It’s easy to build momentum when you’re headed downhill; it’s the uphill slog that bogs you down.  This year was uphill all the way for me. Redesigning and relaunching my blog, building an email list, learning a new platform, refreshing old content and writing new… whew! My secret to success? Keeping my butt in the chair! I couldn’t find my picture of the chair.


My writing spot is an antique teacher's desk that belonged to my Dad

2. Fitness can be fun

You’d never find me at the gym on January 2nd, or any day, for that matter. My idea of exercise is picking up my pen to write in my journal and taking long, rambling walks. I don’t like crowds, noise, TV (or multiple TV’s as is the case at the gym) and I’m not particularly fond of sweating.

Then we hired a trainer named King, a 6’10” tall, gentle tyrant and I am at his command. I’m down 12 pounds, have tons of energy and am setting new goals for myself.


Having a personal trainer has made all the difference.

3. Patience pays off

Discouraged that you’re sowing to the wind?

23 years ago my husband and I released an album called Expectantly. Never heard of it? Huh. 7 years ago I published a book called Holidazed, remarkably also not a best seller. In November as I sat at my computer trying to figure out yet another way to market my book, I got an email from a pastor who said he’d just read my book and was I the same Susan Ely from the above album? He then went on to  explain how both were lifesavers for him during an extremely difficult time.

Keep sowing, you never know how or when those seeds will turn into fruit.


4. A large life is found in the small things

I enjoyed reading Cozy Minimalist Home and began the process of de-cluttering. Less really is more and a minimal amount of stuff provides maximal enjoyment. This of course, does not apply to boots. You can never have too many boots.


You can't have too many


5. Ain’t no mountain high enough if you’ve got the right guide

I’ve learned over the years to do “alone” but together is better. I’ve got some new guides holding me by by the hand: Summer Gross, my spiritual director who is teaching me to be still and listen. Emily Freeman, Brian Dixon, Gary Morland and the whole gang of Hope Writers, worldwide and locally, encouraging me on my writing journey.

Encouraging each other in our writing ministry

This is Erica Baldwin and Jodi Grubbs, both survivors in their own way, both brilliant!


This is my new friend Niki Hardy; stay tuned for her book coming out this year!


6. There are only three patterns I can wear confidently:

Leopard, snakeskin and camouflage. Apparently I am a wild woman.

Snakeskin boots are in the pile above.

I am officially a wild woman

7. I love musicals

Actually, I always have but I guess I forgot. This year’s favorites were The Greatest Showman and A Star is Born. I haven’t seen Hamilton, but love the soundtrack. Yesterday I watched Fiddler on the Roof and judging from the fact that I couldn’t sit still during the dance scenes, I’m pretty sure I’m part Jewish.


8. Leave the past behind and step into the future

I’ve been slowly letting go of emotional baggage; this year I let go of some of the physical baggage in the form of furniture and accessories from our old house. Suddenly I couldn’t handle all the stuff, all the color, all the reminders of loss. So I donated, spray painted, recovered and replaced items and created a refreshing and soothing neutral palate. Ahh…


Console table and updated mirror spraypainted gold


9. I want to build a table, not a platform

There are at least two, if not more, books inside me but the powers that be tell me that if I want anyone besides my immediate family to read them, I need a platform. Ugh to that for lots of reasons. Platforms are lonely places. A table suits me better. My passion is to serve up tasty, nourishing food in the form of words that inspire and satisfy the hungry soul. Words that you’ll want to share with others around your table. Join me?


The coffee is ready, pull up a chair


Happy New Year, friends! Your encouragement and support mean the world to me. You are why I do what I do. I pray that as you usher in this new year, the Lord will usher you into His Presence and Purposes in a way that will exceed all you could ever ask or imagine. Blessings!







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How to walk in the light in a dark season

I shopped for light bulbs the other day. What. An. Ordeal. Can I just tell you how confusing it was? And how expensive? Oh, for the days of a ninety-nine cent incandescent bulb and the only choice you had to make was the wattage.

Oh for the days of a ninety-nine cent incandescent bulb and the only choice you had to make was the wattage. Edison would shake his head at it all. Can you imagine his face if he heard us telling Alexa to turn on the lights?

Edison would shake his head at it all. Can you imagine his face if he could hear us tell Alexa to turn on the lights? 

The absolute miracle of a light bulb barely registers a mention on my daily gratitude list, Counting It ALL Joy.  Not until the bulb burns out or the power goes off. I don’t really appreciate the light until it’s dark. 

I don't really appreciate the light until it's dark. Share on X

I’ve experienced days (weeks, months) of darkness, the jet black, can’t see your hands in front of your face kind. I’ve groped around, blindly searching for a switch to illuminate a way out of the deep despair.

Matthew 4:16 says, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light.”

I’d seen and experienced that life-giving light of Christ, but there were times both the light and the life were MIA. Just when I needed them the most. Read more

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