A couple of weekends ago I was in Houston at a writer’s conference taught by Beth Moore. I can't even begin to unpack all the wisdom she shared with us in this one day event, but after the panel discussion toward the end of the conference, I had the super special opportunity to spend a few brief minutes talking to Christine Caine. Christine is a giant of the Christian faith – living and loving and serving others with zeal and a holy fire in her bones for Jesus. Her organization, A21, has rescued people all over the world from the clutches of human trafficking. She started Propel Women to celebrate "every woman's passion, purpose, and potential." She speaks with vulnerability about her own story of abuse and abandonment and how that launched her into the ministry work she does today. I was just listening to her speak with Maria Shriver last week in a Facebook Live event and she said, “Often your greatest pain can become your purpose in life.” If anyone could be wallowing in the swamp of victimhood it would be Christine, but instead she has taken that and let God use it for good. Her perspective and teaching is part of the reason I am who I am today and one of the catalysts for starting this blog.

LIT conference panel discusssion: Amanda Jones, Beth Moore, Melissa Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Jennie Allen, Christy Nockels, and Christine Caine.

LIT conference panel discusssion: Amanda Jones, Beth Moore, Melissa Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Jennie Allen, Christy Nockels, and Christine Caine.

I first heard Christine almost three years ago when a friend shared this talk with me. I don’t know how she found it or what caused her to share it but she had no idea how it would minister to my own heart in the coming days and months and years. I proceeded to listen to it over and over again. It spoke a truth to my heart that for so long I wasn’t willing to hear. Christine's thesis is three words: embrace your place.

Embrace your place. Wherever you are, right now, today, there is a reason you are there. Whatever season you find yourself in. Whatever job, whatever neighborhood, whatever situation, whatever circumstance. There’s a reason you’re there right now. When I first heard that sermon, there were about a million and one ways I wasn’t embracing my place. I hated the season I was in and could not wait to get to the next one. I rehashed daily how I should have gone to hair school instead of college. How my life would be so much better if I would have never done this or that. I replayed my broken relationships in my head and figured out all the ways in which they wrecked me forever and how God couldn't be trusted with this area of my life.  Like the visions of Ezekiel in the Old Testament, I was not only in the valley of dry bones, I was the dry bones. One time I had a friend say to me, “It seems like you really hate your life.” And my response was, “I do.” I did. I was sad and desperate. Everyone had what I couldn’t have and I could instantly rattle off all the ways I was being left out and left behind: the house, the good job, the big salary, the dreams realized, the spouse, the children, the friends, the vacations, the dinners out, the amazing dress, the good hair, the perfect life. Anytime I make a comment about someone having something I don’t, my brother will, to this day, sarcastically say to me, “Wow. They must have the perfect life.” But the problem is, I used to believe it and I would “if only” my days away.

See, we like to think that fantasy is harmless. As I thought and prayed about this blog post I read a piece on fantasy that articulated it this way, "Fantasy is living in what could be, rather than living in the reality of what actually is. From pornography, to affairs, to toxic relationships [I would also add addictions and social media]. The list could go on and on, but in each of these you will find men and women imprisoned within the confines of a dream. Stuck in a life they make up with people who don’t actually exist." We daydream about how life could be one day if, how our marriage could be if, how our friendships could be if, where we would be in life if  ____ wouldn't have happenedWe look at one Instagram photo and tell ourselves a story about how great their life must be. We glorify wanderlust and those who don't seem to have any roots because they're so "free" and we keep changing our job, our relationship, our neighborhood because we can’t find the right fit. We get so caught up in "finding our passion" that we're never settled. I spent a lot of time in toxic situations dreaming up what could be if, which just turned my life into a long paper chain of days waiting to die or waiting for Jesus to come back. So we dream and plot and plan and swipe left but reality is always waiting for us when we come down from the cloud. Reality is always waiting and sometimes reality is so hard. It’s hard and it’s lonely and there is destruction and death and heartache all around us so we leave our reality - our place - thinking up what could be if only. But Christine's talk gave me fresh hope that day.

In her talk on embracing your place, Christine talks about the story in 1 Kings 19 where Elisha is last in line behind the oxen when Elijah comes to anoint him as a prophet. Had he not been there, had he not been faithful to where God had him, he might not have been called up. Had he abandoned his place for something he thought was better, some higher position, some place with more acclaim and celebrity, he might not have been ready for what God had for him. Had he been dreaming and wishing and working to get into another place, rather than be faithful to the place God called him, Elisha could have been passed over. Christine said, 

“That place where you think it’s dry, that place where you think God’s forsaken you, the wilderness place, [God says] “I’m going to come and find you when I’m ready for you.” [Elisha] was in the wilderness behind 12 lots of oxen! The guy in the back, back, back of the parking lot... God says, “I’m just seeing if they’re going to stay in place, when they think nobody knows, when they’re behind the 12 oxen, when they’re the least of the least in the most arid and dry conditions, I’m going to see, are they going to be faithful? Are they going to be loyal? Are they going to stick with that marriage? Are they going to keep parenting those kids? Are you going to keep yourself morally pure? Are you going to keep tithing, keep sowing, keep serving? Are you going to stay in place? That’s where he turns up.”

Think about some different areas in your life. Are you doing the best you can in your job or are you thinking about how everyone else has it better than you, makes more than you, has a nicer office than you, gets more perks than you? Are you loving your person and being kind to them, spending your time thinking of more ways to serve them, or are you always venting about who they’re not and what they don’t do and how they’d be so much better if they just did ____ like that other person’s spouse? Are you readily jumping from one date to the next with no follow through and no commitment because you think the next person will be better than the last? Are you sitting in bitterness over a past incident, past hurt, past heartbreak and telling God all the ways he was wrong to bring you there? Are you cruising around on Pinterest and Instagram thinking about how everyone has it so much better than you? Are you living in the land of if only?

You are where you are for a reason but like that saying I've read somewhere on the internet, "Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is you're stupid and make bad decisions." Listen, I love you enough to tell you the truth. Sometimes God has you in the wilderness but sometimes, more often I think, you walk yourself out there. I know I did. I was always turning left when God called me right. But of course, other times it's just circumstance you have no control over. Sometimes you did nothing to end up there and you're just there. In those moments you can twist yourself in knots trying to figure out that reason, or you can rest in the knowledge that you are not forgotten, you do not go unseen, you are not alone in your waiting and wondering. You have full permission to cry your eyes out in wondering why you’re single or why you can’t get the job you applied for or why your friends get everything you want or why there's this terrible pain in your life, but in that wondering and waiting, be faithful to seek the Lord and what he might have for you here and now in this place. Some of you need to get back in place, or stay in place, and embrace your place.

I guess I can really only speak to your heart here if you believe that God is in control – that he has a plan, that he has a purpose and is steadily working those things together for your good. “But this singleness doesn’t feel good!” Trust me, I know that. I didn’t meet Aaron until I was 31 and I had a lot of lonely days and nights. “But ______ doesn’t feel good! How is this good?” I hear you. I know. I will sit and listen to you and cry with you and try to understand how it doesn’t feel good. But one day, when you look back on your life, I promise you that it will all make sense. Do not despise your season. There is a plan and a purpose. And you might think it's easy for me to say this now - now that I'm not necessarily in a waiting season, now that Aaron came along, now that things seem to be falling into place. But, I can tell you all of this having been in the desert for many years and in many ways. Maybe not the ways that you are, but I've been in the wilderness.  And I know that my waiting was loud and long and tear-filled and impatient, but it was not in vain. Neither is yours. I pray that even in my next desert season, whatever form that may take, I still cling to that promise. But even now, there are ways, daily, that I need to embrace my place, like living in the present instead of living for July 29 when I become a wife. Or continually looking forward instead of looking back. This isn't a thing you learn and move on from - much like a lot of life. It's a process.

One of the sweetest things I heard recently was when a friend said to me that they were so glad God looked at me and Aaron and said, “It’s time." It’s time for them to be together. It’s time. One day he’s going to look at you in whatever it is you’re waiting for, whatever it is you’re hoping for, whatever it is and say, “It’s time.” In his sovereign will he will say, “Now,” and you just have to believe that the waiting will be worth it, even if the waiting never makes sense to your human brain.

I sat down with Christine Caine a couple of weekends ago and I said through tears, “I don’t know if you remember the talk you gave on embracing your place, but I just want you to know that it changed the course of my life.” Beth Moore wrote, “Your faithfulness might just be the key to somebody else’s faith.” I can tell you that Christine’s faithfulness to preach the gospel and tell the truth was one of the keys to my faith. What if you embracing your place, staying faithful in your place, is the key to someone else’s faith? 

It's such a gift to meet the people who have influenced and impacted your life through their own faithfulness.

It's such a gift to meet the people who have influenced and impacted your life through their own faithfulness.

Are you being faithful to stay in place? Are you being faithful in the season you’re in? Are you where you belong even if it's in the desert, in the wilderness, behind the oxen, waiting to get called up?  Are you being a faithful friend/employee/neighbor/spouse/parent as you wait for the next season or as you wait to see what God has for you? Is this the word you need to hear today like I did three years ago? God will call you up when it’s time. He will. He will be faithful to show you what's next. He has not forgotten you. You just have to keep showing up to where he has you now. In that talk from Christine she says, “What’s happening when you think nothing’s happening? There’s always a whole lot more going on than what you see. If what you see in front of you, the challenge, the circumstance, if what you see is all you see then you will never see all there is to see. There is always a whole lot more to see than what you see right now… Don’t underestimate the power of staying planted and keep turning up… God’s doing a work in you, preparing you for what he wants to do through you.”

There’s a silent preparation happening all the time – getting you ready for what’s next. All the choices you’re making are building into that, all the people you surround yourself with, all the ways in which you cultivate your own heart and lean into what God has for you. He’s preparing the way so that when he says, “Now" you are ready. But you can’t be ready if you’re spinning yourself in circles trying to figure out ways to get out of the place he has you in. You might feel like you’re in the midst of the wilderness, and maybe you are. Maybe you’re out there for a reason – for that silent preparation. Your bones might feel dry. Your season might be desolate. But, "Sometimes you have to go to a place where you don’t want to be so you can end up where God wants you to be.” 

That same friend who asked if I hated my life all those years ago wrote me a card after I got engaged and she said something like, "I'm so happy to see you've created a life you love." The only thing is that I can't take credit for its creation. All I can say is that I got back in my place and let God do the rest.


Every Thanksgiving my grandma gives us an assignment. This is for my entire extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins – everyone. I can’t remember how long ago we started this, but it has been years now. The assignment is to complete a random act of kindness - serving someone else - sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the obvious goal being that this kind of heart for service would stick around all year long and not just when it's assigned. Service has always been a big part of my grandparents' lives and they passed that on to us – the value of being thankful for what we’re given and giving to others in return - and that comes from their deep love for Jesus. The pastor at our church said in a recent sermon, “When you leave your house in the morning, do you go through your day as a consumer or a servant?” My grandparents are for sure on the servant end of that spectrum, and more and more, I want to bend my own heart that way. What’s my attitude toward others? Do I assume they’re there for me and my comfort and my preferences or do I look at them and find ways to serve them and treat them with kindness, putting them before myself? 

Aaron is reading this book by Judah Smith and the other night he read a paragraph from the book that stood out to him about the mantra Judah repeats to his kids. Their family mission is, “We are Smiths. We are kind and encouraging and look for lonely people.” I love that. I want to be a Smith. Do you think they'll adopt me? I want to teach my nieces and nephews and (maybe) someday (hopefully) my children that very thing. But, maybe I could first teach myself to do that more often. Am I looking for the lonely? Or am I too busy being a consumer?

Over the years I’ve done a few different things for my act of service. At Christmas we always share what we did and it's fun to hear the creative ways my family found to serve those around them. This can be anything from shoveling the neighbor's driveway to donating to a charity. It can be paying for the person in front of you in the drive thru, because whose day isn't made when their Starbucks turns out to be $free.99, you know? It can be volunteering at a community organization or dropping off an afternoon snack for the firefighters at the fire station. Sometimes our acts of kindness are just that – one off chances to make someone’s day. Other times they're more than that. 

I moved into my current apartment complex when my sister got married and we had to move out of our shared space. It was early July and you couldn’t help but notice all of the patriotic decorations surrounding the patio, tree, and window of the first floor apartment near my new building's front door. There were red, white and blue plastic flowers, several small flags, garland on the plants, tinsel, the whole deal. I wondered who lived there, but it took awhile to finally see her - apartment living is weird that way where you rarely see people coming or going. Well, my festive neighbor turned out to be an elderly woman with short white hair who reminded me of everyone’s grandma. On a typical day, she put out old corncobs for the squirrels to eat and had a massive garden’s worth of plants lining her little patio. She had plaster deer statues standing guard near her front door who sometimes wore sunglasses. With all the work she put into her patio space, I thought someone might live with her and help her, but it was always just her tending to that little home, wearing a visor and socks with sandals. And it never failed that every holiday there was a new set of decorations. On Halloween there was this hanging skeleton made to look like it was in a small prison. What I didn’t know was that it was motion-sensored and when you walked by, the skeleton rattled its cell door and yelled, “Help! Please! Let me out of here!” We're all aware now that my apartment is next to a cemetery, so let's talk about how badly that scared me coming home one night. Throw me in the next open grave, you guys. I was dead.

Well, one day near Christmas of that very first year, my little neighbor came out dressed as an elf. Green and red from head to toe, elf ears attached to a headband, pointed elf shoes, and makeup to give her extra rosy cheeks. She was replacing the corncob for the squirrels when I saw her. Single and living alone myself, I’m serious when I tell you that the thought in my head was, "This is it. I'm looking my destiny square in the face." 

You know those times in your life where something comes to mind, some words of wisdom you heard somewhere, and you literally pull it from the archives of your brain somehow, dust them off and think, “This. This is what that means in real life.” The gem of wisdom I pulled from my brain catalog that day was something a high school teacher used to tell us when I was a student in his class - something he was still telling students when I worked with him as his student teacher: “It’s easy to ridicule something or someone you don’t understand.” He teaches a brilliant class called Literature of the Holocaust and I think most students leave with these little nuggets of truth along with a fresh understanding of what it means to care about others and step outside of what you know. And in the moment when I looked at my little neighbor dressed as Santa's number one, I realized I could write my neighbor off and continue to think she was just the nutty neighbor lady, or I could try to get to know her, hear her story, and find a way to serve her. 

Since it was already time for our random act of kindness, I decided to make my little neighbor a batch of chocolate chip scones and I wrote her a note that said something like, “I live upstairs and each time I come out, I notice all your decorations. I just wanted you to know that it looks really nice. Merry Christmas!” I put them in a bag and hooked it around her door handle one morning before I left for work, thinking that even if nothing came of it, even if I still never met her, at least she knew someone cared about all of her hard work. But, a few days later, when I got home from work, there was a bag hanging from my own door handle. Inside was a little container of homemade soup and a note: “Thanks for the treat. Come by sometime for coffee. -Rosie” 

Rosie was 82 years old when I met her and had been living alone in her apartment for nearly 16 years since her husband passed away. She was spunky and kind and always, always had a story to tell: “My son’s going off to Paris with his wife. I told him to have a lot of sex because that’s what you do on vacation – especially in Paris. That’s what my husband and I did. You will too.” Thanks, Rosie! One day when I got home, her sister was over to see her and they were going to play Pitch with some friends. We talked for a minute and from then on Rosie’s sister dubbed me Long Legs, always calling out, “Oh, there she is, ol’ Long Legs!” when I came up the sidewalk. In the summer I'd find Rosie wearing a bandeau top, tanning herself like a 16 year old on vacation. “Gotta get my vitamin D!” she’d tell me. Rosie and I even had the same birthday week. She brought me cake and I brought her cookies and we celebrated together.

Dropping those scones on her porch was the beginning of four years of conversations and food exchanges and notes taped to doors. Four years of sweet friendship. Rosie moved out of the apartment one day. I left for work and her stuff was all there, but I got home later and it was empty except for her little deer statues. I found out she moved into assisted living. I knew that would happen eventually but it still made me cry. You can’t live alone at 86 years old – or at least you shouldn’t have to. It’s hard enough at 31. 

One of the last notes I got from Rosie was after she got back from a trip to Florida. I didn’t know she was away so I left her some treats and a note that said I missed seeing her. She left me a note when she got back, “Thanks for the cookies. It’s nice to be missed.” It is nice to be missed. It’s nice to be missed and it’s nice to be known and I think everyone feels that way, whether you’re 85 or 5, but we can't really know people if we're too concerned with ourselves. I’m so glad I got the chance to know Rosie because she enriched my life in ways she may never know, all because I stopped to look for one second past my own nose.

In light of all the heartache in our country regarding those who don’t feel accepted or treated equally, maybe this is how we begin - with our neighbors, with our friends, with those in our classes at school or at work. Love them well. Know them, serve them, care for them, notice when they're gone. In the last couple of weeks our pastor has been talking about shalom, which is Hebrew for peace, and how our mission each day is just to create little pockets of shalom in our homes, our schools, our communities. I think it all goes back to being a servant rather than a consumer. Are you creating shalom? Are you looking for lonely people and bringing peace to their lives? Focus your time and energy and effort on bringing light and life to each situation, seeking first to make someone else's life a little easier and in turn making the world a little brighter. 

The other day I ran into Rosie in the parking lot of a grocery store and we talked for a minute. She's still kicking - hilarious as ever - and you guys, SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND. Dear Lord, please let me be as cool as Rosie someday. What a gal. 


I had a conversation with God a while back. Now, you might think that’s a very strange thing right off the bat, or you might think that’s just the most logical sentence ever written. “Of course you did,” you’re thinking. “What did he say?”

Well, I’ll tell you what he said. It came at a very hard time in my life and I was crying, sitting on the floor in my kitchen, feeling every ounce of sorry for myself and my circumstances. Relationships have always been very hard for me. I never know the right ones to pursue. I usually choose wrong – my current single status is my witness. I had someone tell me one time, metaphorically of course, “It just seems like you want someone to burn you with their cigarette.” Maybe I did. Maybe I do. Maybe that’s all you think you deserve when that’s all you’ve ever been given.

For some reason, a lot of women I know, we all try to pick the ones who don’t want us. Guys do this, too. It’s the chase - the game. Like it’s better if you have to prove yourself to them. Like if they finally pick you after you’ve proven yourself, then you’ve really won. Then you’re worthy and they finally see your value. It sounds silly even now as I type it out. Maybe we all need counseling.

But in the midst of another poor decision, another bad relationship, another choice I wasn’t supposed to make but did anyway, I just heard the real words in my soul say,


Wait, what? Excuse me? Are you there? I was crying, like I said, but this sudden thought caused me to catch my breath and hold back the tears. Are you talking to me, God? Now? I have cried to you so many times and heard nothing but stinging silence and NOW you want to speak up. He wasn’t yelling like those caps suggest, but how do you differentiate between my feeble voice and the one who spoke Light? The voice was steady, like the sea when he spoke calm into it. Like Lazarus walking out of the tomb all those days later, just very nonchalant like, “Hello there. Here I am.”

Well, when you hear a voice deep in your soul like that, do you talk back? I thought it would be rude not to, so I just said out loud to nobody in my kitchen, actually very defiant and angry,

“You promise there will be something better. You say, ‘Just give it up and there will be better.’ Well, I HAVE given up and there’s never been anything better. I never get the better.”

Don’t we hear that a lot – in the midst of heartbreak and tragedy and hard things? In the midst of sadness and grief. In the midst of loss and shattered dreams. “Don’t worry, what he has for you is better.” We love to comfort ourselves with cherry-picked verses and quaint phrases and sometimes they’re just the words we need to hear. We hang on to that hope with a white-knuckled death grip and wait. And wait. And w a i t. We’re waiting for the better to come because we think we know exactly what it looks like. It looks like all our dreams come true, of course! Well, that little voice spoke to me again. I told you early on that this was a conversation, not on a one-off moment of clarity.


Well, isn’t that just a super Christian answer, God. How nice of you, I thought.

But then I responded, “Yeah, I guess.” I guess so. “I guess having you is better,” I said all non-committal to the God of the universe.


When the God who created you is speaking to your soul, giving you a stern talking to about your life choices, when he’s doing that and you know it, you can’t turn your back. Now that I was sure it was him I was hearing, I was ready to have it out. I had waited for this conversation – waited to hear from him, to know that my prayer and desperation wasn’t bouncing off clouded ceiling. I thought, You know why, God? Because you gave me dreams. You gave me these things in my heart that I’ve wanted so badly for YEARS. And I’m just sitting here alone on my kitchen floor crying. Again.

I answered, “Because I want someone to love me and hold my hand.”

Something Christian people like to say to middle school/high school/college girls when they’re longing for a boyfriend or a husband is something along the lines of, “God is the only man you need.” Maybe they say it to guys too – that he’s the only relationship you need. So we hang on to that for a little while but then it turns stale because if you’re like me, you want a hug – a very real, warm hug from a man who will kiss your forehead and tell you you’re beautiful. Your friends seem to be finding that, no problem. Some of them aren’t even Christians, God, so how dare you give that to them before me. I’m on your team, God!


We hear that from the time we are three years old in preschool. “Jesus loves me / This I know / For the Bible tells me so.” It does say that. If you’ve read even a few pages, ‘God is love’ is the whole story, the prologue and the epilogue. It occurred to me the other day we should never really tire of what the Bible has to say because every time you open it it’s like you’re sitting down with God and saying to him, “Tell me again the story of how much you love me.”

I know this is true in my head, but the distance between my head and my heart was vast in those moments and so I had the gall to say back to God right there in my kitchen,

“And that’s it? No one else will ever love me?”

Love personified is offering us himself and often we’re scoffing in the corner. I might as well have said, “You’re not enough, God. You’re not enough.” At least it would have been more honest. I wanted more than just Love reaching down from heaven. I’ll have what she’s having, I found myself thinking about my friends who were married and having babies. About my friends and sisters and cousins and seemingly everyone getting all the things I wanted for so long. Like I had any idea what I was really asking in those moments.


Yes, God, you already asked me that, thank you. I’m not sure if you remember or not. We’ve all been down this road before. He asks us to find satisfaction in him and we go ahead and try to find it in relationships, career, sex, money, fame, addictions – all of these things that only ever lead to our own destruction and we know he’ll find us at the end of that road. Waiting. Ready to ask again and again. He’s like that for some reason.

So I give up.

“I don’t know…” I said, sitting there in my kitchen.

I don’t know, God. I don’t know but I want to know. I want to believe that you’re the better my soul, our souls, long for. I want to know for sure in my heart that even if none of my dreams for myself come true that ultimately having you is better. You’re the goal. You’re the main event. All we ever do should only be to that aim. More Jesus, please.

So why isn’t it enough? More Jesus should be more than enough no matter what brought me to that end. But, if I’m honest, the better I want, the better I’m perpetually waiting for is a new, better boyfriend/spouse, I want a better house, a better job, a better family. I want the redemption story. I want the Joseph-gets-out-of-jail moment so I can really stick it to whoever wronged me and shout, “See! This is why all of that happened.” Mascara-stained white pillow cases attest to the fact that I’ve been crying out for that better for years.

So I had a conversation with God a while back. He came to me right there in my kitchen. We had it out for a bit because of who I am and who he is in spite of me. I know I’ll need the lesson again. We seem to be pretty dense, the whole lot of us, humanity. We need reminders and do-overs. Luckily for us, all of us,

“…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”

There’s a better our busted souls can cling to. More Jesus, please.


The contentment challenge is getting harder, so I guess that's why it's called a challenge. But I'm sticking with it. This is part two on gratitude. Part one is here

Shortly after Thanksgiving last year, I heard a commercial on the radio for Verizon. In promotion of their holiday deal, they hijacked the word Thanksgiving and their slogan was Thanksgetting. Did you hear this ad? It’s both amazing and awful to me that someone approved this in their marketing department. I'm not calling for boycott or outrage, because if I was it would be over the fact that my data use counter suddenly spins faster than Clark Griswold's electricity meter at Christmas. But, hearing the ad did give me pause. I know I'm not alone in this because I searched the hashtag on Twitter and there are other people who disapproved. I'm not sure if we're upset because Verizon was wrong to appropriate the holiday that way or if it's because they really got it right and we don't like to be called out like that. Sure, we like to think we're thankful people and life is a Norman Rockwell painting at the Thanksgiving table. But, are we? I mean, the gravy hasn’t even congealed in the boat before we’re supposed to scramble out of the house, jumping over grandmas and small children to go get that great deal. On the other hand, as if we aren’t already so self-absorbed and self-indulgent, the slogan took the only holiday about giving thanks and turned it into another reason to think about ourselves. We don't need additional reminders that the question constantly hanging over a lot of our actions and decisions is, "What's in it for me?" 

Thanksgetting: Just another reminder to keep it all about you. You're the boss. What can you get out of this? 

My sister and her family moved into a new house last summer. She did a great job of packing up as much as she could prior to moving day - boxes were labeled and stacked in the garage, the truck and trailer were ready, and we all seemed to be as prepared as we could have been. I know some people move often. They have it watered down to a simple solution of gathering boxes and hiring movers and, “What? Moving day? Oh, yeah, that again.” Military families know this well. My family, on the other hand, likes to move as little as possible. Both sets of grandparents have been in their houses for over fifty years. Fifty years, you guys.  My parents, prior to their own moving this summer, were in their house for twenty years. This is a thing younger generations know nothing of – staying in places for this long. Putting down roots. But for my family, moving is just not something we do. We cozy up in our space and make it our own. We stay. And every time someone does lose their mind and move, we’re reminded of why we don’t do this and why moving companies are so lucrative.

Well, on moving day I had a bad attitude. It didn’t start bad, but began to avalanche pretty quickly after the first load and unload was complete and it was clear we had, at the very least, another round of the whole process. You know what you should really give away before you move? Books. I mean, there’s a reason the Kindle is so popular. Another thing you need to set down and back away from when it comes to moving is the thought, I think I can make it fit. It does not fit. Even if it does fit, it will make the box too heavy to lift or carry from the truck to the house. Trust me. It doesn’t fit.

Anyway, there was somewhere else I wanted to be – it was a hot summer Saturday. My friends were together and my FOMO (fear of missing out) was off the charts. It wasn’t long before they started to notice I was annoyed. I was hot and tired and over it – all of the lifting and carrying and back and forth and sweating my face off.  I was somehow acting like moving was everyone else’s favorite thing to do. Like they all got to sit in the front seat, watching the DVD player, while I was relegated to the backseat of the station wagon looking at where we had been – there’s kind of that thrill in the beginning but then you just start to feel woozy and want to get out.

So I’m carrying a box down the side of the house again and I'm thinking of all the places I could be instead, the things I could be doing, how much time this was taking and how late it was getting and, "Oh my word, you guys, where does this go?" and then somehow it just hits me. In the yucky stuff, the stuff we don’t want to do, the stuff that hurts and the stuff that’s hard, the days that are long and boring and you're thinking, "What am I even doing? What is my life?", even in that there’s something to be thankful for if we're open to it. Isn’t that what I had just learned leading up to my 30th birthday? It's amazing how quickly lessons flee to the corners of our minds when just months ago they were shining revelations. Well, let me tell you what I needed in those moments – a heaping pile of joy.

Legs to walk 
Arms to carry

I started an internal list of things in those exact moments that I could be grateful for instead of continuing to spiral into the black hole of self-pity. I was physically able to carry boxes and walk down the stairs. I had no pain. I was not ill. I could see. We take those things for granted because we just expect that when we wake up every single morning our bodies will function how they were designed to function. Our brains will convert the images our eyes take in. Our lungs will breathe. Our toes will create a balance that holds up this whole gangly frame.  I don't know if you know this or not, but those things don’t come with a guarantee. All it took for my otherwise healthy aunt was one stroke at 15 years old to change the way her body has worked for the rest of her life. I'm not trying to freak you out, but if you're well today, that's reason enough to be glad.

A family that needs me
Not moving in the rain

There are people in the world who face the immensity of spending their days alone. Maybe it's you. Whether it's because of life circumstances or job circumstances or whatever, you don’t have people to walk this journey with you right now - to step into the hard places. You don’t have the tribe of friends who will show up anytime, day or night.  It makes me sad to think people could be left to celebrate the good and feel the sorrow on their own. If you even have one single person to share your joys and sadness, text them or call them and say thank you for always showing up. We need more of that. Showing up and saying thank you.

My organized sister
Celebrating a new season

I kept my list running, my bad attitude seeping out of the bottoms of my feet with every step. There in the middle of the sweat dripping, legs tired, repetitive back and forth of moving, I kept coming up with reasons to be thankful. You might be thinking, "Wow, easy for you to say. Moving is one thing, but you aren't dealing with ______."  I'll be the first to say that I'm abundantly grateful to be in a really good season, but that doesn't mean I've always been here or that I'll stay here. There will be other days to discuss the way I battled anxiety for years, the way 2009 broke my whole heart and the way my life circumstances felt, for a little while, like one long, running example of how God must hate me. We all walk through the ugly in one way or another. No one is exempt. But I think that's why it's so important, when life is good, to be thankful and celebrate instead of let it slip away marked by anger and complaint.

I'm not always in a good mood. My family can vouch for that. I don't always do the right thing and I don't always make mental lists to talk myself out of a bad attitude. But, if you think of it, try to stop yourself in the midst of complaining next time to find at least one good thing about all of it. And remind me to do it, too. Maybe I've said the same thing 12 different ways now, but I want to start 2016 with the right mindset. I guess I just hope we’re not the people of thanksgetting and more and more shift our thinking back toward thanksgiving. And it's easy to be thankful for the good things, to feel fuzzy feelings of gratefulness when we're on that vacation and get the promotion. We easily slap #blessed on our good days. But if we don’t know the mundane, if we don't know how to find joy in the ordinary, we will lose our ability to recognize and appreciate the extravagant.