Seems as if the majority of people on facebook take each day of November to post something they are thankful for. Well, our November was C.R.A.Z.Y. with Quinn's 4th birthday, Nora's homecoming, Thanksgiving, and our 11th Anniversary, so I was not in the majority posting my 30 things. I do, however, believe in the power of a thankful heart and even though I truly am thankful every day, wanted to dedicate this post to 30 "things" I find myself thanking God for.
1. Jesus coming to this world as a baby boy (a.k.a. Christmas). I am always amazed that Jesus' death seems to have so much holy weight to it and yet, if He never would have come to this earth first, He never would have been able to leave it and therefore save us from our sins' punishment. As much as I am thankful for Easter and that gift of grace at the end of His life, I am even more thankful for His choice in coming to earth in the first place.
2. Socks. I am not a fan of bare feet...at all really. I will not be the person you see running around barefoot and fancy free. I will not be loving the feeling of grass on my bare feet in the summertime. I will not be the first in line for a pedicure (in fact, I've never had one). I will, however, always be thankful for my warm cotton socks. I love feet...covered up in socks. No, I have no idea where this has come from...no feet trauma that I am aware of at all.
3. Putting the kids to bed...but not because it finally gives me quietness, but because it has evolved into a beautiful family time. After several years of Micah and I taking turns putting the kids to bed we realized we had found ourselves in a place where neither one of us really wanted it to be "our turn" to put them to bed. We were even getting lazy in getting them to bed on time because we were silently hoping the other one would simply dib it their turn and therefore free the other one from having to get up off the comfy warm couch and help them. By the end of that "era" it wasn't pretty. One evening, Micah, in his wisdom, suggested that instead of this battle we really should both start putting them all down together every night we were all home. His hopes, I think, were to see this time become a family time we both looked forward to instead of a time we were annoyed with. I won't lie...it took me a little bit to warm up to the idea (what mom isn't tired by that time of the day), but now that we have been consistently doing this for several years, I find myself incredibly thankful we are together as a family for those precious minutes almost every day.
In that time frame we each get the chance to name things we are thankful for that day. It has been wonderful to hear what all our children say as well as knowing we are instilling in them the desire to recall what good things are happening all around them. After mentioning all of these "thankfulness things", we pray as a family thanking God for the things we have mentioned and lifting any other prayer requests we may have. Who actually does the praying for our family is on a rotation that involves all of us and the kids have it memorized at this point. I love hearing them pray. I love knowing they are hearing us pray. I love that God is getting talked to by each of us in the presence of the others. After prayer, the person who prayed also gets to choose a song to sing as a family. These songs range from made-up silly songs, to praise songs, to songs Micah and I know from our camp days, to Christmas songs, to songs the kids have learned at school. We end our time together every night with a big group hug or pile-up (or dog pile as we call it-ha!) Even Nora, with her limited English, will get excited about our family time together by saying "Group Hug!" and smiling ear to ear as we all press in together. They are daily moments I cherish and I'm so thankful for them.
4. A warm, cozy house. I really love our house. I love the location, I love the "feel" of it, I love the neighbors, I love the yard, and I love that God has allowed us to live in it. I am more aware than ever after traveling to Haiti three times now that there are far too many who do not have this luxury. I am thankful for the house God has provided for us.
5. Short hair. I can not express enough how thankful I am to have short hair. Yes, my daughter may think I look like a boy still and desperately plead for me to grow it back out like a girl, but this Mama ain't doing it! The perks FAR outweigh the sacrifices. With short hair it takes me less than 1 minute to style it and be ready to go, it does not need any electrical appliances to make it look finished, it does not blow into my eyes/face/mouth when it's windy, it does not get caught up in zippers or make my vacuum cleaner clogged, and it does not give me headaches from the weight of it all. Yes, there are some impressive bed-head mornings and, yes, it can be a bit sad to not have fun "up-do's" for fancy nights out (because those come soooo often these days), but like I said, those are never going to win out over the pro's. Plus, the added bonus is I get more compliments from random strangers on this haircut than any other I have ever had. WooHoo!
6. Friends of the past. One of the songs we sing at bedtime as a family comes from my elementary school Brownie days. The words are "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold." I am a FIRM believer in the truth of this song. I am so thankful that God has had so many, many, many people cross my path throughout life. Facebook has helped me reconnect with many of them and I absolutely love the memories that come when I see their faces. I am who I am because of the experiences in my past and the people who experienced those events with me.
7. Friends of the present. Some friends actually could be filed in both #6 and this one--some friends of my past are still my friends of the present, yet I see God continuing to bring forth even more beautiful people in my life now who bless me with friendship. I am thankful God surrounds us with fellowship in the here and now.
8. Ice Cream. It is my dessert downfall. Even in winter I could eat a bowl every night if I allowed myself to. I love it. I am thankful it exists in this world and I am really hopeful it is on the table of the banquet in Heaven.
9. Water Aerobics and Water Zumba. I have a chest disease called Costochrondritus and it flares up a lot when I am exercising anywhere but in the water. I am thankful these classes exist for people who still want a great workout without the stress on their joints and cartilage. Plus I can not think of many more fun things than to be dancing around with other ladies when no one can really see how badly those dance moves look because they are all under the water!
10. Elderly people. The older I get the more I want to glean from their years of wisdom before it's too late. One particular woman in our church has my undivided attention right now. When Arlene's mouth opens, I am listening. She is a powerful woman of God and one whom I'm incredibly grateful to have prayed with.
11. Sexiness. Oh, this is a good one! This past year I decided to make it my goal to be more sexy. Yep. You just read that right. Sexy. Now hear me out on this one...I haven't changed my entire wardrobe to have more than half my skin showing because that is what the world calls "sexy". No, I have had a goal to show my girls (and my boys) by example what is truly "sexy" instead of what the world says is sexy. To me, sexy is being a woman who is confident in her body and in her abilities. A woman who knows her body is important and something of value. A woman who knows her strength is not just about weightlifting but also about her integrity, her character, her desire. A woman who values her husband and looks to him for direction and blessing. A woman who loves herself enough to work hard to protect herself from harm--physically, mentally, and spiritually. A woman like that, in my eyes at least, is definitely sexy. So, I decided to go after those things harder than I have before this past year. Let me be loud and clear, this journey towards a "sexier me" has never been about weight loss, but it has definitely included getting healthy. I've tried healthier foods I never even knew existed, I worked out on average 4 days a week for about a 1/2 hour each day, and I read more Scripture daily than I ever have before. The process, as well as the results, are things I am thankful for. I am 9ish pounds lighter, much more aware of what I am putting into my body (yes, it still includes ice cream), much more in tune with the Spirit who lives inside me, confident in who God made me to be and driven to be that person daily not only for the benefit of my husband, my children, my friends, and the others around me, but for myself too. I am thankful I can now say I think I'm sexy and I know it! Ha! I am thankful I can now help properly define what "sexy" is to my next generation of women living in my home.
12. Sunrises and sunsets. Often I would take my walks in the early morning or late evenings around my neighborhood. God would speak many things to my heart during those walks and I always enjoyed the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets during those conversations. The clouds, colors of the sky, and warmth I felt were kisses from the Lord.
13. Micah. I am more in love with that man today than I ever have been before. I used to loathe that we are very different from one another in our personalities. Now, even though there are still challenges because of this, I love that he has taught me many things I would have missed if left only to myself. I love the man he has become in his own journey over the past 11 years of our marriage. I have seen him humbled and broken as well as risen and confident in his strength. I know God is using him to impact people I will never be able to reach and I am thankful I get to be his helpmate and encourager.
14. MIPI (Moms In Prayer International). I am thankful for this group of faithful women I join up with every week to pray for our specific children who attend school, their teachers, the school's faculty and staff, the school administration, and their fellow classmates. I love feeling connected to my children and their schooling in a prayer-full way. Not to mention, I am equally thankful for the fellow moms who pray alongside me. Their hearts inspire me.
15. Photos. Maybe it's because my dad's camera was basically another family member growing up, but I truly love photos and am thankful they exist. There is nothing so special as moments of time being recorded and documented in such a way as to capture the essence of that very moment in the form of a photo for others to enjoy.
16. Modern technology and conveniences such as refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, televisions, computers, dvd players, and phones. They may bring some disadvantages to our lives, but overall, they are very helpful to my day.
17. Teachers. Education runs strong in our family tree. My dad's side as teachers, principals, superintendents, and my mom's side as art teachers. Even I started college out as an elementary art education student, but it was quickly discovered that teaching really wasn't my forte. When I see several of my homeschooling mom friends around me doing what they do and loving it, I think, "Yep, that just isn't my calling." I value education strongly, however, and therefore am extremely grateful for teachers who do what I do not find enjoyable at all. Thank you for teaching my kids!
18. The journey of adoption. Yes, it was a long 2 year, 4 month process, but it had much beauty along the way. Even in the midst of sorrow and hard moments, it was a place where God spoke to my heart in ways I'd never heard or recognized before. You think going into adoption that you are helping out another fellow human being, but God has so much more in store for you than that. The journey, and all that comes with it, is one to be thankful for.
19. Lily. My firstborn. My stubborn girl who was two weeks late with two inductions. My second "Mama" around this house. My rule-follower. My mini-me in more than just looks. My giver of all she has for others. She is a gem. She is a delight. She is a joy to watch grow up. I am thankful for her life.
20. Tobias. My first boy. My sensitive soul. My fighter for life. My more quiet and tender spirit. My creative and imaginative one. We were so close to losing him and I find myself always thankful for the days we have been given with him. I can't imagine life without his sweet smile.
21. Quinn. My last boy. My uniquely confident one. My jokester. My Mr. Independent. My silly and mischievously sneaky son. He keeps me on my toes and creates a day with never a dull moment. I am blessed and thankful for the dynamic he throws into this family.
22. Nora. My lastborn. My girl born in my heart and not in my belly. My cheerful and happy one. My determined and discovering two year old. My delight to have a part of this crazy crew. I am thankful that when we said yes to God's call for adoption, she was who He had in mind for us.
23. My church. I am blessed to be a part of what God is doing at Maple City Chapel. I am thankful for who He is impacting because of the work being done there. I love going to church knowing that no matter what, God's Spirit is moving, active, and alive among the people there. Prayers are being prayed, Praise is being given, Thankfulness is active, and the Kingdom is being added to.
24. My garden. I have loved two seasons now of planting, caring for, and harvesting my own food. It has helped on our grocery budget, gotten me outside more, provided more healthy foods for our bodies, and enabled my children and I to watch something grow from a seed to a food on our plate. Those are priceless lessons lost when you buy everything from a store.
25. Good Morning Girls. If you are unfamiliar with this online Bible study, you can find more information here. God has used this study to open up His Word to me daily and hold me accountable to applying His Word to my present life. There is nothing more special than knowing exactly how God's Word is alive and active in your own personal life.
26. Music. There is not much that can stir my spirit more than music in all it's various forms. Whether I'm jammin' to my hip hop, latin, and zumba groves, being led through a storyline in a broadway musical, glorifying the Lord with some praise and worship music, relaxing to some folk, indie or soul, or simply thinking and praying along to instrumental sounds, God uses music to touch my very soul and I'm so grateful.
27. Vacations. Vacations were very important to my family as I grew up. We took them religiously every summer for extended periods of time. Not once did we ever fly...always drove. My parents did an amazing job of allowing me to see the history of our country with my own eyes so that when I studied about places in school I could visualize it so much better. By the time I graduated high school I had been to Canada, Mexico, and 47 of the 50 states. Since then I have added 3 additional countries to the list as well. Now that we have our own brood, I look forward to spending time on vacations with them. We may not be able to afford to do all the trips I took as a child, but spending time as a family away from the normalcy and stresses of daily life is what vacation is all about anyway--it really doesn't matter so much where you go, but how you enjoy the trip.
28. Art. It is in my blood to be creative and artistic. I am thankful God has given me that gifting and has shown me so many various ways to use it to bless others. Some of my most "proud" moments as an artist have been various paintings and drawings I have done over the years to serve as some bit of encouragement to a friend in need, paintings and murals on the walls of my churches, my Etch-A-Sketch calendar project to help raise funds to bring Nora into our family, and even the refinishing of our current dining room table and chairs my dearest loved ones, as well as guests to our home, can enjoy over a meal. Embracing my gift has been a wonderful way for me to feel like I can give a blessing to others I'm grateful to have been given myself.
29. God's goodness and love. When it really boils down to the nitty gritty in my life, I have struggled throughout my past to fully trust God. Hard situations that I did not deal well with or heal properly from right away had unfortunately left me questioning whether or not God was fully on my side. Fully good. Fully loving. Fully who I so desperately wanted Him to be yet for some reason couldn't actually trust Him to be. The freedoms I have received in more recent years from the lies I was believing have shed such a beautiful light on the Truth that God is nothing but goodness and love in their purest forms. No matter what life throws at me, I feel as if I now have a spiritual backbone based in the Truth of God that will allow me to trust Him 100% to be good and loving at all times because that is exactly what He is. He can be no other.
30. Heaven. I know I'm not fully there yet so I don't even know what I'm fully thankful for about it, but the reality that it exists and I'm a part of it leaves me speechless. I am thankful God created it. I am thankful I was intended for it. I am thankful I have chosen to receive it. I am thankful I already have sneak peaks of it in my life already. I am thankful I have dear friends and loved ones waiting for me there. I am thankful I have the awesome privilege of helping others be there with me. I am thankful I will be in the Presence of the Holy while I'm in it. I am simply thankful for the gift of Heaven.
Obviously, there is so much more I am thankful for in my life. This list could continue on into eternity actually. I'll stop with 30, but just know that the more I recall and the more I acknowledge what God has given me to be thankful for, the more I look at life through positive, hopeful, loving, and expectant glasses instead of the more pessimistic ones I used to own. It is truly a blessing to be a thankful person in this world. Not only a blessing to others, but a blessing to oneself. Being thankful, among some other Godly things, has changed me. Changed me more and more into the person God has always intended me to be and...well...I'm thankful for that.