gratitude

No room for failure

Each morning, I spend time reading, praying, and meditating. This morning I started reading the book of Joshua in the Bible. I came across a line in verse five that resonated with me.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

I underlined that portion of the verse and meditated on it briefly before gathering cookies for Maggie’s classmates, my cup of coffee, car keys, and cell phone. I whisked Maggie out the door and cranked up the heat. It’s that time of year when I feel false hope about autumn coming until about 10 a.m. By noon, I’m sweating and shedding my sweater.

63910_552312649722_1189983164_nAfter dropping Maggie off at school, I returned home to a peaceful, quiet house. We live in the woods, and the sunlight strives to shine through the grove of trees on the eastern hill. The verse I selected came back to me as I stood staring at the sun.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

God isn’t failing or forsaking the leaves on those trees and has provided them with exactly the right amount of moisture since spring. God doesn’t fail the trees either; the only trees that fall are those ready to die, decaying at the core. I looked at the light reflecting off the dew on our grass and spider webs in the forest. He maintains the smallest bits of creation we overlook.

Of course he is not forsaking me either.

He provides me with just the right clients at the right time. Last week, one of my favorite clients notified me that this year, funding wasn’t available to hire me. My heart sank. A few hours later, a potential client called me and said he was ready to start working together. Maybe that timing was coincidental; I prefer to view it as providential. God always knows what I need when I need it, even if it’s just to confirm that He’s going before me and planning in love.

God is not failing or forsaking me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI worried off and on for a year about how my daughter would adjust to starting kindergarten. Each time these fears came to mind, I attempted to let go and trust God. Sometimes I felt relief. Other times I wasn’t sure God would come through for me, even though His track record is stellar. But of course He came through. She was placed in a classroom with the most caring, committed, and well-trained teacher I know. She’s thriving. I’ve seen huge leaps in her ability to write and communicate in just three weeks’ time. And almost every day when I pick her up from school, she yells with glee, “This was the best day EVER!”

God is not forsaking or failing my child. 

There is no space for fear when I focus on the ways God has come through for me in the past.

There is no room for fear when I focus on how God is providing for me today either.

 

gratitude

Chasing rabbits

I must be brief this morning.

maggie napping while sick 9 11 13My toddler is still quietly sleeping in her crib, curled up in a little pink ball. Last night, she resisted her normal 7:30 p.m. bedtime and wanted to watch an extra episode of Curious George, her current favorite cartoon. After that, she pitter-pattered around the house, dragging her “Good Dad” by the hand, insisting that he follow her and accompany her the entire time. An hour later, after exhausting both of us, we coaxed her back into her crib (not without shedding of tears), sang a song, and reassured her that we’d see her again in the morning.

5:15 a.m. felt early today. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the notion that getting out of bed was a good idea and that spending time reading, praying, and meditating would benefit me. However, having benefited from reading, praying, and meditating and spending chunks of time alone with God each morning for several years in a row now, I knew that getting my tail out of bed was the best decision.

decaf._Cat._prod._pg.So I did. My sister recently gave me a one-cup instant coffee maker, and today was its christening. The chance to use my new gift was almost exciting enough to motivate me to get out of bed without a grumpy attitude. One minute later, presto! I got back into my warm bed with my hot cup of coffee, my Bible and other reading material, and my glasses. I was ready to go.

My normal RPM time–reading, prayer, and meditation time–takes about 30 minutes. I normally read a short passage.  If I read the Bible, I read about one chapter or less. I don’t try to digest too much information because I want to retain something and carry it with me throughout the day. If I read other devotional material, I read a one-page devotional entry, and I read it three times: once quietly, once aloud, and once again, looking for one piece of good orderly direction to jot down to carry with me on a slip of paper. I learned to do this from a woman who is my mentor. This method really works for me, so I continue doing this daily.

This morning, and other mornings when I happen to have lots of extra time to devote to my RPMs, I allowed myself the luxury of chasing spiritual rabbit trails. I did my normal RPMs, and then I just started reading whatever I found interesting. I opened the Bible randomly, and the pages fell to Psalm 84. The entire chapter is beautiful and contains some of my favorite verses, but this morning verse 5 stood out to me. Last night at a meeting of friends, we talked about the fact that one of the definitions for salvation in the Hebrew language is to come home. Verse 5 and the reference to going on a pilgrimage seemed to relate to this in my mind, and I was intrigued. I decided to look at the footnotes; they referred me to Jeremiah 31:6.

It would be silly to read just one verse, right? So I read the entire chapter. And man, what a tearjerker. Jeremiah 31 was chock full of language that spoke to my heart. It must have spoken to my heart many times before, too, because there were several verses underlined, marked, and highlighted. Some of the same passages that brought tears to my eyes this morning were marked, but many of the passages that were significant today were not underlined or marked, which let me know that God is continually showing me new things and deepening my relationship with Him (if I let Him).

At 6:50 a.m., I finally finished my time of reading, prayer, and meditation and had nothing but a few sips of cold coffee left in the bottom of my mug.

At 7:08 a.m., I’m thankful that I decided to get up regardless of my grumpy attitude this morning. I’m thankful for the coffee maker my sister gave me that helped me overcome my grumpy attitude. I’m thankful that I learned how to benefit from doing RPMs from my mentor, and I’m thankful that I developed the habit of spending time with God every morning since starting out my day with God not only benefits me but also benefits everyone who comes in contact with me, too. I’m thankful for the insights God gave me this morning. And I’m thankful that my toddler slept all this time.

I might still have time to brush my teeth.

gratitude

For her curls

As I gear up to go back to work full-time this fall, transitioning from an adjunct instructor to a full-time English instructor, I find myself fluctuating between excitement and eager anticipation and anxiety and grief as I let go of this period of my life–the stay-at-home mom phase. No longer will Maggie’s cute babbling on the baby monitor serve as my alarm clock. One month from now, I’ll entrust my child to babysitters three days a week and rely on them to fill me in on the brightest moments of the day, to keep me posted on her milestones and her tantrums and her patterns of behavior. Soon Maggie and I will both have to adjust to a new schedule, a new routine, and a new balance of people in our lives.

With my fellow faculty members on the day I got the news that I'd been selected for the full-time position
With my fellow faculty members on the day I got the news that I’d been selected for the full-time position

Don’t get me wrong–I’m beyond thankful for my new job. If you missed my post about my new job, reading that will certainly clarify any confusion about my feelings about that. For years, I didn’t even think I’d ever have the opportunity to go to graduate school; a few years ago, my husband (boyfriend at the time) encouraged me to pursue my passion for English language and literature, regardless of the practicality of it all… talk about winning me over! I enrolled in a Master’s program a few weeks later, and I’ve never regretted that decision. I feel that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing with my life right now;  it’s a wonderful feeling, and a great way to serve God and other people.

Still, I’m a mom, and I’m a mom who wears her heart on her sleeve sometimes. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me an entire year’s worth of prayer and meditation before I felt absolute peace about the decision to go back to work full-time at this point in my daughter’s life. But it does feel like the right time. If there’s anything God has repeatedly taught me, through practical experience, it’s that He is always right on time (if I yield to His will and don’t push and shove and insist on my own). There’s something easy and beautiful about letting God make things happen.

I would not trade the past 20 months of time I’ve spent at home with my daughter for anything; no amount of money and no thrill or prestige would entice me to reconsider how I’ve spent this period of time.

IMG_3763This morning Maggie and I took a walk down our quiet country road, admiring the bright morning sun reflecting off the surface of nearly every dew-covered leaf in the woods. We played with bubbles in the backyard. Every time Maggie popped a bubble, she excitedly exclaimed, “I gots!” Maggie played in her sandbox, silently scooping and shoveling sand into her little bucket over and over again, occasionally turning to glance at me sitting nearby, maybe to ensure that I was still watching her. The light reflected off her wild auburn curls. I found myself watching nothing but her hair, mesmerized by the light in her curls, the sun spinning around and twisting every time she turned and picked up her scoop and set it down again.

What is that worth, I wondered. What is this moment worth to me?

Everything. There’s nothing anyone could pay me to trade me for this moment, and nothing I’d exchange for the life I have lived with my daughter for the past 20 months.

I know that I haven’t wasted my time because I have chosen to be where my hands are; when I make that choice, I’m never wasting my time.

 

gratitude

Ripples

*Thanks to Henry Petty for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

Prayer is powerful.  It touches base with our Creator.  Think about adding this exercise to your prayers and see how it impacts you. Not only will it show loving kindness for yourself, but for others as well.

With eyes closed, imagine a pool of clear, still water.  Now, imagine a little raindrop hits the water, and you see a little ripple.  Imagine that first circle of the ripple and say:

May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be safe and free from suffering

Say this several times, and then imagine the second ripple, say:

May they be happy
May they be peaceful
May they be safe and free from suffering

As the ripple grows and grows, repeat this for people you know, the government, your boss, the earth, world peace, England, the atmosphere, so on and so forth.  Let it grow and grow, wide and broad.  But realize this started with just you – the center of it all, the first ripple.

gratitude

Daily grind tip

*Big thanks to my friend Henry Petty for sharing his thoughts with us in today’s post.*

timeDuring the daily grind, we seldom find time for ourselves or a chance to really focus on “me”.  This is a great technique to cope with the daily life, to break it up a bit, to focus on yourself and to care for yourself.  If you’re finding yourself wondering where the day has gone and going to bed feeling empty and unfulfilled, this is for you.

Get an app on your smartphone that will go off every 2 hours during the day (there are lots out there).  When that timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and think to yourself, “How do I feel?  What do I need right now?”

copingcards.jpg (2)Take a few really deep breaths, scan your body and see what kind of pain is there, what it is that you need in the moment, and how you are feeling.Then try some techniques to relieve that feeling or to make yourself feel better.  It could be going for a brisk walk, doing some deep breaths, stretching, maybe listening to some stand-up comedy on YouTube, or listening to your favorite song.  Whatever that is, write it down on an index card.

This coping technique will not only break up your day, but will also make you feel good about doing something…for you!  It will show how grateful you are to be here, to be doing something loving and kind for yourself.

When you have made a stack of index cards, punch a little hole in them and put a keyring or something in them so you can refer to them every day.

Uncategorized

Transcending my reality

*Special thanks to Gloria Bolton, a former student of mine, who has grown into an even more beautiful and enlightened person over the years, for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

Transcending my Reality: How I Found Christ  

Image “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” Marianne Williamson

Let me first preface this by saying, you aren’t going to agree with me. You just aren’t. Many people, when I tell them about my beliefs and my spiritual journey, assume that I am not a Christian. Or that I am a “bad” one. But I’m not going to tell you about my Christianity. I’m going to tell you about my Reality. The two just happen to coincide. Thus begins my story…

This is the story of a journey-My Journey, as you now know. It is not filled with adventure, and we will make no stop at the ancient sacred temples of Earth, except to mention that I am fascinated with awe by them. Instead, this is a journey I traversed in the mind, with Christ as my guide, and the re-emergence of my Soul in a state of elevated-if not quite enlightened-Consciousness.

This journey begins when I was very small.

I was born into a special state of being, blessed before birth. A contract was constructed, and my Soul became the daughter of my Mother. My Mother- a special woman, a walking angel among men. Her Soul is not from here- and I have always recognized a strong but silent power within her. My mother has always been my spiritual leader- we congregated at home and she loved reminding us that “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am among them” Matthew 18:20. Thus I began my spiritual life much where it may possibly stay for all time: with a Knowing. Knowing that Christ was with me. Knowing that the Creator loved me- and knowing that my study and solitude would be the key.  

So-you may be wondering if I am a nun and if this journey ends in some misty-mountain-monastery where we bake bread for orphans and perform last rights for the devout. No-it does not. I’ve never even been there. Not even on drugs. I guess this journey begins with me, a small kid, surrounded by personal gurus and open hearts of Love. My mother and grandmother have been the two singly most important influences on my path toward awareness. There were many others along the way- too many, in fact to credit here; some have been human, others have been beast. And what I know for certain is that God, and the powers that be, have always provided me with the people, places, events, books and mind to carve my path in this mountain that is life.

As a teenager, I traveled on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from church to church, joining in communion with my friends. I met a lot of open-hearted people. I felt like a traveling Christian soldier- welcomed by the open arms of many communities. Still, I had my issues with organized religion. Surprisingly, the non-denominational churches I visited were the least welcoming-but perhaps the most inspiring. A paradox-I know. I had always been told by my mother that we, in fact, were non-denominational Christians. Because of this, I was wholly surprised when, at two separate churches, and by two different pastors, I was sought out, or at least felt sought out, to be told that I was in fact- not saved!

What an outrage, I thought! And I told them so. You do not know me, I would say. I am saved- I have been saved many times. I had not only accepted myself as a sinner, but had also asked Christ into my heart, many times. I felt like a dog being reminded that I am just a dog. And I didn’t like it.

Suddenly within me, I felt moved to separate the curd from the cream. That’s not what these pastors had intended. They had intended for me to give myself over. To latch on to the bosom of their churches and suckle the existing cream, cultivated to Grade A Fancy, by the knowledge encased therein. But, I could not do this. I knew that if I was ever to be happy, to be truly fulfilled, I had to make my own cream. And thus the journey continued….

As a child I had been aware of the several religions that existed. I knew about the metaphysical “realm.” I had listened to my grandmother speak about the Christian Mystics. I knew what Judaism was and its basic elements and commonalities with Christianity. I knew what Buddhists were, and was vaguely familiar with Hinduism. I was also keen on many Native American beliefs. I believed that dinosaurs were in fact real, but also felt wholeheartedly that there must be truth in the Creation. I knew even then that the seed of Truth and Love resided within the heart of all these communities, and I hungered to finish the puzzle.

I began studying more feverishly than ever before. I read Cosmic Consciousness at the age of 13. I flocked to the most open minded hearts and Souls I could find. I met a man named John Chiaromonte, a personal guru, and admired his intermingling of Buddhist and Christian beliefs. In college, I took classes that opened my eyes to the interconnectedness of different religious groups. I studied the cultivation of religious extremism, particularly among Christian and Islamic groups. I became at peace with the trinity of the three dominant dogmas: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I read, and read, and read. I became aware of the occult, learned about the teachings of Aleister Crowley. I was fascinated by Numerology, and dabbled in Astrology. I joined the Society for Learning All Cosmic Knowledge of Epistemology and Religion (SLACKERS). I was part of faith based organizations dedicated to the growth of love and knowledge between people of every faith. I celebrated uncommon “pagan” holidays. I loved it. But, I became tired.

You see, in college there were four dominant levels of spiritual awareness. A reality I dealt with on a daily basis. There were: 1. Atheists, most common. 2. Agnostics, usually their fathers or grandfathers had been priests or pastors and turned them off of any religious beliefs. 3. More agnostics, these ones had no beliefs, but claimed to be cool with everything. 4. Hard Core Christians. My kind of religion didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I was a Questioning Christian and Soul Searcher. The environment became stagnant. Until I met my Adam (as in, the first man J)

Adam is my boyfriend. We live in sin, ha ha, because it is not financially wise in today’s world for us to marry. With my student debt and a shady credit history, I do not want to burden him with my financial ineptitude. He says he can’t afford the ring I deserve. But- we are married, body and soul, in so many deeper ways.

When I met Adam, I had really hoped he would be the like-minded Christian Soul Searcher that I had been searching for. Alas, he was not. “What are you then?” I asked, “Atheist or agnostic?” “Neither,” he told me, “I believe in Energy.” Hmm…Energy- that is interesting.

Let me stop a moment and rewind. All my time spent studying the beliefs of other people left me with just one, unshakable conclusion: as long as there is Love, there is Christ. And as a Christian, I still believed what my mother had taught me. A Christian is someone who follows Christ. I mean, seriously, I saw God everywhere. The puzzle pieces weren’t fitting together quite smoothly, but they were all there for me to do the work.

Energy-ah- that force that keeps the Universe together- keeps the Earth rotating around the sun and on its axis. The same Energy makes up every atom of my body, the table I’m sitting at, the pen in my hand and it is Energy that triggers the synapses of my brain as I write. I had to know more about this Energy. Adam was talking about his Reality though, not his religion. And his Reality was founded on the basis of the Law of Attraction. For anyone unfamiliar with the Law of Attraction (LOA), a brief definition: like attracts like; good attracts good, bad attracts bad. Makes sense, huh? When it rains, it pours, good or bad, happy, sad, neurotic or normal. The Energy you emit comes back to you. Sounds a little like the Western understanding of Karma, right? Here I’d like to ask the reader, are you familiar with the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Either way, go listen to their song “Minor Thing:” You make a sound the spell is bound to come around. I didn’t have to study too long before again, I found Christ.

You see, the LOA can be used for attracting to your life more of what you want. This practice is rooted in the requirement of pure, blind faith- like most religious belief. In order to attract, or manifest good things in your life, you must first state those good expectations and know that if it is wanted, it exists already in Creation. After declaring your expectation of the gift, you must release all resistance by becoming detached. You have to know you want it and that it exists, but also live as if the having or not having of this good thing cannot, will not and does not affect your state of being. In other words- You put the wheel in God’s hands, and remain happily anchored in your present state of being. Remember, I’m talking about a Reality here, not a religion.

It made perfect sense to me. Say what you want, believe it is so, and it will come. After all, my own family had experienced first-hand this sacred knowledge of the power of faith, as pertaining to a certain Miracle Baby.   

No! Not me, (although I will say I caused a rather fair amount of physical commotion upon my arrival) thank you though! Actually my sister had at birth suffered a massive stroke. Mom was told that Nicki wouldn’t live, but that if she did, we would be lucky if she ever reached the ability to make her own bed. My sister was given a death sentence at birth. The doctors and hospital really did their best to prepare my mother for the death of her first child. They didn’t want any surprises. Not this child though-

My mom had been told as a teen that she was incapable of carrying a child to term. Scars on her uterus would prevent an embryo from attaching- and mom’s prospects to become a mother were grim-doomed to a life riddled with half-termed miscarriages. Mom prayed, together with Nicki’s father, that God would send her a baby, and when He did, at the age of 19, she was filled with nothing but gratitude for the soft human body growing inside of her. Mom was not gonna let Nicki die. She prayed to God- “Why? Why my sweet, innocent child?” She opened her Bible- “Nothing clean can ever come from anything unclean.” Job 14:3

Stop! I’m sure you can guess mom’s reaction- surely remorse for her sinful ways. But just once more I must weave the fabric of this Miracle Baby’s story with my own journey of self-awareness. Nothing clean comes from the unclean. In practicing LOA I have learned that “problems” still arise in my life. Life is not always smooth and besides, I wouldn’t want it to be. Contrast is healthy. But, for the first four years of my knowledge of LOA, I did not understand why I was not attracting the good that I so desired. Bad situations just became worst. Now I know this: the solution to an issue can never come to you while you are still offering the vibration or the energy from whence that problem was created. Even Einstein knew that- look it up!

The second time my mother opened her bible that day she read “Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them and they will be granted to you.” Mark 11:24. Law of Attraction and faith in action. Ask, believe it is already yours, open your heart and receive.    

And guess what? My sister is alive and well, mother of my beautiful nephew, age 10. She recovered in less than two years- with a lot of faith and a little consistent work to strengthen the Miracle Baby’s body (at that time, it was also unknown that the rate of brain cell regrowth in newborns is as high as it is). Mom still says it was the easiest faith she ever had. The words were from God and the faith from something higher than body or mind.

It was not hard for me to accept the power of LOA, and many related teachings. I had seen, witnessed through my sister and mother, the power of faith. Different words, slightly different paths, one a religion, the other a Reality: One Destination.

So now I thought I knew the secret, but knowledge is not power when left unused. It is more like an atrophied limb stuck inside a plaster cast. And thus I spent four long years knowing that dormant Knowledge of the Cosmos. Until one day, not too long ago- November actually- I awakened to the awareness that I, in fact, was not using this power to create the life that God and the Universe had intended for me. So I started practicing. A little at first, as much as my mind and body could muster. I started with Gratitude-

Today, and for the last 67 days, I have started and ended my day by practicing Gratitude. It has become my prayer. And would you know- I was shocked to find what would come into my life when I opened my heart! At one point I declared my gratitude for all the “free stuff” I was getting. I also declared my intention to receive more. And it happened! The list of free stuff to feel grateful for is long, and would most definitely sound absurd to some. It includes clothing, classes and cookies 😀 But, it is real, nonetheless.

ImageI have also begun to meditate daily- and this is another instrument in the toolbox to my Reality. I realized and really felt- I am not my body, nor am I my mind. The essence of who I am is sourced from a higher power. A Divine power. That is what I am, and who you all are. We are much more than we were ever led to believe. Energy is everywhere and it is our job to choose how we interpret that great force. Look at your mother’s dining room table, for example. Most people will just see a table, modern or classic, wood or plastic. But your mother- you, your family- see a place where she feeds her family. A place where we play, laugh, joke, pray and reside in the hearts of each other. You can change your Reality, and you have chosen, are choosing, and continue to choose it for yourself.

Christ is everywhere, when we choose to see him. And so is God. That Christ Consciousness flows through everything and everyone. It is the Universe, to me. Good and bad no longer exist, unless I choose to see them. There is merely existence, experience, and the ability to harness your energy. In other words, nothing is “good” or “bad,” it just is, and what we choose prevails.

So where am I now? No closer to the end than from where I began, I’m afraid. But opened now. I opened my mind and body and felt my way to the Chamber of my Soul. The door was opened and when I looked within- I saw the sacred peacefulness that is to be my life. I found so much within.

I’m currently in the process of organizing and founding a non-profit corporation. My energy and faith therein, have carried me so far in such a short amount of time. My “organization” went from an idea within my mind on how to serve others- to an actuality in two months! I’m even meeting with potential partners on Sunday. This could not have happen in my previous “reality.”

I am healthy, invigorated, inspired and moved to action. The sun rises and sets for me. My once dormant orchid is now in full bloom (literally speaking, it has six flowers) and I know that it is all for me. There are no coincidences, only what you create or co-create with others.

I am aware that I have only really begun to scratch the surface of this: My life, as it should be, as it was intended to be. I don’t believe in hell or sin, because my Lord is Love, and in Love, the seeds of darkness never existed: they were all just lies. I have awakened unto my true self- and to reiterate, I felt my soul, and there I found Christ and Creation. I witnessed the birth of my Reality as a Spiritual Being experiencing a physical existence. In the words of Walt Whitman, “I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,” (Song of Myself).

gratitude

Top 12 things I’m grateful for in 2012

Recently I wrote a blog post for my personal blog, My 2012 gift list, and listed the most significant gifts I received in 2012. I didn’t list tangible objects or even relationships on the list–I limited my gift list to the intangible yet priceless blessings I received in the form of lessons, inspirations, and virtues.

Today I thought it might benefit my soul to take a look back at 2012 and identify the top 12 things on my annual gratitude list.

  1. DSC_0075_edited-1Margaret Jacqueline. This year, my husband and I were surprised to learn that we had unintentionally created a human being. We were ecstatic to learn that we would be parents, and we are overcome with joy to share our lives with her each day. I’m truly grateful for her health throughout my pregnancy, for a safe delivery, and for her health and happiness every day since then. At six weeks old, she’s already living up to the meaning of her name and bringing sunshine into every moment of our lives.
  2. Health. Going through a somewhat rough pregnancy fraught with rough patches, complications, and negative symptoms made me much more aware of how blessed I am to be healthy most of the time. As I recover from delivering my baby, I continue to pause each time I realize just how good I have it. I can clean my house myself. I can bend over and pick things up and exercise. Not everyone I know can do these things, and I’m grateful I can.
  3. A’s. This year I completed 24 hours of graduate school and somehow, in spite of five months’ worth of morning sickness, ten months’ worth of migraines, and severe lack of sleep, I managed to make A’s in all my classes. I am so thankful God enabled my brain to function well in the absence of sleep, but more amazingly, in the absence of caffeine :).
  4. 033My husband. This year I married the one man who encapsulated the wish list I wrote months before I met him. I call him my “Wild at Heart” man; as an avid John Eldredge fan, I decided (one month before I met my husband) that I would ask God for a man like the one described in John Eldredge’s book. I knew it was a long shot–I’ve been divorced twice and knew I might be asking for something I’d never receive. But God blew my expectations out of the water, brought my husband into my life, and has blessed us with a trusting, peaceful, romantic relationship that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
  5. Real friends. I’ve always learned when going through trials and tribulations which friends were true friends. This year, I also learned which friends love me enough to celebrate the blessings in my life despite their own schedules, difficult circumstances, or limitations. All year long, I felt showered with blessings by my friends in various forms–phone calls, messages, cards, gifts, visits, acts of service and kindness–and I’m really thankful for each real friend in my life.
  6. Reality. I often live in fear of things out of my control–I worry and fret over things that most often never come to pass. This year, I learned that what I fear is not as scary as I thought, and that all the time I spent worrying could have been spent positively–writing, praying, or laughing. When I was pregnant, I worried that I’d wind up covered in stretch marks on my stomach. I didn’t get a single one. I was afraid of various complications during and after delivery, including prolapsed bladder. I’m happy to report that I pee perfectly well. I’m grateful that in many cases, reality is much kinder than I give it credit for.
  7. Our church. I spent over two years searching for a church that fit not only my credo but also my picky preferences. This year, God matched us up–and used a persistent friend of mine in the process–with a church that matches our needs and wants and then some. We already had our own personal relationships with God–we just didn’t have a group of people to share those relationships with. Now we do.
  8. Gratitude. It seems funny to list gratitude on my gratitude list, but I really am grateful for it. In 2012, I listed “be more grateful” as one of my bucket list items. In order to motivate myself, I started this blog. Since then, and about 125 blog posts later, I’m pleased to report that it worked. Writing blog posts has served as a catalyst for my personal growth. I find myself contemplating my blessings in order to create new blog posts; I spend more time focused on what I have to be grateful for and less time mulling over what I’m missing.
  9. Recovery. I’ve been a member of a twelve-step recovery program for family members and loved ones of alcoholics for over five years now. This year, I committed myself a little deeper to developing our itty bitty local chapter of the program and to attempting to share some of the experience, strength, and hope I’ve found with people around me who might benefit from it. I started praying for our local group and asked God to multiply our efforts; He has. The group has tripled in the past few months in membership, and new people show up periodically, too. I reconnected with my sponsor who lives in another town and continue to experience insights and growth as a result of our relationship. I’m sure this item will be on my gratitude list for years to come.
  10. My employment status. Having been willfully unemployed since July, I’m super grateful for the opportunity to not work. I’ve worked since I was 13 years old. I’ve tutored children, taught gymnastics, served french fries, cared for emotionally disturbed teenagers, taught classes, edited resumes, sold software, and advised college students. But this year, my husband decided to give me a break and let me focus on graduate school instead of on earning an income. Now that I’m caring for our newborn daughter, I’m continuing that hiatus from the world of paid employment and am thankful for the chance to do so.
  11. RPM’s. For those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to have reaped the spiritual benefits of a recovery program, RPM stands for reading, prayer, and meditation. Some of you who foster your own personal relationship with God might refer to RPMs as devotional time. No matter which way you slice it, spending time with God is one thing I’m most grateful for this year. Having gone through some very tough spiritual valleys earlier in the year, which I thankfully found my way out of with the help of a great counselor, I learned to depend even more on my time alone with God. Each morning, I spend a little (or a lot, depending on the day) time with God reading Scripture, praying, and meditating on what I’ve read and on the nuggets of wisdom He imparts. Life without RPMs for me means spiritual atrophy. I’d rather keep growing.
  12. Prioritization. This year, I learned to let go of some of my priorities in lieu of more important things–namely, my own health, my marriage, my daughter, and my education. I could have kept working in order to earn more money to pay for more things that I really didn’t need to begin with. I could have opted to continue shopping, running errands, and eating out after my doctor advised me to spend more time with my feet up to reduce swelling and heal my injured back. I could have invited our entire family, church body, and list of friends to visit us at the hospital and come by our house in order to keep myself from feeling lonely. But I think I chose more wisely instead. I decided to stay home and focus on what matters most right now. I decided to take care of myself rather than take care of others or entertain myself. And I decided to limit my daughter’s exposure to a very germy world in the midst of flu season. And I’m grateful I made these choices.

It’s been a pretty wonderful year. I’m thankful for the chance to share it with each of you.