Keeping Joy Lists, Gratitude and a Gift for You

*eating blueberry pancakes for breakfast
standing half in shadow and feeling the warmth of the sun on my legs
choosing paint colors
spending the afternoon sewing
a jar of roses on the kitchen table

Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful. Tiny sparks of grace or surprise or delight. These sparks are so easily eclipsed. They need to be recognized, acknowledged, captured, kindled or they will be lost. I started collecting joy not because I was feeling joyful, but because I wasn’t. It was during a dark time in my life; I had taken a leap for my dreams and ended up falling flat on my face. Some days were good. Some days were not. Even on the bad days, I began to notice tiny, glimmering bits of beauty. Those glimmers brought me joy, gave me hope and – once I started paying attention – I realized that they were everywhere. I began writing Joy Lists to encourage myself to look for that beauty and to focus on joy. Beauty and joy are there. Everywhere. Everyday. It’s up to us to see them.

white tulips, spring flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I started writing my lists weekly, using whatever paper was handy. Index cards, post-it notes, backs of envelopes, margins of notebooks. Then I challenged myself to write daily lists and crafted a little journal from cardstock and printer paper, counting and cutting the pages, sewing them together to make a month-long book. That act was a form of meditation. It was a dedication to myself and an investment in my joy. Creating this journal elevated my practice of Joy List writing, acknowledging it as something special and pointing out that joy, like my little book, is of my own making.

waking up with no agenda for the day
a purring kitty
gardening surrounded by the hum of bees and the smell of lavender and roses
coming home from the library with a heavy bag full of good books
dog hugs
cross-currents blowing hairs against my face in the car

watercolor, nature, maple seeds, maple seed wreath, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Appreciating beauty and joy is not about getting or making or doing; it’s about seeing. Noticing a perfectly shaped leaf on the sidewalk or the puff of a dandelion seed head just waiting to be picked. Discovering the first flowers to bloom in the springtime or sighting an eagle soaring overhead. Sometimes it’s even more ephemeral. A smile from a stranger. A shape or color in a cloud. A scent on the wind. Joys need not be monumental. These glimmers of beauty aren’t, themselves, going to be life-changing. Becoming conscious of them, collecting them and being grateful for them is.

going out for ice cream with a friend
baby robins in a nest in the rosebushes
new underwear
the first snow
orange melon in a blue bowl

fortune cookies, beauty will surround you, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It’s true. If we don’t look, we won’t see beauty. If we don’t search for it, we won’t find joy. On some days it’s easier to see beauty and joy than on others, but they’re still there. Look up from washing the breakfast dishes and notice the pink-tinged clouds of the sunrise or rush through the task and miss the grace of the beginning day. Breathe in the scent of lilacs when out walking the dogs or hurry to get back to my to-do list with thoughts anywhere but on the blooming flowers or the singing birds in the trees or the dogs at the end of the leashes. The days I’m feeling the least joy are the days I most need to write Joy Lists. It’s those days when the simple act of taking the time to sit down, clear my mind and think about what’s around me and what’s been happening in my day helps me to notice the beauty that is everywhere. It reminds me how much I have to be grateful for.

jasmine flowers on my plant on the windowsill
flannel pajamas on the first cold night of the year
losing all sense of time while working on a painting
vintage buttons found while thrifting

watercolor, maple seeds, nature, patterns, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Since I created my first journal to capture my joys, I have been trying to write a list each day, filling up page after page of notebook after notebook with little glimmers. I'm not always good at it, but I try.

One of my greatest joys, something for which I am most grateful, is the support and encouragement from all of you. It means so much to me to have you along on my creative journey. Today I want to share a little thank you. A gift I created to show my gratitude. The maple seed artwork in this post was created to be used in your own Joy Journal. If you're on my newsletter mailing list you've received instructions for how to access a downloadable PDF and the instructions for creating your notebook.

free gift, joy journal, joy, watercolor, DIY, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

If you haven't signed up yet, you can do it here. After you've confirmed your subscription, you'll receive an email with instructions for accessing your gift.

The beauty that surrounds us is often tiny.  Some may say it’s insignificant, but I believe that no bit of beauty in our lives is insignificant. If we pay attention to it, if we remember to be grateful for it, even the tiniest observation can change how we feel. The act of collecting those tiny joys becomes life changing. Looking for them. Noticing them. Capturing them. Doing this has shifted my focus. It has changed my perspective, and perspective is everything.

Beauty will surround you. No, beauty does surround you. Open your eyes. Look. See. Feel. Slow down. It’s about truly being present. It’s about gratitude. Joy is there for the noticing. Always.

Wishing you much of it.

*all of the joys in italics are taken from the many joy lists I've written over the years.


  1. Such a precious little treat for us, Anne! Thank you for this gift.
    Your place here is so lovely.

    1. Thank you, Karen. Your encouragement and support over the years have meant so much to me.

  2. Thank you Anne and thank you for sharing your beautiful artwork for us all to use. I have not written joy lists lately but I have been observing joy and beauty around me. Have a lovely and joy filled weekend! :-)

    1. Thank you, Simone. You've been around since very early on my journey and I appreciate all the encouragement you've always given me. Glad that you're observing beauty. I hope your weekend has been lovely, too!

  3. Thank you!! This is just so beautiful.
    You are inspiration to me.

    1. Thank you, Carla! Your comments mean so much to me. I hope that you are finding much to celebrate this weekend... joy and beauty.

  4. Sooooo beautiful your words, your joys, your art ! Thank you!!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Aga. So glad that we've connected. Your encouragement and kindness mean a lot!

  5. Thanks so much for this - I have often wondered about the origin of the "Joy List Monday". Can't wait to make my own little book.

  6. You're welcome, Madeline. I hope you fill your book will all sorts of good stuff. :)

  7. Anne: Have you read the book, "One Thousand Gifts" by Anne VosKamp? It is all about learning how to look around and be grateful for all there is in your life. Check out her website:

    1. Hi, Sherry. Thanks so much for the recommendation! :) Wishing you much joy!

  8. What a sweet idea, thank you Anne :)

    1. You're welcome, Sheila. Wishing you many joys!

  9. Thank you. I never thought to write down my moments of joy. Again thank you.

    1. Hi, Mary Anne! So glad to have encouraged you to capture your joy! Wishing you much of it!!


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