This year has been different than any other year in my life, so I am thankful for very different things this season.

I am thankful for my home and the peaceful place that it is becoming. At the end of the day, it’s quiet, even with quarreling middle-school siblings. And of all the places in the whole world that I could choose to be, I would choose being home every time.

I am thankful for my daughter. She and I are so similar, so watching her grow up is liking getting a glimpse at me growing up. The blessing in that though is that she already has Jesus by her side and even if her faith is still like a new coat that she doesn’t live in just yet, He is able to heal things in her that I would’ve loved to have healed in me at her age.

I am thankful for my son.This year, he surprised me.He asked to go to a Christian school and I’m watching him flourish.And I saw his creativity and his desire to reach out to children who are hungry.Turns out, his one hour of shooting baskets back in August ended up reaping, all told, over 106,000 meals for children all over the world.

I am thankful for my friends. This lands high on my list every year, and every year I am more thankful than the year prior. But seriously, this year…well, all I can say is that my soul is completely taken care of. Not only have I done fun little trips this year that have filled me up, and not only have I done my share of Starbucks/Panera/Four Beans/Papa G’s tea dates that have bolstered me, and not only have I laughed until I’ve cried; but I am known – huge, glaring flaws and all – and I am still loved…crazy loved. I was asked a couple months ago to name the one person you would call in an emergency, and I named, I think, something like eight women off the top of my head. I’m told the truth — the hard truth that I don’t want to hear and the sweet truth that I don’t want to believe about myself, but always with a hand on my shoulder, or on my cheek wiping away a tear. I’m smiling right now just thinking about my girls.

I am thankful for my trial.My current trial is my darkest and longest one yet.It’s a little bit like walking down a corridor that stretches out in front of you, where most of the lights have burned out, and you can’t really tell where the end is.And I am thankful for it.Hands down, I am closer to God and to my friends, and I’m a more stripped down version of myself – even if it’s raw and uncomfortable for myself and others – this year, then I was a year ago, because of this hard thing.I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy, but I also wouldn’t wish it away, because though it’s terribly messy, I’m already better for it, and I’m already seeing how God is redeeming it.And how can I not be thankful for that?

I am thankful for some odds and ends.My morning smoothie that makes me feel like I’ve eaten a full day’s worth of everything all in one cup.My migraine medication (sucks that I have migraines, but at least I have something to take for when I get one).My laptop – Lord, what would I do without this thing?Music that invites me to sing along and convince myself I’m a singer deep down, and then, somehow, changes my soul all at the same time.My Kindle – a big happy birthday from some friends – and how I can read anywhere, whatever I want!My health – at 40, my body has not yet started to fall completely apart and I’m not going to take that for granted.My clothes – if I say so myself, I have a really cute wardrobe, which adds fun to my life.A working car.A warm home.Enough food.Clean water.Good schools for my kids.Africa.Yoga, when I actually do it as opposed to just saying that I do it.Watching my friends do crazy cool stuff for God.Beauty of all kinds.

And, then, of course, there’s God – my Father.And Jesus – my Savior and Best Friend.And the Holy Spirit – my Counselor and Guide.And this rich and deep life that I’m privileged to live that connects me to my Creator and helps me see things more clearly and with a longer view, when I allow it.Oh, and grace.I need so much grace every day, from God and from those who rub shoulders with me in the day to day.And mercy…I am so grateful that I don’t get what I really deserve each day.And joy.I live for moments of true joy.They are the color in a regular life.

So this year, life is hard AND God is good (thank you, Charlotte, for that little gem). And I am grateful for all of it, because it’s making me who I’m supposed to be, and it’s pointing me all to Jesus, and hopefully, helping me love others better.