I woke up last Thursday, looked in the mirror and sighed – how is it possible that I have both a zit and the beginnings of some wrinkles? Yes, that was the deep theological question on the morning of my 35th birthday. My birthday for the last 5 years has been something that I wish I could avoid. I have amazing friends, and they have showered me with love, but that doesn’t change the fact that each year on my birthday I have a sense that I am not where I should be… I haven’t “achieved” the usual achievements for someone my age. But it isn’t just existential questions that have made my birthday hard. I literally have had some of the worst days of my life on my birthday. I know it is stereotypical of a western woman to dread her birthday, but if I am honest on this front, I am stereotypical. I feel guilty for my birthday blues, since I am a person of faith. I profess my life as a gift from the divine, and if I believe God has given me this one life as a gift, than I need to stop looking at this gift and saying it isn’t enough! But even guilt hasn’t stopped the melancholy birthday feelings from showing up after all the friends have left at the end of the evening, and often I shed a few tears.
So this year as the birthday despair tried to sneak in, I decided to do something! To take action! I decided I needed to start a tradition of yearly gratitude, so please allow me to share with you the 35 things I am thankful for – in no order of importance or depth! Maybe they will resonate with you or challenge you to do the same. Go ahead, write a list as long as the number of years you have been alive. Each year add something new… adding a year to your life means adding to the list of reasons why this life has hidden blessings.
1) Laughter – I am thankful for my ability to laugh. I don’t think I have ever gone a full day without laughing. I inherited it from my family – we laugh through anything.
2) Watching sports with friends and family – I love watching sports with a crowd. I am thankful for the joy that comes from friendly rivalry and the camaraderie of cheering for the same team.
3) The color turquoise – I told you this list was going to have things both deep and playful. I love the color turquoise, not that I wear it much or have the color all over my house, but every time I see it as a pop of color on something, it makes me smile. I think it reminds me of the ocean.
4) My best friends – I have several best friends from the different times in my life and places I have lived. I often say that the biggest blessing in my life is these rare humans who allow me to be part of their lives. I even have friends that have my name engraved on a glass in their house. Why? Because they expect me to come over for dinner enough that I would need my own glass!
5) My church community – Now I am a pastor, and the church I serve is AMAZING, but that isn’t the church community I am talking about. Three years ago I met a group of creative, dynamic and thinking believers when I was longing for community, which is hard to find in my profession. In fact, we all keep in touch on Facebook and through texts, and for the first time in my adult life I feel like I actually have a church community of my very own. And through their various podcasts, I even get to hear regular sermons from this church community!
6) Having a family that talks – I have the kind of family that will spend hours discussing everything over a meal or sitting around enjoying each other’s company. WE don’t always agree, but man I love that I can tell them ANYTHING!!!
7) My mom’s health – I share this a lot because there isn’t a day that I don’t wake up and think how lucky I am to have this lady in my life. Through all of her diagnoses, I have remained grateful for the time I have had with her.
8) My little niece’s facial expressions – Now everyone thinks their niece is the cutest, but my niece makes the most adorable and ridiculous facial expressions. She is beautiful and her big blue rolling eyes are one of my favorite things.
9) My faith – the moments when I have been sure of Jesus are some of my most precious moments. I am grateful that through the tough times I can look back to these moments and remember that, though I may have questions now, I was sure back then.
10) Paint – I love to create; to paint and draw make my heart come alive.
11) My dog Tenor – I have a dog who is always down for an adventure or a good snuggle.
12) Typography – I am so fascinated by hand lettering, and as strange as it sounds, I am thankful for the creative art of typography.
13) The Avett Brothers – Okay I like most music in general and the feelings that listening to a good song makes me feel.
14) Live Concerts – I love going to see live music. The community of sharing a concert is miraculous to me.
15) Summer Friday Nights – The feeling of staying up with nothing to do the next day is a gift.
16) My nephew’s laugh – My nephew laughs with his whole being and I love his abandonment.
17) Running – I both love and hate running. There are days when I don’t want to lace up, but I love the feeling of having completed a really tough run.
18) Traveling – I am grateful for the chances I have had to travel all over and the experiences I have had – from Israel, Japan, Turkey, and Uganda – the life lessons acquired while abroad are formational.
19) College Basketball – I love watching college basketball – Duke especially – enough said!
20) My friend Jerry’s new heart – In praying for my friend Jerry to get a new heart and journeying with him through his transplant, I have never been more thankful for the gift of an organ and more time with my beloved friend.
21) Summer camps – I have met some of my best friends through camps, and I believe I met Christ there.
22) My bike – I feel so young and free as the wind whips through my hair when I am riding my powder blue beach cruiser.
23) Hidden House Coffee Shop – and all coffee shops like it. Hidden house is this amazing independent coffee shop. I love the community that gathers there and I love the atmosphere.
24) Orange Theory work outs – I work out at a gym with classes that are challenging, but what I love most about it is that it has become a community for me. I love the people I see all the time and I love checking in with them and hearing their stories.
25) Shoes – Yup it’s that simple. I love shoes, especially boots.
26) The way that friends become like family – I have recently moved, and I had a load of friends who helped me move. These friends are more like family, and for that I am grateful.
27) My friend Ted – I have a friend who is in his late 70’s that has taught me so much about how to live well. He loves life and he doesn’t let you forget it.
28) People who let me make mistakes – I have one friend who constantly reminds me that I am allowed to be a human – pastor or not, I am a human. She is amazing at saying we all make mistakes.
29) I love the bible – I get to read the bible for work! It is true, even though people may categorize me as a progressive Christian, I love the bible. I love reading it and I get to do it for work! That is pretty great.
30) All the kids I had the honor of being a youth pastor for – As I scroll through Facebook, there isn’t a day when I don’t get a smile on my face because some kid I helped mentor has turned into a great human. I am grateful for getting to have that chance.
31) Food – I love food! It’s true I get excited about trying new things, especially when traveling, but I also love going and getting my favorites like thai coconut soup!
32) Movies by Guy Ritchie, the Cohen brothers, and Wes Anderson – These movies are creative and fun. I love to sit back and enjoy their talent.
33) Being in the ocean – I am a fish! Ever since I was little, I have loved being in and under the water. I am grateful for the cool joy of the ocean.
34) Sunsets – I am amazed EVERY time I see a beautiful sunset.
35) Prayer – I am most grateful for all the people who pray for me and for the ability for us to pray!
Okay so there it is, and as I look over it, this zit and these laugh lines don’t compare. Okay 35 here I come!