Feb 27, 2020 8:52:28 AM / by Irene Kraegel


One of the best thank yous that I’ve ever received for a gift was from a one-year-old, a person too small to talk. How did he say thank you without words? He looked at the gift for a looooonnnng time. He examined every nook and cranny of the elephant pull toy, swiveling the ears and pointing his tiny pointer finger at each color. He turned the wheels with curiosity. He gazed up in his mom’s face, smiling and pointing her attention to the new toy. He gestured to unwrap it, and then took more time to point, examine, and smile. His gratitude overflowed, and my heart as a giver was warmed.

This tiny, wordless human was practicing mindfulness. He centered his full, direct attention on one thing in the moment. He allowed himself to experience the visual and tactile features of the toy without preconceived notions about what a gift should be like. He was unencumbered by the filter of language, experiencing the object (and his mother holding it) in a pure form rather than getting lost in interpretations, analysis, or judgments.

We can receive gifts in this way; we can practice mindfulness as a way of experiencing and demonstrating gratitude to God. In mindfulness practice, there is nothing off-limits to our attention. All of life is a gift, everything in every moment, the pleasant and unpleasant. So in every moment, we have the opportunity to really gaze at the gift. We can pause to experience the gift without expectation, without interpretation or analysis or judgment (positive or negative). We can be absorbed in the gift, long enough to experience the beauty that God has woven in. Long enough for the heart to settle, the peace to grow, the smile to come. I can only imagine that this brings warmth to God’s giver heart––us entering into a full experience of what God has lavished on us in the moment.

Here are some recent examples from my moments:

  • ​I cut a red onion in half. The colors inside are amazing––alternating reds and whites, with moisture dripping out. A gorgeous piece of edible goodness grown with patience and then transported all the way to my kitchen counter by a host of dedicated individuals who participated in God’s giving of this red onion to me in this moment. Thank you.



  • I open the blinds in the morning and cannot see outside because the window is covered in ice. Gazing at the ice, I see intricate and beautiful patterns. Swirls upon feathered swirls that shimmer and dance as they catch the light of the street lamp outside. This is art, delivered freely to my bedroom window as I awake on a dark winter morning. Thank you.



  • I notice angry and resentful feelings, with thoughts that I am disconnected and left out of life’s good stuff. I turn with intention to look in the face of another person. I see their physical features. I see their humanity, notice that we are together. I notice how their face tells a story that is different from my expectation, and my story about my own life experience changes in an instant as I use my sense of sight to take in the gift of this person’s face. My heart softens; I smile. Thank you.

The examples are endless because the moments of our life are too many to count––the sheer extravagance of God in giving us so many moments, so many gifts, is staggering. By practicing focused, nonjudgmental attention, we receive God’s good gifts with gratitude and even with joy. The gifts are there, if we but take time to receive. When we do, we warm the heart of our giving God.

To learn more about The Mindful Christian, click here.

Originally posted on on 12/18/2018.

Topics: Op-ed

Irene Kraegel

Written by Irene Kraegel

Irene Kraegel is a clinical psychologist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has worked in community mental health and then in private practice before joining Calvin University's Center for Counseling and Wellness in 2009, first as a counselor and now serving as director. She is known for her writing and resources at her website The Mindful Christian.

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