Whatever Things Are True And Praiseworthy…

The forest floor is covered in leaves and the sun flickers behind the tops of the trees as I walk.

I’m cold and my fears are pressing at my mind and I can feel myself starting to get cranky.

But Arlow is happy.

He is running, tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure not to stray too far from his mama.

“He’s such a happy dog!” someone tells me. And I take pride in that, in knowing I’m loving him well, that he’s happy.

Her husband throws a stick for Arlow and their own dogs and I watch them play fetch for twenty minutes.

The sun is shining and my boy is happy.

And all, in this moment, is well.

*

I feel gigantic.

None of my clothes fit and it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. Even my face is fat.

But I try to love myself anyway.

I love myself by eating Thai food tonight with my friend.

I love myself by not remembering the clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I love myself by not wondering how people see me and what they think and whether or not I’ll ever feel good about myself again.

And I love myself by resting my hand on my belly after I eat, willing myself not to be repulsed by this body that I’ve been given.

I thank God for my health, for my life, for what He’s doing.

*

There was a time when my entire world revolved around the need to belong and be loved. My mental health, well-being, and outlook on life were entirely wrapped up in whether or not I felt hugged, secure, wanted.

And there are times still when sorrow grips me. The loss. The questions.

“Who will I spend the holidays with?”
“Who will be there for me in May?”
“What kind of person doesn’t have anyone to put down as an emergency contact?”

But I’m getting better at leaving those questions in God’s hands.

I don’t carry my sorrows around with me anymore, using them as proof that my life isn’t important, that I’m alone and unloved. Using them as reasons to self-destruct.

I don’t even let myself consider anymore whether I’m “alone” or “loved”. Rather, I take my sorrows hand-in-hand with these truths:

She text me a cute picture of her dog.
She invite me to her house and treated me to dinner.
He affectionately punched my arm.
She called, crying, when she needed someone to be there for her.
She text to ask how I was feeling and remind me that she’s praying for me.
He made a point of connecting with me after church.

It doesn’t look the way I wish it would, but I can trust God with that.

And even now, with things exactly as they are, I can acknowledge that I’m wildly blessed.

*

Phil. 4:6-9

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

 

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Words and Unrelated Quotes

“We are all such wrecks down here. Strangers in a strange land, falling time and time again. Trying to find a way to live right and love each other without losing our minds. Pretending and doing the best we can. Spinning our wheels and holding on. But there’s something truly beautiful about wrecked people standing together and singing about grace and ways to make it through. Hoping still, even as the light fades and good dreams die, even when the way seems lost, even as kingdoms fall, even through the long, dark night of quiet skies. Here we are on this blue speck floating through the endless night, spiraling across a measureless cosmos of chaos and majesty, searching, reaching, longing for something higher than ourselves. Here we together, separate, united, alone. Our worst so rotten and our best so good. Struggling, trying, falling, failing. Rising from the dust and returning again. Believing for something better–something more. Here we are, God, the wrecked of your hands, fashioned from dirt and breath, blood and water, spirit and flesh, beauty and chaos. Strangers unaware, hoping for something beyond the endless night. The hope that an infinite Creator rose up through this same dust and walked our planet as a man, tempted and tried, falling and rising again–the hope that someday we will rise up and never fall again–that’s what holds us all together. Searching for the weight, the counterbalance, the antidote to this one strange tiny life. Searching for ways to hold on and keep hope alive. As long as there is hope.”

*

“Do you feel like your relationship with God has been negatively impacted?” she asked me. And all I could say was, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean…, I don’t know.” Which, obviously, means yes.

It means I’ve shut off the part of my heart that cares about making God first. It means I can’t sit through sermons anymore that exhort us to live godly lives because I’m not doing that right now.

Eventually, after muttering and mumbling nonsensically, I paused. “If I do feel like He’s distant, it’s just because of where my heart’s at, right? Not because He’s left me?”

“Yes,” she said softly. “He won’t ever leave you.”

*

I walked through the woods today, hot anger flooding my body. I was inexplicably cranky. And cranky about being cranky.

I came to the end of the trail and looped back around again. I walked and walked because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I wondered about my night, about what I’d do. A puzzle? Bake? Draw? Write? Watch a movie? I didn’t want to do any of that. And that, too, made me angry. I felt trapped in a life with long stretches of time to fill, and a complete lack of desire to do anything. What was I going to do? How was I going to get through it? Did I even want to?

And then, a whisper: “This is what it looks like to take care of yourself.”

Sometimes taking care of yourself is choosing to feel what you feel and not letting it become bigger than what it is. Don’t attach words like ‘forever’ and ‘always’ and ‘never’ to emotions. Don’t let what you feel determine your truth. Just breathe. Just breathe and let it be. Emotions always pass. None of them last forever.

On my way home, my phone rang and my friend asked if she could stay the night tonight.

Instantly, my bad mood lifted. Because I wouldn’t be alone. Someone wanted to spend time with me. I had plans for the evening, and I realized in that moment that there are still things I want to do.

*

I’ve been focusing on all the ways God’s still taking care of me, even while I choose to walk down a path I know grieves His heart.

My friend asking to come over on a day when I really needed her? That sure felt like God taking care of me.

The other day I had to get all new tires on my car. I found out the same morning I learned my checking account was -$54. But I had a credit card for my car repairs. And my brakes waited to go out until I’d gotten back from my road trip. And my friend met me for dinner while I waited for my car to get fixed. And he paid for my food. That sure felt like God too.

Kittens and “I love you’s” and waking up rested.
God-given little brothers and big sisters and moms.
Book recommendations and people who pray for you and therapists who believe they can help you.
Strangers who smile at you and friends who see good in you and when the pen you’re using happens to match your fingernail polish.
When your dog is home alone for eight hours and he doesn’t chew anything up.
When your cat licks your face.
Freshly laundered bedding and back massages and the way the sun looks coming through the trees.
Twitchy, dreaming dog paws.
A dwindling to-do list and the energy to plug away at it, one thing at a time.
Hope.

God is still taking care of me. I don’t deserve it, but He hasn’t left.

*

“Shakespeare described love as an ‘ever-fixed mark.’ In a healthy family, you know how love is defined: It’s clear, has boundaries, and is attainable. Unfortunately, in a shame-bound family, love is a moving target; on day it’s this and one day it’s that, and just when you’re sure you’ve got it figured out, you discover you don’t.” -Brennan Manning

Books And The Like

REALLY important question:

If the library didn’t want me to request fifty books at a time, they’d put a limit on the number of books a person can request, right?

The day I go pick all those books up will be the real walk of shame. Or walks of shame, since I’ll probably have to make more than one trip out to my car.

*

Reasons To Stay Alive:

  • Watching tree leaves turn red and orange and yellow.
  • Watching flowers bloom.
  • People who look at you with love in their eyes.
  • Conversations with coworkers that make you laugh.
  • When the weather forecast predicts snow.
  • Online orders arriving.
  • Handwritten letters.
  • Long hugs.
  • “Just thinking of you” text messages.
  • Good hair days.
  • Library books.

 

As Sure As The Sun

Dear God,

Thank You for the comfort of falling asleep on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, while people you love remain awake around you. Thank You for the gift of drifting off to sleep knowing You’re not alone.

Thank You when you wake up and realize you were drooling, but know you don’t have to be embarrassed because You’re safe with these people who love and accept you. And we’re all human. It’s not a competition.

Thank You for legs intertwined and shoulders to rest your head on and arms to interlink and backs to scratch.

Thank You for the quiet of night, and late night drives when you look out the window and watch the bright lights of buildings pass in a blur. And thank You when, in the car, people you love are asleep. And so precious to you. And you’re all there together. And the quiet and the being together and the lights lull you into a sense of All Is Well.

Thank You for laughter. And good stories. And deep conversations.

Thank You for good food and eating without guilt or shame or self-loathing. Thank You for cashews and grapes and dark chocolate.

Thank You for growth and hope and promise.Thank You for being wanted and belonging. And thank You that when something doesn’t make sense, I can entrust that thing to You and just let myself be held.

Thank You when the things I fear happening don’t happen.

Thank You for Dramamine and that I didn’t throw up in the car. And thank You that even the most uncomfortable things, like nausea, eventually pass. And thank You that even had I thrown up, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. Because I’m loved and it isn’t a performance. I’m safe and Yours and it’s all going to be okay.

Thank You for energy drinks and also please don’t let them kill me. 😉

Thank You for the beauty of winter- warm houses and long showers and hot beverages and clothes that feel like a hug. And thank You for the promise of spring.

Thank You for the way the rising sun looks on slightly foggy mornings.

Thank You for headaches that dissipate and don’t turn into migraines.

Thank You for the opportunity to create and read good books and continually open myself up to breathe in the holy beauty of what this world has to offer.

Thank You for the times when I feel out-of-place and judged and I can hold my head high and not feel sad because I know I am not doing life unloved. People carry me in their hearts even when we’re apart. And Thank You that You don’t make mistakes. And You made me.

Thank You for permission to be my authentic self. And thank You for giving me authentic, flawed, beautiful, Jesus-reflecting people to do life with.

Thank You for opportunities to nurture and provide and be someone’s safe place.

Thank You for animals and cuddles and purrs and how pets look at you like you’re everything they need.

Thank You for Indian food, and that the Indian food restaurant isn’t closer to my house than it is, which safeguards me from going very often!

Thank You that nothing unresolved or unhealed or fragmented within me will be that way forever. Thank You for the way hope and patience go hand-in-hand, and that waiting or not understanding aren’t evidence of anything. Thank You that You are reliably, unfailingly trustworthy and good.

Thank You for home–found in places and people and moments–and that even while we await our true home, our home with You, this world doesn’t have to feel lonely or wrong or like anything less than a gift.

Thank You for bathrooms with toilets that flush normally and don’t require any special tricks or maneuvers. And doors that lock in a way that isn’t confusing, making you simultaneously fear that it’s not actually locked, and also that it’s so locked that you won’t be able to get it unlocked and will have to pound on the door for help. …Which is totally a thing that has happened to me before.

Thank You for second chances and fiftieth chances and for always welcoming me back to You with arms wide open.

Thank You that it’s impossible to believe You to be more good or loving or present than You actually are. Thank You that You’re all those things more than we can even fathom.

Thank You for invitations.

Thank You that I can fall on my knees before You and just be Your child- desperate and needy and in love with You. Thank You that even in my deepest pain, when I turn to You, it makes you smile. And thank You that, even in my deepest pain, that thought brings me comfort.

Thank You that my begging You to know and love You more is not a prayer I have to fear going unanswered.

Thank You that I’m still here to celebrate my 29th birthday later this month. Thank You that even when I gave up, You didn’t. Thank You for all that has remained even amidst all the loss and brokenness and mistakes. Oh Abba, thank You.

Thank You for how You love me. Thank You for how You provide. Thank You that I have so much to be thankful for.

Hoping For Holy Fire

Not-rainy mornings in Washington? They are something special.

I can’t do them justice with words or Instagram pictures, so I don’t (and won’t) try.

Instead, I just let my eyes soak up the beauty and wonder and majesty of the sunrise, and mountain, and fog, and clouds, and world still gently cloaked in sleep.

And how all of it proclaims GOD IS.

*

Today at work, (with the help of Pinterest), I made a list of happy things. I tacked it to the bulletin board above my desk where my clients (and I) can see it regularly and be reminded of all there is in this brutiful life to love.

And as I was writing it? I caught myself smiling. I would defy you to read it and not smile as well.

Some of my favorites:

1. Making babies smile.
2. Getting letters in the mail.
3. Looking down at the clouds on an airplane.
4. Friends who are like family.
5. How excited dogs get about everything.
6. Meeting someone with the same birthday as you.
7. Watching someone talk about something they love.
8. Flannels in the winter.
9. Nicknames.
10. Resting your head on someone’s shoulder.
11. 2 a.m. conversations.
12. Making someone laugh.
13. Looking forward to things.
14. “I love you,” “good morning,” “goodnight”.
15. When you can hear a smile in someone’s voice.
16. Sunny rooms.
17. Handmade gifts.
18. Being trusted.
19. Being brave enough to do the right thing.
20. The sound of a crackling fire.

*

I have become that person who sobs in her car, and then walks into the store without checking her face/makeup in a mirror first.

And then I buy myself flowers.

I am also the person who pulled my car over illegally the other day to ask a man in a wheelchair holding a sign if I could do anything for him. Food? Money? Warmth? “No,” he said. “I just need a job.”

Guys, he didn’t want anything but work. He was old and had no legs and no teeth and no home and he was dirty and it was cold, and if ever there was a person who had the right to give up, it was him. But he wasn’t giving up. He wanted to work.

It made the back of my eyes sting with tears. I apologized, sincerely, that I couldn’t provide work for him. And he looked at me with tired eyes and said, “It’s okay. God bless.”

And I returned the blessing. “God bless you, too,” I said. And I meant it.

And I had stopped for him, but I think the real gift in my stopping ended up being for me.

And there I was, in my warm car, with my green tea latte, driving back to work. So blessed. And still I had reasons to cry.

And I felt the warm hand of Jesus tip my chin upward to look Him in the eyes. And He smiled. And that was enough.

It’s enough to look like Him.

And maybe the sadness is, in some ways, a gift. It’s my tender-heartedness, after all, that led me to stop and talk with the man in the wheelchair.

And if I could wish my sadness away, I would. But not if that would mean trading in my tender heart, which I pray is coming to look more and more like Jesus’.

My eyes are on Him. He smiles down at me. And it’s okay. The sadness is okay. Because in His eyes, I see that I am held.

*

At church the other day, Pastor Billy was praying that the kids of our congregation would come to love Jesus- more than television, more than video games.

And I don’t think the problem is the video games. Or the children.

My foolishly bold (and undoubtedly unfair) complaint is with Jesus.

Because if only He was more real to us—if only our seeking paid off in a way that we could perceive—there’s no question in my mind that children (and adults!) would prefer Him to all other things.

And I know there’s this “walk by faith” thing, and that’s an important part of this life. But also, it feels like rejection and abandonment and it feels lonely, when you fall to your knees and come to Him and wait and wait and wait. And your heart grows heavier with every passing moment instead of lighter because WHERE IS HE?

And then, when my heart can’t handle it anymore and I feel defeated by the silence all around me and the heaviness within me–the desperation for Him that seemed to go unmet–I turn on the TV. And I laugh. And I don’t feel so alone because there are other voices filling the air and it’s not just me and my thoughts and my wanting and the silence.

And I know He promises we WILL find if we seek… AND KEEP ON SEEKING.

So I will. I will keep on.

But I’m just saying, I don’t blame kids.

It’s painful to go to Him and hope He’ll meet you, but silently fear you’ll leave feeling even more alone.

We need Him to be more real to us.

And I HAVE to believe that’s possible. Somehow, some way.

And so yes, I pray our kids will love the Lord above all else, but I also pray for that- that His presence will descend on us in a way that we can’t deny, and that our hunger for more and more of Him will make everything else lose at least some of its appeal.

*

I’m desperate for Him, and so I call everything a reflection of Him. I embrace it all.

I believe that God is in the bird flying overhead, and the cool fresh breeze of late autumn, and sound of salt crunching against pavement underneath my feet.
And color and yellow.
And getting inside a warm car, the heat taking the cold out of your limbs with a shiver.
And He’s in frosty windshields and blue skis and even the ability to cry.
He’s in dust particles floating across sunlight, and the smell of snow, and the way the bare trees look orange as the sun sets.

He has to be in those things. Because if He’s not there, if He’s not in those simple, everyday, often over-looked things, where is He?

And it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful, and it’s probably even more beautiful and wonderful than I even realize because it’s all I’ve ever known, so I take it for granted. I need fresh, child-like eyes with which to view the wonders this world has to offer- all of which are marked with His fingerprints.

And yet, even still, if He’s ONLY there–in the smile of a baby and the sound of the wind blowing through grass and the warm, comforting hand of someone you love–how is that the fulfillment of the promise that we will find Him when we seek Him?

It doesn’t make sense that there’s not more.

I want fire from heaven.
Wind that’s alive.
Thunder that carries his voice.
A dove to land on my shoulder.
Waves to cease at the mention of His name.
I want His presence to fall like rain, saturating us all.
I want His face to be bright in my mind and painted on the inside of my eyelids when I close my eyes.
I want my heart to be unmistakably, inexplicably His.
I want the truth that I carry the Holy Spirit within me to feel heavy with significance and purpose, and light with joy and hope.
I want to talk to Him as though we were face-to-face.
I want to feel His arms around me.

And still, as mere human, I have to accept that He knows how to be More Than Enough. Even if it doesn’t look the way I wish it would.

But I’m still going to hope for fire and things so impossible that they have to be holy.

*

I think one of the reasons movies are so deeply impacting to us is that they tell a story in which everything the characters feel and think and experience MATTERS. And that resonates with us, because how much of our lives do we feel like nothing about our hearts and lives really matter?

And not only that–the inarguable truth of the value of the characters’ lives and depths of their hearts–but also, in the end you are (usually) left with a heart-warming, life-affirming sense that it’s all going to be okay.

*

I texted Pauline yesterday afternoon.

I told her that it seems the happier I get, the more content I get with this life, the sadder I get as well. And I said I don’t understand how that’s possible and I’m so frustrated by my inability to just simply love life.

And I posted on Instagram:

“Today I am pondering how happiness and sadness can coexist- how often the happier I feel, the more there is this bubbling threat of tears within me. And I don’t understand it. But I try to welcome it- be gentle and patient with my tender heart.

And sometimes I wonder if what I call sadness is actually something else. Because my brain doesn’t have words for the sadness, and tears can result from many things. Gratitude, for instance. A heart that is reawakening and slowly, timidly coming back to life. Hearing someone say the words you didn’t even know you needed to hear until they’re spoken- hanging there in the air, while your cheeks turn red with the effort to keep tears from spilling from your eyes.

I don’t know what this is- this hope and joy and love and sadness(?). Belonging? Longing? A prayer?

And it’s days like this the child in me wants to reach out to those I love and remind them every hour ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’. Because the words–the truth of them, having someone to say them to–it’s like a hug. And tender, tear-filled hearts need that.

And also, burning within me–teary and holy and shouting ‘hallelujah!’–is this: I am living out, in my life and in my heart, the proof that Light drives out darkness. And He is coming.

And I’m young and fragile and scared. And His.

And it’s more hard and lovely and awe-inspiring and beautiful than words can say.

And so I cry.”

Oh, Jesus… Hold my heart…

I can’t do anything.

But You can do all things.

*

I thought this was beautiful.

*

Be well, friends.

Twelve

Below is a list of twelve things I learned in February.

Chatting at the Sky likes to do a monthly collaborative wrap-up of things that the month taught us. I’ve never before felt compelled to join the festivities, but tonight I shall- partially because I’m feeling sentimental and emotional and contemplative, but mostly because I don’t want to go to sleep.

1. American Idol is so much better now that they focus more on helping people realize their potential and less on making fun of those who probably shouldn’t have auditioned in the first place. I cry every episode, without fail. When you see pride in the eyes of someone’s dad or grandma, or when the judges speak life-giving words to the contestants? Tears. And it makes me think of God and how He looks at us with even more pride and tenderness and love, and how if we could only hear Him clearly, we’d be even more assured of our worth and value and of His good plan for our lives.

2. My love language? Touch.

3. I worry way too much whether people want me around or not, when really what I should be doing is just fearlessly following where I sense God leading. When I stop worrying that people are going to look at me and think, “Ugh. Why is she here!?” it makes it a lot easier to just make loving them my primary goal. And when I’m more concerned with being loving than with whether or not I belong, social situations are way more enjoyable.

4. I am straight up addicted to green tea lattes. And I would say I need a twelve-step program, but I’m not yet ready to do my life without them. They’re a hug in a cup. I swear, every morning as the barista hands me my drink, my drink actually smiles at me. And it says, “I’m so glad you got out of bed today! I’m proud of you!” And a girl needs that kind of encouragement in her life!

5. You can shop TJ Maxx online now. And I cannot be trusted with this information.

6. This book is seriously dope.

7. Even though it’s hard to be financially generous, it feels better to spend my money on other people or put it towards tithing than it does to spend it on a shopping spree. Sometimes I think all I really need is more sweaters. That’s such a lie. My closet is full of sweaters and I don’t feel like they’ve done anything to heal my soul. I get much more from seeing the sweet face of my sponsor child on the mantle than I do from looking over the contents of my closet.

8. Having a clean house isn’t the most important thing in the world. In fact, I don’t even think it’s second. Or third.

9. If you’re struggling to love life, the answer is very rarely to withdraw from people.

10. When I make comfort the primary goal for my life, I make huge mistakes. What appears to be comfort is often a liar. Staying in bed all day, calling in sick, cancelling plans, skipping church, ignoring phone calls, binge-watching episodes of Teen Mom, eating an entire pan of brownies, eating nothing… Those options might feel like comfort in the moment, but they actually just take us one step closer to developing addictive behaviors. I think addictive behaviors always start as comfort seeking. When we allow comfort seeking to become our primary decision-making-strategy, we’ll discover a life less full and meaningful, not more. Usually, the path towards genuine life and comfort, which only the Lord can provide, requires that we go through something quite uncomfortable. But it’s always, always worth it. “Go,” He says. “Go to church and work and leave your house and love people. And you don’t have to feel strong enough or social enough. You don’t have to be well-spoken or witty. It’s okay if your hair doesn’t look the way you want it to or if your pants feel tight or if your eyes are red from crying. You just need to go. Where you are weak, I promise to be strong.” And He always, always comes through. Even when I’m cranky because I’m doing the hard thing and all I really want is a blanket and some Pad Thai, God goes with me when I follow where He’s leading. And I’d rather be where He is than anywhere else, even if that means being scared and uncomfortable. When you can lay down in your bed at the end of the day and say, “I did the hard thing and I’m so glad I did,” that’s genuine comfort.

11. I think we all need to be hugged more often. We all carry within us brokenness. Life is hard. That’s why God gave Adam a partner to do life with. We aren’t meant to do it alone. We need someone to share in our joys and our sorrows and see our messy, genuine selves and say, “I love you.” We need to know that our hearts and lives matter. We need to know that the details about us matter as well, that someone notices and loves the way we smile or the sound of our laughter or the way we mispronounce the word ‘pillow’. It’s all so beautiful. We reflect Him. It’s incredible. We, our existence and the thought and love our Creator put into us, is seriously awe-inspiring. It makes me feel like donning a sundress, running to a sunny, flowery field, and twirling in circles with my arms outstretched, a smile on my face, and my head tilted towards heaven. No joke.

12. My favorite people are the messy, authentic ones- the ones who love the Lord passionately, who are quick to laugh, quick to cry, and who carry kindness in their eyes. I want to be that kind of person. I want to be the kind of person who trusts God fully with my life and my short-comings. I want to live with complete authenticity, fearless of rejection or failure, because I know He is in control and I could never be, not even if I hid behind a self-protective facade. Choosing authenticity not only helps us form deeper, more genuine relationships with others, but I think it also helps us draw closer to the heart of God. God put His entire heart into creating us. He knows the hairs on our heads, after all. He didn’t do that, He didn’t pour His love into us and care about everything from the way we walk to the size of our hands to the shape of our ears, only to advise and encourage us to hide who we really are. We are His masterpieces, and where we fail, He is even more glorified. He wants us to be exactly who we are and trust Him with the outcome. And I want that, too.

A, B, C, D, E, F, Grateful

In a book I read recently, the author made a list of things he’s grateful for, alphabetically. He said it was good practice, and y’know, I would have to agree.

I mentally worked on my list the other day when I was sitting in the cold for 2 1/2 hours. (Have I discussed that enough yet? ;-)) And now I am going to share it here.

Hold on to your hats. This is going to be riveting.

Alphabetized gratitude lists. Juuuust kidding. 🙂 Apples. No, not kidding this time. I love myself a good apple. Plus, they keep the doctor away.

Babies. The fact that I get to cuddle babies on a regular basis. The fact that we all start out as babies. The fact that Jesus came as a baby. Tiny fingers, rounded little feet, whispy hair- all of it is good for the soul. Also baby animals. And bike-rides on sunny, seventy-degree days. And books. Especially used books with other people’s notes already in the margins.

Cats. My cats particularly. My cats, who need me, love me, and are always happy to see me. And cereal. Lord knows I love myself a big ol’ bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats or Cheerios.

Dark chocolate. ‘Nough said.

Eyes. People’s eyes are magic.

Family. And the fact that family can be a fluid thing. And that God thinks family is important. Also, frosty windows. Inconvenient when the windows in question are your car windows and you’re running late for work, but even then, frosty windows are beautiful. And they remind you how fortunate you are to be inside where it is warm, all the while still being able to enjoy the beauty of the ice and/or snow and/or white, frost-coated grass.

Good, meaningful, honest, genuine, heart-felt conversation.

Hope. We are never without hope, not even if we feel that we are. Truth says otherwise. And hugs. I am a big fan of hugging. And hot tubs.

Instagram. I love that it keeps me present, eager to capture all the little simple pleasures of my day in a photo, and getting to scroll through others’ simple pleasures- kids with jam-hands, a hot cup of chai tea and a good book, a starry night sky, things we’d otherwise overlook, forgetting to pause and be grateful. Also Indian food and crushed ice.

Juice- orange juice, cranberry juice, and when Emily uses her juicer to provide me with some odd yet delightful concoction.

Kid drawings. Stick-figure people and misspelled words and flowers and butterflies and trains and Spiderman and all the little things that capture a child’s heart. And when the drawings are for me.

Love. I cannot help it, I have to mention love. Life without love (and Love) just isn’t worth it. And laundry soap. Laundry soap that makes towels and blankets soft and fluffy. And freshly laundered bedding. And lotion that smells scrumptious. All good things.

Mountains and mountain ranges and the awe they inspire. And massages.

Nighttime. The quiet, the dark, the stars, the moon, the peace that comes with knowing I don’t have to do anything- no work, no cooking or cleaning, nighttime is just for me. And the feeling of crawling into bed at the end of a long day? That’s got to be a little bit of heaven on earth. Also nicknames. I love nicknames.

Oceans. Sandy shores and the ocean at sunset and the smell of salt and seaweed and kids building sandcastles and toddlers running away from the water with joyful squeals and couples holding hands and walking up the shore in early winter, wrapping scarves tight around their necks. And the bigness of God. And opals, because they remind me of God. And green olives stuffed with jalapenos.

Pretty dresses. Lace and ribbon and flowing skirts.

Quick dinners. Anything that can go from a package to a meal after ninety seconds in the microwave has got to be some kind of miracle. And quilts.

Rest. Thank you, God, that You designed us to need rest. Thank You that we are supposed to make rest a priority.

Smiling. When I find myself smiling alone in my car or at a book or at the toddler in line next to me at the grocery store. And when I can feel Jesus smiling at me; that’s the best smile of all. Also sweaters and scarves and slippers and slouchy, stocking hats. And swimming. And slip-on shoes. And sweats.

Television. Pathetic, but true. Thank you, God, for NBC and Lisa Ling documentaries and sitcoms that make me laugh aloud even when I am all by myself. And tea. And t-shirts. And tennis shoes.

Underwear. Particularly new underwear. Particularly new underwear that’s on sale.

Violin music. And victory dances. And the word ‘velvet’.

Worship. Together as the Body of Christ, or alone, worship is so good for the soul. And the freedom to worship? I can hardly fathom any other way of life, but I know it’s a reality for many. I am grateful that I live in a place where I get to worship my Lord and Savior freely.

X-Rays. Because they are handy and useful and there are only, like, two x words that I recognized when I looked under ‘x’ in the dictionary just now.

Yellow. Seriously, is there a happier color?!

Zippers and zebras and Ziploc bags.