Sunstruck: Defining Appreciation

I had big plans last weekend. I wanted to kick my life list in the teeth and cross off eight predetermined tasks. I eloquently branded the endeavor: “Live the List Weekend.”


• I didn’t ride a horse (No. 3)

• I didn’t ride a motorcycle (No. 9)

• I didn’t see a drive-in movie (No. 14)

• I didn’t tie a call to action to a helium balloon and let it go (No. 52)

I refuse to throw out excuses – these things just didn’t get done.

But my self-proclaimed “Live the List Weekend” was not a complete fail – FAR
from it.

I appreciated a sunrise and sunset in the same day (No. 2), ate lobster (No. 6), planted a garden (No. 12) and hosted a game night (No. 35).

While each task has it’s own unique tale, it’s those reflective moments at dusk and dawn that will consume the next 1,015 words.

– – –


Live the List

I gave myself enough time before Saturday’s sunrise to make a cup of coffee, get bundled up and drive a half mile across my parent’s property to watch the sun come up over the Brazos River.

It was a magical spectacle of colors as the sun hit the calm water and motionless trees. I sat there sipping my coffee and asking myself:

“What does it really mean to ‘appreciate’ something?”

For some reason, I struggled with an answer.

As I watched the steam rise from the cold water, other questions started popping into my head:

• Why exactly did I put this on my list?

• Did I have to stand on the banks of this river to cross this off my list?

• Could I have appreciated this daily occurrence from my bedroom window?

These questions had nothing to do with the fact it was 26 degrees outside or because I couldn’t feel my feet. These profound inquiries were coming from deep inside my soul.

I wanted to know why I didn’t “appreciate” the start of a new day more often, and I was curious why it took a trivial life list to make me stop for 10 minutes and witness this daily miracle – an incredible reminder of faith and hope.

I turned to the literal definition of “appreciation,” and it was the gratitude portion of the definition that stood out. I’m convinced that’s why I put it on my list.

Photos taken that morning support my theory.

When I watched the sun start to illuminate the horizon, I became extremely grateful.

• I was grateful for this opportunity. (I thought about the millions of people who wouldn’t or couldn’t see the sun come up that morning.)

• I was grateful for a new day. (Again, anticipating the amazing possibilities that could present themselves.)

• I was grateful that God gave me another chance to honor and glorify him. (I’m sure there were moments the day before where I took that opportunity for granted.)

As the sun cleared the tree tops and started to warm my chapped face, I realized that this moment captured the hope I had for my life list: A gigantic thank you note to God for allowing me to truly live an adventurous and amazing life.

Standing on the banks of the Brazos River was far from adventurous, but it was nothing short of amazing.

As the sun began to cast long shadows on the rocks behind me, I said a short prayer and then made myself a promise.

“More sunrises!”

I reminded myself that it doesn’t have to be an extravagant “event” like it was on Saturday morning – but slowing down for 5 to 10 minutes, regaining a little perspective and being grateful is necessary to truly living life.

– – –


Live the List

I wasn’t alone when the sun came up Saturday morning, and I wasn’t alone when the sun went down.

I don’t know if that was my hope when I added the second task to my 55/555 List, but I LOVE how it played out. I got the chance to share two reflective moments with family and friends, and it was wonderfully great.

My buddy Dave and his 6-year-old daughter, Presley, were with me in the morning, and as the sun started to set on my parent’s property, the rest of Dave’s family was there. So were TK and The Boy.

All the kids were laughing and playing.

The adults were talking about anything, everything and nothing at the same time.

The sun was giving us a breath-taking performance as it raced towards the horizon.

I sat on top of a hay bail and revisited the definition of “appreciation.” Again, the emphasis was on gratitude.

• I was grateful for my family.

• I was grateful for my friends.

Most importantly…

• I was grateful that I got the chance to share this moment with other people.

The sunset on that particular day was great, but the fact that I experienced it with a handful of people that I deeply care about made it that much better.

I want to close this post with a few paragraphs that I’ve shared several times about the death Chris McCandless. I thought it would be appropriate.


If you’ve already read my synopsis of McCandless’ death – I encourage you to read it again. If you’ve never read this – hopefully it speaks to you as loudly as it has spoken to me time and time again:

Chris McCandless…I want to share the premise of a book that changed my life: “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer. It’s a true story about a 20-something nomad named Chris McCandless, who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness and died. (I’m not ruining the book – it says that on the cover.)

Before his tragic and premature death, it was always about the next adventure for him. He wrote in one of his journals, “The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.” During his last days, however – alone in an abandoned bus in the snow-covered wilderness – he made a note next to the following passage from “Doctor Zhviago.”

“And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that unshared happiness is not happiness…”

In his dying days, Chris McCandless realized that the experiences that he had were extraordinary, BUT they were meaningless because he didn’t get the chance to share them with someone else. Next to that passage, he wrote “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.”

This is what I was thinking about as I watched the sun paint its masterpiece after a long day.

I appreciated the poignant reminder.

Wait there’s more – click to see other photos from my “Live the List Weekend”

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One Comment on “Sunstruck: Defining Appreciation”

  1. sillygirlstarlet
    February 20, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Makes me think about this morning. Barry said, “The clouds look really cool.” They looked like meringue. But it made me realize, I never really look up.

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