If there is one thing I have learned in my past 29 years on Earth, it is that it is important to slow down, be quiet, and be grateful. In our small group, we were doing a curriculum called Abide right now. The rhythm we discussed on my birthday dealt with just that...getting quiet in a very noisy world. So, without further ado...here are 29 things/people/experiences/etc. that I am incredibly grateful for from my past 29 years of life.
1. My Salvation. Because by it, I view, do, and see all other things in my life. It permeates every single part of my life. From my relationships to my career to my decisions, there is absolutely nothing in my life that is not affected by my relationship with God as my Lord and Savior. It fills me up; it gives me life; it gives me worth and confidence and strength and peace...if you don't know my God, I would be more than happy to share Him and His beautiful gospel story with you. It really makes all of the difference in the world to how life is.
2. My Husband. When I call him Prince Charming, I absolutely mean that he is in every sense of the word Prince Charming. He is a Christ-centered man, and that makes all of the difference in the world to how he husbands. He tells me all of the time that I am beautiful, and even more, he tells me that I am his standard of female beauty. I believe and can believe my husband doesn't even look at other women because he puts me so far above every other woman that to him, none compare. It is amazing because I see so many flaws in myself, and he certainly knows that I am not perfect, yet he looks at me and beholds beauty. He takes care of me and supports me. He encourages me and strengthens me. He is my best friend and my one and only. I will be eternally blown away and grateful to God that such an amazing, wonderful man would see fit to call me his wife.
3. My Son. I am not sure that before the past 18 months I would have ever thought that I would want to be a mom, but The Lord truly changed my heart and then blessed me with a marvelous baby. Eli is more than I could have hoped for and everything I could ever want in a baby. He is so sweet and gentle spirited. He is funny and loving and snuggly. He is a good sleeper (thank you, Jesus) and a terrific eater. He spoils me as a mommy, and I am so grateful for his sweet little life being in mine.
4. My Parents. I am fortunate enough to have parents who are still HAPPILY married, and I strongly attribute that to the fact that they are both Bible believing Christians who have relied through the years not on their own strength, will, or feelings but on their bond through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross as the foundation of their marriage. They showed me throughout my life a strong example of a gospel-centered marriage, and that is something that I will be forever grateful for as I navigate my own marriage. They challenged and supported me in everything I do. They offered guidance and advice and protected me from many stupid decisions that I am sure I would have made if they had not been with me every step of the way through my early life.
5. My Sister. At 22 months old, I was granted the privilege of receiving my incredible baby sister. From the time we were able to play together, we were thick as thieves. We certainly fought as sisters do over the years, but far more often than that, we were just best friends. We shared clothes and secrets. We sought advice, consolation, and support from each other. We went on adventures in the backyard and on road trips. She is the one I call as soon as something new or exciting or scary or overwhelming happens in my life, and she is always there with a bended ear and real advice. She isn't afraid to call me out when I am being ridiculous, and she isn't afraid to stand by me even when she doesn't agree with me. She is an amazing woman whom I love, and I cannot imagine my life without her.
6. My In-Laws. Not everyone can say their extended in-law family is great, but I am one of the fortunate few who can say it full heartedly. Prince Charming's parents have accepted me from day one with open arms into their family and lives. I think they were able to do so because they knew he wouldn't bring home just anyone...with him, it had to be the real deal. They have always been kind and generous, and they treat me like their own. I also hit the in-law lottery with my brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law. My brothers-in-law truly treat me like their sister. They make me laugh; they pick on me; and they listen to me. My sister-in-law and I are very close, and I am so thankful for her! She makes any situation more fun. She is great with people and has such a passion for life. She inspires me to be better in so many ways, and I am so blessed to have her to share part of my life with. I really hit the jackpot here, people!
7. My Friends. I will highlight a few in particular, but let me just say that over the years, I have been so fortunate to have amazing, Christian friends. Some were in my life for a season, some are in my life for good, but they have all been irreplaceable figures in my life who helped me grow and learn. From church friends to school friends to work friends...I have been incredibly blessed to have them all! Specific shoutouts: Krissy- I have known her since I was 5, though we were separated by distance for about a decade from then to high school, and she has been my best friend since I was about 16. I share everything with Krissy- as much as with my sister, really. She is kind and sweet and talented and loving. I am amazed and awed to be able to count her as best friend. Erin- Everyone has that lifelong best friend that they don't meet until college. For me, that is Erin. She is the most unique person I know. She is silly and hilarious and talented and fashionable and beautiful. She is an absolute hot mess, and we had the best time through our college years together. Kalee- Also from Mississippi, our NOLA boys brought us together, and I will be eternally grateful for that. Her hubby and mine have been best friends since pretty much birth, so we were naturally introduced as we were dating them. I would never have thought that I would get another best friend out of it. She is such a joy to know. She is a woman of strength and wisdom. She is an awesome mother and is always open and willing to share her knowledge and experience with me when I need it. She gets me in a way that no one else in NOLA does because she comes from the same place (on many levels) as I do, and I count her among God's greatest blessings in my life. Tara- God put Tara in my life. Period. When Prince Charming got his new job at our current church, Riverside in River Ridge, I wasn't sure what kind of relationships I would find. Tara was a welcome surprise. A godly woman who was in the same place in life as me, in the same field, and who went through pregnancy with me (although a few months behind) for the first time. She shared her life here with me (another NOLA transplant) openly and honestly, and I so greatly enjoy spending time with her. She has in the past few weeks had to move away with her sweet little family as the Lord wills, but I will always treasure her friendship.
8. My Extended Family. In the style of Lilo & Stitch regarding family: it's spread out and busy but still good...yeah...still good. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins from Hawaii to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between. Our family is large and numerous, and fun. Of course we have the crazies and the dramatics and the black sheep...every family does...but it is still mine, and it is still good.
9. Our Church. I grew up in a wonderful church in Mississippi until I entered college. Then, I went with the college minister when he planted a new church in Jackson. Shortly after that, I went with Prince Charming to a Methodist church where he served as youth minister. We attended Prince Charming's parents' church for a short while after we wed and moved to NOLA. After we purchased our first house, PC got his first ministry job at a local presbyterian church. Then, in December of 2012, God called us back to the church where he grew up to serve as associate pastor. It has been amazing to walk in the will of the Father, and we are so incredibly thankful for the congregation there. The body of believers at Riverside is so kind and so hungry for the Word of God and Will of the Father. It is such a joy to serve and worship there, and I am very grateful for God's grace in sending us there.
10. My Pets. I know it may seem silly to some to be thankful for this category, but I am an animal lover, and I have been fortunate to have some pretty amazing pets in my day. Our childhood dog, a standard dachshund named Max, was SO AWESOME! He was so chill and fun, and everyone who met him loved him! Then, my first pet of my own, Molly Jones came along. She was a gift from Josh and Kalee, and she was an absolute doll. She had the sweetest little spirit, and she loved life. She was an amazing dog, and I didn't get to have as much time with her as I would have liked. With her, and still, was our sweet, unique Desmond. A Christmas gift from Prince Charming's parents, Des is such a cutie pie, and he has proved to be one tough pup. He isn't the most social dog with strangers (especially kids and other dogs), but he is fervently loyal to our family, and those whom he loves, he loves hard. For animal lovers, pets are such a joy, and I have been favored to have good ones.
11. My Job. I am so fortunate to have a job that I can honestly say contributes to the well-being and care of my family. Being a working mom is not an easy life for me...I always hoped and pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom while my children were small. But, clearly, God has other plans. While it isn't always easy for me to accept, I know He has a purpose and reason for my stay-at-home mom desire to not be fulfilled at this point in my life, and I trust that promise. In the meantime, I remind myself daily of the fact that I don't work to be away from my family, I work for my family. My job enable us to have health insurance and some extra financial stability. For that, I can be grateful, and I can find the will to say goodbye to my sweet baby boy in the mornings.
12. Financial Stability. Building on number 11, I am grateful that I have been blessed in my life and in my marriage to have a stable financial life. While my husband and I by no means are wealthy by monetary standards (he is a preacher, and I am a teacher for crying out loud) all of our needs and even many of our wants are met. Not everyone can say that, and I count it as a gracious blessing from The Lord.
13. My Hobbies and Talents. I will never claim to be great at any of the things I do as hobbies, but I will absolutely claim that I love them all! From singing to sewing to cooking to writing...these are the things that have given me a source of joy, peace, comfort, and patience. I am thankful God has blessed me with the abilities and opportunities to get to do all of these things, and I hope to get to do them all for years to come.
14. Living in New Orleans. As hard as it is sometimes, even still, to be so far away from my friends and family I grew up with, I wouldn't trade getting to live in the lively, soulful, awesome city of New Orleans, Louisiana. There is simply no place like it in the world. The food, the events, the people...it digs into your heart and doesn't let go. People who are NOLA people just get it.
15. Traveling. I am so grateful for every trip I have been privileged to take. Whether national or international, the opportunities I have had to travel in my life have made me a more open-minded, well-rounded person. It has taught me to appreciate people, places, and cultures other than my own. I hope I can give my own children chances to travel.
16. Nursing Experience. This one is a delicate one. I prayed during my pregnancy for God to give me a good nursing relationship with my baby. While it hasn't always been easy, it has been absolutely amazing and wonderful, and God answered my prayer in abundant ways I couldn't have imagined. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to nurse, and I will hope and pray that I will be able to do likewise for any future children I have.
17. Air Conditioning. This one is a must when you live in the south...especially the deep south. I forget how much I appreciate this until I don't have air conditioning.
18. Memories. I am thankful for the time I have spent with everyone and anyone in my life and the memories those times have made. I may not be in touch with everyone from throughout my whole life anymore, friends come and go and people move or pass away, but the memories of good times, hard times, and exciting times all last.
19. Freedom. The United States of America, for all of its faults and short-comings, is still one of the greatest countries in the world to live in because we do get freedoms that are often denied to people in other places. I can go to church without fear of persecution. I can choose what career I want to pursue or work and do it. I can go for a walk with my sweet husband and son without fear of bombs exploding around us. This country is not perfect, it is far from it, but it certainly has benefits that other countries do not get to boast.
20. Snoballs on a Hot Summer Day. Not a snow cone...no...a snoball. It is a NOLA thing, and they are like mana from Heaven on a scorching summer afternoon in New Orleans. They turn your mouth colors and give you brain freeze, and they are decadence in ice form. Not much can beat it.
21. Rainy Days at Home. I absolutely love rainy days that I get to be home, snuggled up with my best boys watching movies, playing games, eating comfort food, and just having fun. Thunderstorms are even better! This only applies to the days I get to be home.
22. FaceTime. This one wasn't such an important thing to me until I had a baby whose grandparent's live 15 hours away. I am absolutely thankful for this technology. It lets my parents interact with Eli daily, so they can see in real time how he grows and changes. He recognizes them when he sees them even if he hasn't seen them in person in months. This is an invaluable tool, and I cannot imagine having to raise my baby so far from family without it.
23. Our House. While not without things I would love to change...bigger bathroom with a huge tub, more linen storage, etc...I am so grateful to have a home that I can call my own. A home that I helped create. A home that keeps me warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot. A home where I can spend time with my friends and family. A home where I can make a mess or be a neat freak. It is our home, and it is full of love!
24. Health. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with good health throughout my life. Granted, I have terrible allergies and sinus problems, but other than that, I have been fortunate enough to avoid any major health issues thus far in my life. What a blessing!
25. Books. I am an absolute, 100%, self-proclaimed and proven bookworm. I cannot get enough of getting lost in stories. Fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, drama...whatever. I love them all! It is a joy to me to sit with a book and get lost in its pages. It provided me with a means of escape during my middle school years when I was a victim of bullying, and it still gives me an oasis even in my hectic life now.
26. Kindness of Strangers. As Mr. Roger's always said, in times of trouble, "look for the helpers." As I get older, the kindness of strangers becomes even more elusive and even more precious. From holding a door, to letting me cut in line at the grocery store because of Eli, to helping with bags on an airplane...never underestimate a kind gesture to even those you don't know.
27. Laughter. Sometimes, only a good belly laugh can help. Even in our deepest despair, one laugh can change our entire perspective. I love laughing until it hurts and I can't catch my breath and I have tears in my eyes. Those laughs are few an fat between. I don't always remember the reason I laugh like that, but I always remember the feeling.
28. Food and Clean Water. This is one we readily take for granted in the US, but I cannot forget how incredibly blessed I am to have these most basic needs met on a daily basis. It is overwhelming how many people struggle to have either or both of these things day to day, and I pray I never take for granted the gift of these necessities.
29. Forgiveness. This sort of goes back to the idea of salvation, as all in my life does, but I am grateful for any and all forgiveness bestowed upon my in my life. Lord know that I need it daily, and it is a gift of grace and mercy. Being forgiven is being set free, and that is an indescribable, priceless gift.
So...there are 29 things I am thankful for. This list is not exhaustive, but it does help me keep things in perspective. Thank You, Lord, for these 29 years. I pray for many more years to come and that each of those years would be spent seeking your kingdom, honor, and glory.
In Christ Alone,