Before December . . .

Thanksgiving is over, and I’m someone who begins to revel in the Christmas season the very next day. My home is decorated, my tree is up, and Christmas music is on. But before I completely move on to Christmas, I want to take a moment and give thanks once more before December comes. Since there are thirty days in November, I’ve decided to list thirty things I’m thankful for.

1 – Savior. I know Jesus is at the top of everyone’s list, but it’s the place He deserves. Anything else first would be ridiculous, because everything I have, everything I am is because of Him.

2 – Family. They support and encourage me. Love me when I’m unlovable. I have such a tremendous amount of help in all the day to day busyness because of them.

3- Friends. I’m not one who makes friends easily. In fact, I have few close friends which makes each of them even more precious. They’re the ones who have gotten past my defenses and shown me they care in various ways. My friends often become my family for this reason.

4 – Bible. I can’t tell how many times a passage of Scripture speaks to me personally in a moment when I desperately need it or when it ties in with something I’m writing. It is living and active and sharper than any sword and for that I am thankful.

5 – Ministry. I love serving my God. Maybe it’s because my family instilled it in me when I was so young, but I enjoy every single way God allows me to serve Him. It’s humbling that He can use someone like me to do His work.

6 – Church family. Sure we’re not perfect. What family is? But I love my church family and the support and love they have shown in difficult circumstances.

7 – Writing. I can’t get over the fact that I write! It was never something that I guessed would happen in my life, but I love it so much. I may never be ‘famous’ or get paid a lot – and that doesn’t matter to me. I simply love telling the stories that I have in my mind. To top it all off I now have 8 books published (the 9th coming soon) and three of those are now available in paperback (with a fourth on it’s way).

8 – Job. Besides writing, I also get to be a substitute teacher which I never thought I would enjoy, but I actually do. I have flexibility and can turn down jobs if it interferes with anything. I still get to be a mom first, and yet contribute to our finances a little bit.

9 – Budget. I never thought I’d be thankful for a budget, but this year we’ve had one financial burden after another and knowing that we have a cushion, seeing where our money is going, or where it needs to go has alleviated some of the stress.

10 – Home. Although that same home has been some of the financial burdens that we’ve faced, I’m glad we have it. It’s a shelter, our comfortable place, and although it would certainly never be on HGTV (except as a mess that needs to fixed), it’s ours.

11 – Phone. I know. We’re so attached to our phones today. Leaving it behind can nearly cause a panic attack. But with my sister and best friend moving away this year, that phone has made it easier to bear the separation. Between texts, videos, face time, and phone calls, they don’t seem quite so far away.

12- Library. Not having unlimited funds for books, I love having a source where I can find books and borrow them for free. I love reading – always have.

13 – Vehicles. Actually this one is a tough one for me because my primary vehicle has been a major issue for us all year. I’ve been without it for months at a time as multiple mechanics have attempted to fix the issue (so far to no avail). Yet – I’m thankful that we’ve had family members loan us vehicles indefinitely, thankful for the independence that they give, and thankful that we’ve had the ability to have it at in the shop for so long without it being a major hardship.

14 – Editors. They don’t get paid, and we know that we still don’t catch every mistake, but believe me, they catch a lot that I miss. I’m so thankful that they’re willing to take their time and look over my books for me.

15 – Health. As I write, I’ve thrown out my back somehow. Every step I take is painful, and any position is at best uncomfortable. Still most of the time I’m healthy. I know this will pass, and likely without any remaining issues. Being hurt makes one all the more thankful for when one isn’t hurt.

16 – My husband’s health. Joel had a bit of a health issue last month and spent five days in the hospital. Although he still has several follow up appointments, and we’re still not absolutely sure of the long term solution, I’m thankful that he is doing much better, that they know what the problem was, and that he got it taken care of.

17 – Readers. I wish I could sit down with you all and thank you in person. Your kind words are cherished, and your critiques are helpful. I can’t thank you enough for your support.

18 – Vacations. As sweet as home is, I love to travel. This year I was blessed to be able to go to Hawaii with my husband for our anniversary, go to Iowa for my cousin’s wedding, and to New Hampshire to visit my sister. As wonderful as these memories are, and as helpful as they are to rest my spirit, they also spark my imagination. I get new stories so often just from visiting some place I’ve never been before.

19 – Music. There are songs that seem to belong to me even though they aren’t mine. But they come on and get me moving, or make me think, or speak to me in the perfect time. They can be a prayer of offering myself up to my Lord,  or a praise song honoring Him for who He is, or a petition for Him to act.

20 – Food. I know it seems silly, but I love food. I enjoy making food and watching others enjoy it. I like it when it’s pretty, and get amused when it’s not so pretty. I’m so thankful that God allowed us to gather energy from something that can also give enjoyment. How like Him!

21 – Hobbies. I’m so glad that God designed us to need rest, and that there are so many ways we can achieve rest. Whether it’s reading, knitting, or other quiet activities, or something more active that maybe doesn’t provide physical rest, but gives the mind a rest or an outlet, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to take time to do things that I love.

22 – Pets. I have two cats, and it’s so nice to have them around. There’s nothing necessarily special about them, they’re typical, normal cats. But they belong to us, and I love that.

23 – Time. There never seems to be enough, but I’m thankful for what I have. It will run out someday. Time with my family is limited. Time with my children at home is shortening every day. Life is a vapor. Each moment is precious.

24 – Creation. I love where I live. To see God’s handiwork displayed in his mountains, his sunsets, his sky, his creatures and plant life, is amazing. Living in a desert and seeing the wisdom behind His works astounds me. There are days when the clouds even look fantastic. On those days, my kids and I will say, “God had fun today,” because it looks like He took His paintbrush and swept it across the sky to create interesting cloud shapes simply because He enjoys it.

25 – Holidays. Maybe I don’t get as excited as Carol Holliday (from the Holliday Hotel series) about each holiday, but I do enjoy them. The traditions, and time with family, the break from work and stress, time to relax, all make them special days.

26 – Exercise. I never thought I’d be thankful for exercise. I really don’t enjoy it. I’ve never gotten the “rush” that others seem to experience. To me it’s painful, exhausting, and sweaty. But I’ve learned to appreciate it in recent months. To anyone who read my blog about running, I finished the couch to 5k program, and although I’ll still never win any races, and I don’t think I’ll ever love running, it was an experience that taught me a lot.

27 – Children. My own children are of course dearly precious to me, but it’s more than my own kids. My nieces and nephews delight me. My students make my days interesting (sometimes in good ways and sometimes not so good). Children have a way of putting things that can give you a new perspective or show the simplicity of faith.

28 – Simple pleasures. In a season of more, I think it’s the simple things that delight me most. A familiar song, handmade decorations, games, and treats – little things that might not seem like a big deal, but put a smile on my face.

29 – My husband. Don’t let the position on the list fool you. Joel is incredibly important to me and I give thanks for him every day. I love the man that God gave to me.

30 – Christmas. The decorations, the songs, the lights, the presents, the parties, the goodies – it’s all lovely and wonderful. But it’s the day we remember that God gave us His Son. God became man and dwelt among us. How can you not be thankful for that?

Now, as we head into the Christmas season I pray that we don’t lose our sense of gratitude in a culture of more, that our eyes can be firmly fixed on Jesus in the midst of sparkle, glitter, and distractions, and that our hearts are filled with God’s love, presence, and peace, during the busyness of the season.

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