A (Near) Month of Thanks: Thankful for You

Another favorite perch.

Kirk and I sat at the breakfast table this morning, enjoying our grits and coffee, and went back and forth sharing thanks for the gifts of this past year. 

This online space came up in conversation several times. 

  • He voiced his thanks for the email dialogues that emerge for me as a result of this website. He knows how much every single one of those conversations means to me, and how they continue to humble me, and how deeply connected they are to my sense of calling and vocation and life’s work. 
  • I gave thanks for the Cup of Sunday Quiet, which was born in this space this past summer. It’s a joy to sit down each Sunday morning and write a letter from my heart to those who have subscribed to it, and to record the 10-15 minutes of lectio meditation that invites each person into prayerful encounter with God. 
  • I’m thankful, too, for the turn toward a series orientation this website took in this past year. It’s become quite meaningful to discern the direction to take with each new series and then to peel back the layers of those subjects with you as we journey deeper into them each day. 

I’m thankful for this space. I’m thankful for you. 

Speaking of the series orientation of this space, we’re starting a new series on Monday. It will be a bit exploratory, meaning it will invite you into your personal journey to explore the stories it holds and their impact on you.

I hope you’ll join me for that exploration, come Monday. 

Much love,


A (Near) Month of Thanks: Tiny Joys

Precious little paws. I just want to nom-nom on them.

What are the tiny joys you love about life? What gives your life its rich and tasty flavor? 

My tiny joys this morning are:

  • Diva’s dainty paws and their little pink pads
  • The way Solomon rolls around on Kirk’s shoes
  • The jokes Kirk and I share and how I don’t even remember where some of them came from
  • Brisk autumn air to greet me when I step out the front door
  • The smell of coffee

What are your tiny joys today?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Influences

Right now.

If you had a glimpse of my interior world in college (and high school, and junior high, and grade school), you’d discover I was a pretty wound-up perfectionist constantly worrying and straining to make things right. If there’s a word to describe the image I hold of my young self in all those days, it would be the word scruples

But then God cracked me open, and a whole bunch of messiness ensued.

Confusion. Exploration. Possibility. Hope. Life. Grace. Love. Freedom. Depth. Calm. Solidity. Openness. 

The spiral of life and growth continues along these lines, with each new season bringing its portion of disorientation, exploration, discovery, and life. It leads to increased rootedness but usually requires a bit of freefall first. 

When I look back over the terrain of my spiritual journey and who I’ve become and am continuing to become, I’m incredibly thankful for the many wise influences, mentors, guides, and spiritual parents who have shaped me. 

When it comes to influences, I am thankful for: 

  • Clifford Williams, whose book Singleness of Heart began me on my heart journey
  • Anne Lamott, who first taught me about grace and the beauty of imperfection
  • Don Miller, who put language to some of my experiences and modeled permission to explore
  • St. John of the Cross, who first taught me about spiritual formation
  • My friend Sara, who gave me space to process the journey
  • Jesus, the first model for all I believe and do today
  • Henri Nouwen, who opened deeper the world of interiorities and helped clarify my sense of vocation
  • Mother Teresa, whose model of love still teaches me
  • Gandhi, who was and always will be the father of my nonviolence journey
  • Martin Luther King Jr., another father to me in the road marked by love and conviction
  • Thomas Merton, my spiritual father in contemplation and peace
  • Julian of Norwich, who currently models for me my life of prayer

Who are the influences that have shaped your life, and how would you express thanks for them?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Family


My sister’s silly dog.

I found out on Friday evening that my mom is coming to visit us for the Christmas holiday. She’ll fly in on Christmas day and stay until New Year’s Day. 

This is such a treat! My family lives 3000 miles away, in California, and we usually try to visit them for at least one of the major holidays each year. But this year, we’re seeking to deepen our sense of home here in Florida for the holidays, and so we won’t be traveling. It’s such a gift to receive a visit from my mom in a year that we thought we’d be missing them. 

When it comes to family, I’m thankful for: 

  • All the different personalities
  • The laughter
  • Jokes that last 20+ years
  • The shared terrain of history
  • Common experiences of home
  • Love that endures

How are you thankful for family?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Growth

Crawling the wall.

Last night, when I was awake in bed for a couple hours and couldn’t sleep, I listened to the first couple chapters of Richard Rohr’s latest book, Falling Upward, on audio. 

The book is very, very good. Its central premise is that the tools we use to build the first half of our lives are not the tools that will work in its second half.

This got me thinking about growth.

To me, our capacity to grow is one of the most interesting things God built into the created order. And so today, I thought we could reflect on the ways we’ve grown over the course of our lives and how that growth causes us to give thanks. 

When it comes to the growth I’ve experienced in my life, I give thanks for the following: 

  • I’m thankful for the ways my family upbringing shaped the listener and peacemaker in me.
  • I’m thankful for the difficult experiences I sustained in grade school that later shaped my connection to Jesus. 
  • I’m thankful for the way pain in my life has made me a more sensitive being.
  • I’m thankful for a solid foundation of faith that paved the way for its deepening when I became a young adult.
  • I’m thankful God brought me to the end of myself when I was 19, even though it terrified me.
  • I’m thankful Jesus sat with me in the dark for two years, growing my trust in his patience and faithfulness toward me.
  • I’m thankful God has opened the doors of my heart to greater honesty and tenderness.
  • I’m thankful for the way my divorce experience helped me learn to receive grace.
  • I’m thankful I’ve become a person accustomed to taking risks. 
  • I’m thankful for the relationships in my life that have helped me settle into an identity of being loved.
  • I’m thankful for the stripping seasons in my life the grace God has given me to say yes to them.
  • I’m thankful for the ways God has given me a greater and greater heart of love.

When you look at the growth in your own life, what makes you thankful?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Challenges


Diva faces her own challenge.

A reader reminded me yesterday that not all things to give thanks for are easy. Some may be difficult or painful.

But perhaps they help up grow. Or in some mysterious way work out for the best in ways we couldn’t have foreseen. Or are what’s required to get us from point A to point B. 

The apostle Paul encourages us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18), and so today, let’s reflect on our thanks for the circumstances that are hard: life’s challenges. 

When it comes to challenges I’ve faced or am currently facing: 

  • I’m thankful for the way challenges help me think more creatively, seeking out solutions or responses I’d not yet considered.
  • I’m thankful for the way challenges connect me in relationships, as I seek out the wisdom and discernment of others. 
  • I’m thankful for the way challenges bring me, eventually, to a point of surrender with God, praying, “Thy will be done.”
  • I’m thankful for the way challenges help me examine myself and my own part to play in making or breaking a situation.
  • I’m thankful for the way challenges—the kind beyond my control—deepen my dependence on God.
  • I’m thankful for the way challenges have made me stronger and ultimately refined me.

In what ways can you give thanks for the challenges you’ve faced, or are facing, in life?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Work

My work. Right now.

It’s Monday, and for many of us that means a return to the working world. 

Work isn’t the most shiny, glittery part of life to give thanks for. If you’re unemployed and looking for work during these hard economic times, it’s hard to give thanks for something you don’t have. If you’re employed and don’t love your job, it’s easy to let unhappiness and cynicism have its sway.

Perhaps because work is so difficult for so many, that’s just why we ought to stop and notice the bright spots in it.

When it comes to work …

  • I’m thankful for work that utilizes my skills and talents, as well as my mind.
  • I’m thankful for the relationships I’ve built through the work I do.
  • I’m thankful for the chance to work on the editorial staff of a magazine I’ve been reading for the better part of a decade and is fun and current and smart and thoughtful. 
  • I’m thankful for professional relationships built in the last 10+ years that keep my editorial freelance career moving forward and provide a variety of interesting projects and books to edit.
  • I’m thankful for my life’s work, which allows me to write regularly and connect with people all over the world in the journeys of their lives with God. 
  • I’m thankful for a schedule that’s flexible to allow for all the different kinds of work I do.
  • I’m thankful for work that pays the bills. 
  • I’m thankful for work that doesn’t pay at all. 
  • I’m thankful for the chance to feel alive with contribution and meaning through the work I do.

When it comes to work, how do you give thanks?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Evening

Cozy view.

Yesterday we reflected on the morning hours. Today, let’s reflect on the evening. 

When it comes to the evening hours, I am thankful for: 

  • A home that feels safe
  • The routine of turning on the lamps in our main rooms, since it’s growing dark outside
  • The ritual of preparing dinner with all of its colors and smells — chopping cilantro, slicing red bell peppers, browning onion, pressing garlic
  • How the ritual of preparing dinner connects me to my love for Kirk and a sense of contribution in our home
  • The way Diva and Solomon show up, expectantly, when we walk in the front door
  • The way we go hunting for them when they aren’t waiting for us at the front door, and then we find them lounging on the couch or snuggled together on the bed
  • The hug Kirk and I give each other once we’re both home from work
  • Conversations on the couch or over dinner about the events of our days
  • A chance to decompress from the day with a bit of “introvert time,” which we both need and freely give each other
  • The times when the kitties pile on the bed with us at the very end of the day and we play and make each other laugh
  • The calming effect that scrolling through my Instagram feed has on me before going to sleep
  • The routine of listening to the Pray as You Go podcast with Kirk at the end of each day

What about the evening hours makes you thankful?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Morning

Morning, with a curly tail.

I am most certainly not a morning person, but there are aspects of the morning hours that I love. 

When it comes to each day’s morning, I am thankful for:

  • Our faithful routine of making coffee for each other
  • The quiet sounds of the neighborhood waking up (when I’m awake early enough to notice)
  • Time at my desk to read, pray, think, and write
  • Diva’s company, whether she’s prowling at my feet for affection, jumping onto the desk to sit sentry, or maneuvering onto my lap for warmth and cuddles
  • A home I enjoy waking up in
  • The light streaming through our stained-glass windows in the bedroom
  • Kirk’s routine of getting ready and how he always kisses me goodbye
  • The warmth of blankets
  • A peaceful, beautiful view outside my window
  • The chance to reconnect with the world through Facebook, Twitter, and email

What about the morning hours makes you thankful?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Democracy

God's light.

In the campaign season of the 2008 election, I remember being struck at a soul-deep level for the very first time at the wonder of democracy. 

I realized that it gave me the dignity of my own opinion. I could choose to support a candidate, and my neighbor could choose to support a different one. Neither of our voting preferences negated the value of the other’s.

I could vote for a candidate, and I could retain my preference for them even if they lost. Their loss didn’t mean I was wrong for choosing to support their agenda. It didn’t mean I had to change my view. It meant I got to have an opinion, and I got to participate in civil society by voting my voice, even if the majority decided on a different preference than the one I held.

As someone who is a peacemaker at heart, I am thankful for the way democratic societies give each person the dignity of their personal perspective and the voice of their own vote. I struggle with American patriotism a lot (that’s a different story for a different day), but the accordance of dignity to each person for their voice and perspective and experience is an ideal I will always uphold.

How are you thankful for democracy today?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Freedom

I love this bench.

It’s voting day in the U.S. today. (It’s surely been a long time coming!)

Kirk and I voted early on Sunday, and as we walked toward our polling place to stand in line, I thought about the gift that it is to have the voice of a vote. I thought about the places in the world where elections are fixed or votes are suppressed — or where there’s no citizen voice involved in governance at all. 

So, for today’s gratitude theme, it seemed only fitting to consider freedom

  • I’m thankful for the freedom to vote.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to vote differently than my neighbor.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to think and ask questions.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to formulate ideals.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to live a lifestyle based upon my convictions.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to worship.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to love.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom from anxiety, fear, and judgment I find in Jesus.

What about freedom makes you thankful?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Let's Begin with Home

Light flows in.

I’ve noticed on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook this last week, since the calendar changed to November, a lot of people are taking this month as an occasion to give thanks for something new each day.

This got me thinking about the two occasions we talked about gratitude last week in the prayer series and how helpful I’ve experienced gratitude to be for engendering an overall feeling of health and well-being in life. 

This new series here will invite us to practice gratitude throughout the rest of this month. 

Each day, I’ll post a gratitude theme, and we’ll have a chance to reflect on what aspects of that theme we are thankful to experience in our lives. I’ve turned the comments back on for this series so we can collectively experience each person’s unique thanksgivings, should you desire to share.

So, for example, home.

  • I’m thankful my home is a place of peace. 
  • I’m thankful so many elements in our home carry stories.
  • I’m thankful Solomon and Diva have found their home with us.
  • I’m thankful our home is a simple but beautiful space.
  • I’m thankful people find rest and peace and welcome in our home.

What about home makes you thankful?