I’m a passionate advocate for words of loving kindness. “Walk the WOLK,” I like to say. Walk the words of loving kindness. But it’s not always easy to walk the WOLK, to walk the words of loving kindness, and often my prayer has been “Change my heart, O God.”

Words of loving kindness come from our heart, but without gratitude, my heart falters in the harder moments, the bigger conversations. One of my three non-negotiables for the year is gratitude, but I have to be careful, because my perfectionist leanings can impact my sense of gratitude—personal gratitude and the gratitude I feel toward others. It can color a conversation, bring about judgments, separate me from others.

I don’t mean to judge. I don’t intend to further our divisions, but smaller moments in my day can frame bigger ones in ways I never expected. Yes, those smaller moments—like moments with a crossword, moments on a walk, and moments in study.

I’m someone who does her Sunday crossword puzzle in ink. My goal is always to complete the puzzle perfectly—without a single mistake.

Another non-negotiable for this year is my biking and walking streak—which is now over 250 days. Before heading out on any given day, I check the weather app on my phone to determine the “perfect” time for my ride, my walk.

For years I’ve had the perfect plans for morning Bible study and prayer, one chapter, one lesson, all the blanks filled in followed by carefully scripted prayers for family, friends, and the world. No surprise to any of us that despite my “perfect” intentions, there have been Sundays with inked-in mistakes on my crossword. Despite what the weather app promised, there were days with howling winds and torrential downpours, misty mornings and frosty afternoons. There were also days when I turned my attention to work before opening my Bible for study.

Life is not perfect, but I continue to insist that it can be, that I can make it so, that I can be. And when I do that, I live in a “glass half empty” existence that elevates me, myself, and I, leaving me to discount too many blessings in my life.

Here’s what I know for sure: It’s difficult to be grateful when focused on perfection. And it’s difficult to find words of loving kindness without gratitude. That first mistake in the crossword puzzle becomes the moment I want to quit. That cold, rainy morning becomes the moment I want to park the bike, skip the walk. That day I missed my study time becomes the reason to stop altogether.

It’s hard for me to be “less than.” My desire to be my best can quickly morph into wanting/needing/ seeking to be “the” best. And when I do that, I overlook past blessings, I miss the blessings I’m experiencing right now, and I also dismiss the blessings to come.

For me, gratitude can get linked to the moments I’d hoped for and actually got. And those other moments, like when I’ve written (in ink!) the wrong word in the crossword become “Oh…! I messed up.” not “Oh…! There’s a different answer, a better solution.”

In her inaugural poem, Amanda Gorman shared a simple truth about life’s experiences. “In our grief, we grow, in our hurt, we hope, in our exhaustion, we try.” And for that I want to be grateful.

Kintsugi (kin-su’-gee) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Pieces are mended with a lacquer mixed with powered gold, silver or platinum. The breakage and repair are treated as part of an object’s history, not something to be hidden. Flaws and imperfections are embraced, celebrated for their beauty.

Have you ever celebrated your flaws? How can we embrace imperfections?

Life’s bigger conversations are difficult. Life’s harder discussions are harder, especially if we can’t embrace our own imperfections and the imperfections of those around us, if we don’t value wisdom and experience, patience and understanding, those parts in life that have often come with our own brokenness, pieces that have been glued together with the gold of God’s love and faithfulness, beautiful artwork to be celebrated and embraced.

I’m learning that gratitude isn’t just about thanking God for what I’ve wanted all along. Gratitude is about thanking God for what is—not only for what is in my life, but for what is in your life, too. Gratitude values my own life experiences, as well as your life experiences. Gratitude values the beauty of our pieced together glasses, each one unique in its design. Half empty? Not a one. Half full? More than.

On Sunday, I made several mistakes—in ink, but I treasured the quiet time with my crossword puzzle. Last week on my walk, I smiled while listening to birds singing in the cold of the morning. Today I finished my Beth Moore Bible study, a 10-week study took me almost 16 weeks, but I made it happen day by day, chapter by chapter, page by page. And for it all, I’m grateful.

Here at Fave Lifestyles we talk about doing life together. One of the things I’ve most valued about Karen Rae is her ability to embrace life’s flaws and imperfections and help us celebrate the beauty that is us.

What does your kintsugi bowl look like? How have your imperfections come together in the most beautiful ways? How have they fostered in you a spirit of gratitude?

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.

And be thankful.”

Colossians 3:15

Deanna Nowadnick is the author of Fruit of My Spirit and Signs in Life.

Deanna is also the host of “Morning WOLK with God” at Fave Lifestyles.