this past wednesday night, while making crafts with our students, we were discussing various things we are thankful for, and i had a funny and accurate memory of my self-righteous and legalistic teenage self. once, in our youth group, we were challenged to make a list of things we were thankful for – and oh, i did. and it was a long list (in the hundreds), and there were lots of rules and disputes on what you could and couldn’t include (for instance, do you just list food, or do you name off specific foods? just family, or specific people?)
if i have to be honest, i can tell you that, while i was probably thankful for most of those things, i really wanted to have the most items and to win the competition. i would have been a really good Pharisee, i expect.
this year, i’m not trying to win a competition or show everyone up. luckily, the streaks of self-righteousness and perfectionism and legalism are put to death each day (and they rise up again, and have to be smote, but that’s a different story…), and really, i was thinking last night that i have an awful lot to be thankful for in this season of my life. so, here are a few things:
a job. this time last year, i was getting ready to interview for a terrible, no-good, awful, painful job. only, i didn’t know it. i had never really had a job like that before. i suppose i would save myself from doing that, if i could go back in time, but i know that horrible experience did teach me a lot about the working world and myself and difficulties. these days, i am incredibly grateful for a job with people who love Jesus and want to see him glorified. with people who take care of me, and invest in me, and love on me. for a job that is rewarding and that i enjoy. i love the people that i get to work with, and i love being a small part of their ministry. i’m really grateful.
friends. my life is abundantly full, with friends from near and far – people i met in seminary, people i met in college, and people i met in school. in many senses, these friends are my family. they fill a void that others have left and let me be a part of their families, love on their kids, and live life with them. i have friends that i talk with almost every day, and friends that i only see once in a while – but i find so much joy in the reminder that these friendships can pick up where they left off, almost seemlessly. for friends who ride in the car with you while your Grandma is dying and distract you and let you talk when you need to talk, and friends who write you cards and send kind text messages, and friends who practice the simplicity of presence.
writing. a year ago, i just hoped i would have an opportunity to write sometimes. since then, i’ve written blogs for the WMU and for Student Life. i write quarterly for The Alabama Baptist, as their campus ministry “reporter.” i have this blog, which is a great outlet from time to time. i’ve even had the opportunity to write some curriculum (which is my favorite thing!) over this fall. when do you feel the most like yourself? i feel that way when i am putting words to paper, or my fingers to a keyboard, and am trying to explain or articulate something. if you can find something like that, something you love that much, and you get to do it – i’d say you’re pretty lucky.
church. i am blessed to be a part of a church that i love. in all of the church universal’s imperfections and faults, i am so thankful to be a part of a body of believers striving to better understand the gospel and to make it known. and i am so grateful for opportunities for ministry – serving students, and writing, and teaching (which is always terrifying for me, but in a good way) and outreach and organization and mission friends and everything in between. i love my church.
a season of singleness. i have not always been grateful for this, but these days, i am seeking to trust the Lord more and his plans, and that they are often not mine. this has been a hard year, in many ways. lots of life didn’t turn out the way i pictured it – but isn’t that the way it always works? i know, from experience, that the Lord’s plans always turn out so much better than my own. these days, i just want to rest in that knowledge and in his grace, that it is enough for today, and for always. and so, this is a season i will embrace. because who knows how long it will last? because who knows how long my roommate will be single – and i know how much i would miss this part of my life! and really, sleeping as late as i want, and eating whatever i want for dinner, and going for runs at 6am just because, and laughing out loud at gilmore girls under the warm covers of my bed really isn’t so bad.
books. when i was in elementary, middle, and high school, i was in love with books. with literature. with characters, and plots, and words, and themes, and figurative language, and poetry. all of it. the last four years of my life have been filled with reading theology and important things. i miss that. i miss dialogue with classmates and very smart professors and writing about those things and research. really, i do. but, i’ve rediscovered how much i love to read for fun. i love characters and books and words and the smell of old pages yellowed by time.
life. i have learned a lot over this past year. it hasn’t all been fun. i can admit that. the best lesson i have probably learned, though, is that life is fleeting. it’s over before you know it. my days are numbered. wow. i can’t add a single second to them. i can’t make more time for myself – and the thing about it is, i never know when it’s going to end. so there are two wonderful and hard realizations you come to, when you start to discover a truth like this. first, it gives you perspective. all the things i worry about don’t really matter in the light of eternity. wow. they are meaningless and fleeting and vain in comparison to the width and depth and height of God’s love and his presence that i will experience when i stand before him. these troubles and this suffering really is lightweight at present in comparison to the weighty glory waiting for those who love him and have been called by him. not only does it put things into perspective, but it also reminds me that my time is short – and i want to invest it in things that matter. in people. i want to do work that makes a difference, and live my life in a way that impacts others for the kingdom. i want to love the people in my life with all that i have – even if it hurts. i want to really live every moment ordained by God, for his glory. and i want to trust that, when i come to the end of all of this, it will only be a shadow of what is to come living in the presence of the Father.