Posts Tagged ‘thankful’

  • July 17, 2013

    thoughts on :: cautious joy

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    sometimes the sheer newness of life is absurd to me. (I realize – that sentence does not make a ton of sense. but go with me, for a minute.) lately I’ve celebrated so many firsts and with every single one I am filled with this emotion that I cannot quite put my finger on. it’s something akin to cautious joy, I think. in less than two months, and in my immediate life, there’s been 2 weddings and 3 engagements and 4 birthdays. 2 babies  have been born (as of tonight!) and 1 pregnancy has been announced. new jobs have been popping up more often than I can count. it’s like everything good is bursting out. like spring in the summer – all things are budding with this intense sense of urgent joy. joy that must be pushed out into the world before it gets squashed in the muck of everything else.

    I just spent a week in california celebrating 90 years of life with not one, but two grandparents. and then on the opposite end of the spectrum there was a baby just a few days shy of his birth-day (tonight!) and a best of best friends asking me to stand beside her in the wedding we’ve been talking about since we knew that we could. and then I came home to celebrate the pre-baby shower that turned into a post-baby shower when life couldn’t stay in any longer and just had to come six weeks early. and there were two wedding invitations on the counter (only one of which I’m in, thank the Lord) and announcements of new jobs and new plans. and just so. much. life.

    and I am a little shell shocked by it because with all this new life, something else must end…right? there has to be some level of death right around the corner. I know there has to be. I know it’s all mixed in together – beginnings and endings. even now, as I claim the joy of new beginnings, I am acutely aware of the pain around me. of the marriages ending and relationships breaking for those I love. most of the time, my morbid self is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    but tonight, as I drove home, all I could muster was that un-nameable feeling akin to cautious joy. and a ton of gratitude. and an unshakeable confidence that someday, it will forever only be this. this feeling of life bursting at the seams. newness will grow and multiply like stands of the most invasive and beautiful bacteria. and there will always and only be joy pushed out into the world and there will be no endings. both shoes will stay firmly on and the joy won’t be cautious anymore.



  • July 1, 2013


    last week was a rough one. (hence the quietness around here.) it was full of those little (and big) disappointments that come in realizing that life is different than you planned. that it is not, as it turns out, exactly how your sophomore self imagined it while sitting in her dorm room, eating twizzlers and talking with her roommates about the great possibilities of the future. dream jobs are not always the dream. the world’s timing very rarely falls into sync with your own. pay checks are less than you thought. (thanks, government.) bills are more. people are fallible and your heroes will disappoint you. life, you know, is just different.

    I wrote a post so many months ago about leaving dc. it was one I felt like I had written a dozen times before. about a fear that flashes in my mind like neon everytime I leave a place I’ve come to love with people that have become my family. because with every move, it seems more unlikely that I will find friends as good as the friends I am leaving. I worry that, somehow, I have met my quota of good people. but again. and as always. God is ridiculously faithful. and when I doubt he can do it, he just proves me wrong. again and again.

    so last week was bad, but you know what? it wasn’t. because it proved to me – again – that they are still there. roommates who let me vent while making me homemade ginger ale (with a generous helping of whiskey). friends who listen and let me cry and then turn on some justin for an impromptu dance party. because they know that justin makes all of life bearable. little notes hidden in little places. words of encouragement and affirmation and proof that I am exactly where I need to be even when it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. even when it feels like I uprooted my life only to end up being disappointed. but the disappointment is not the main thing. it’s not even anything. the world is daunting and overwhelming. but their presence is more overwhelming still. and for that I just don’t even know how to be thankful enough.

    {photos from christina’s surprise party. fried chicken. mac’n’cheese. watermelon. tennessee honey in mason jars with paper straws. southern comfort at its best.}



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  • September 4, 2012

    doing things we never did

    driving around in circles. in an instant, we could tell you what metro stop you needed and how long it would take to walk from there. but when it comes to parking, we feel somewhat useless.

    walking with the seasoned speed the city has taught us, making a beeline for our destination. weaving through families from out of town and honeymooners stopping to peer indecisively at their maps. smiling as we brush past. apologizing. something we would never do during the morning commute.

    slow steps climbing white marble, we give a slight nod of hello to mr lincoln. heading for the quietest spot that will still ensure a view. dangling our feet off the edge. ignoring the excited chatter of a dozen different languages and becoming slightly indignant when children make a slide out of the smooth stone and squeal with delight in the presence of such a hallowed structure. spotlights beaming towards the sky, creating a halo of white light off white stone. this is what makes lincoln and his friends so loved after dark. talking of the purpose of memorials and monuments and remembering those who have come before.

    staying put until a particularly persistent and particularly enormous spider uproots us. settling into a busier spot on the steps next to field-tripping school children more concerned with their pre-teen angst. on the way, I pause to give a more formal hello to mr lincoln, returning to my favorite of his words: with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

    fitting my back in the crevice of one of the great white columns to find that rain has begun to fall. not a particularly harsh thunderstorm, but one that has us thankful to be under the protection of a forefather. the spotlights neglect their job of illumination long enough to crystallize the rain and we are able to follow the falling drops almost all the way to the ground.

    talking and talking. for over two hours until our butts are sore from hard stone seats. our eyes weary, our voices cracked. worrying over descending visitors unaware of how marble becomes slick under a thin covering of water. tourists creating dozens of poses while mr washington and his capitol stand perfectly still in the background – glowing and always camera-ready. a newlywed couple ascending the stairs – she, lifting her white gown to reveal red toms. he, gently grasping her elbow in case the rain thwarts their gingerly placed steps. later, they will ask us what time the metro stops running and we will answer instantly, with the proud knowledge of locals.

    finally descending with care, gripping the handrails, determining not to make the mistake of those who have come (and fallen) before. making a slow circle, nodding last regards to mr lincoln and returning to face washington. pausing at the reflecting pool and, as others lay flat on the concrete to get a good shot, teetering on the precipice of water, pretending to be olympic swimmers ready to dive into the fray. endeavoring to remember the words of the patriotic songs of our youth, we make it all the way through “my country tis of thee” and halfway through “yankee doodle dandy” before needing to google the rest.

    returning to the car, anxious to see if we have a parking ticket courtesy of confusing signage characteristic of the district, I wonder aloud how it happened that it took one of us moving 600 miles away to finally do something so quintessentially local.

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  • May 30, 2012

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    evening picnics with the favorites are all the more special when I know they are ending soon. it’s hard to imagine enjoying life this much without them.

    somehow we always end up back at our hill. the one in front of the netherlands carillon. we sit close with knees touching and pull out berries and bread and cheese. we wash our fruit with water from our bottles and eat slowly. after too many months apart, we are not surprised to find that we still fall into the same patterns of conversation and easy laughter. what a comfort to know that we will always fit.

    the evening sun sets us in soft shadows and we shake off our dinner to enjoy the end of the day. we lay close together, talking about the silly things we believed when we were little and the silly things we still believe now. we imagine stories – entire lives – for the people around us. the sky darkens and the monuments illuminate in the distance. lincoln and washington‘s white marble shine bright in the twilight.

    so many times during my day, I wonder why I’m choosing to leave nights like this. friends like these. but so far, God has been nothing but faithful. providing best friends on two different coasts. hopefully there are also a few to be found in the south.

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  • February 1, 2012

    today it felt a little bit like spring. in the midst of cold and gray. in the midst of january. somehow the sun was shining and I was able to go outside for a quick walk to the bank in only one layer instead of three! and as I was walking back to the office I let myself stop. just for a second. I wanted to feel the sun on my face. I wanted to soak in the uv rays and stand for just a minute before the cold returns and settles back in until march. and let me tell you, those few seconds were just what the doctor ordered.

    and what does any self-respecting lover of spring do when it’s just about to be february and she knows the clouds and the chill are right around the corner? she goes out and buys herself some tulips. bright yellow ones. when all else fails and the frost is about to take over. because the winter blahs are no match for the bright yellow tulip. and when they open just in time to fight the cold that returns to my bones – that will be just what the doctor ordered too.

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  • January 11, 2012

    today I came home to a care package of sorts from a lovely friend. some earrings I will most definitely be wearing to work tomorrow. because they will match everything. I tell you, that girl knows me. I love that.

    there was also a card with sweet words on the outside and even sweeter words (her own) on the inside.

    when the world says “give up” hope whispers “hold on just a little longer.”

    she told me that when she saw it she instantly thought it was me. I was kind of shocked by that. because a lot of the time I am a glass-half-empty type of girl. a lot of the time I am prone to melodramatic despair.

    but lately. in one of the most difficult seasons of my life. hope has somehow become natural. I find myself finding joy in the midst of my sadness and humor in the midst of my confusion. I find myself still seeing the glass as half-empty but knowing, without a doubt, that it will get filled up eventually. one day it will be overflowing.

    so thanks lovely friend. for the rockin’ jewelry. and especially for the kind words. and really thanks to lots of lovely friends. you may not have given me jewelery but your kind words have not gone unnoticed. your words from a million different mediums and a thousand different places have been nestled in my melodramatic heart and are more important than I can even say. they are the hope that keeps me holding on just a little longer. you are the hope that keeps me holding on just a little longer.

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  • November 24, 2011

    traditions of gratitude

    its officially thanksgiving and I am sitting in the dark in the bathroom in a house in tennessee. nashville to be exact. the furthest south I have ever traveled and full of that wonderful southern accent I have come to love. that accent so charming in a quirky sort of way. that accent I have been trying to perfect all day by drawing out my vowels and drawling in a way I never thought I would be able to do. it’s a beautiful thing.

    this year marks the third spent away from my family and with one that has adopted me for the holiday. and although it feels unnatural and a bit unsatisfying to be away from my own, it is always such a lovely surprise to be apart of a family on a day like today. one in which happiness of being with one another abounds and food and conversation rule all. it is fun to be a little piece of furniture observing the comings and goings of a family on a day of such high honor. tonight – the day before the big day – was a night of giving thanks in a simple yet significant tradition of gratitude. we sat around the room, sharing couches and overstuffed chairs. legs intertwined. feet touching feet. heads on shoulders. soft light settling around us. and we just talked about what we were thankful for in the past year. for community and health and new life. for help with family projects that seem to be lasting forever but will end with new family traditions and space. for learning how to choose love and positivity and joy. for learning how to let go of expectations. we talked over one another and into one another and with graciousness and love.

    and now, maria is asleep in the room we share – hence the dark, cold linoleum floor and my futile attempts to press these keys just a bit softer. I have to wake up in a few hours and would love to get some sleep before overdosing on tryptophan and extroversion tomorrow. but of course, despite all my best efforts, my mind will not settle. I find myself thinking about gratitude and wondering what the next year will bring for me to be thankful for. to find joy in. to find humility in. because when it comes down to it, thankfulness is the best antidote to pride. it reminds me that I am blessed. and it reminds me that I did nothing to earn it.

    so here I am, back in my own little tradition of gratitude. of painting a thank-you on my palm.

    (context here and here).

    pinkie: I am thankful for seasons. this year has been one of distinct seasons. not just as they are marked by the changing of fall leaves or blooming of cherry blossoms. but as they are marked by the placement of people in and out of my life. by the lessons learned and relearned and the moments shared and forgotten and remembered again and again. this year, I have learned how to fully rejoice in the seasons of delight. of true fullness of joy. and in the same way, I have learned how to be content in the seasons of waiting. of uncertainty. of grief. change will always come. few things will remain the same forever. and that is scary. but also kind of great.

    ring: I am thankful for laughter. I know. this is sort of a no-brainer. but think about it. how often do you take laughter for granted? I do it all the time, friends. because laughter is so easy. but it’s also essential. necessary almost like breathing is necessary. this year has been one for the books when it comes to things for me to be sad and anxious and frustrated about. but laughter reminds me that in the midst of it all, there is so much to find joy in. even if for just a moment. even if it’s by watching kristen wiig and amy poehler. even if it’s because of something completely ridiculous and nonsensical. laughter really is the best medicine. that and extra-strength excedrin.

    middle: I am thankful for teenage girls. this year I am spending my thursday nights with seven girls all in their first year of high school. and let me tell you, I was no where near as self-aware and intelligent as they are. it’s actually a little depressing to think how far behind in mental development I was when I was their age. but with all their poise and maturity, they are still 14-year old girls. dealing for the first time with (gasp!) crushes on older boys. with (gasp!) homecoming dances and pep rallies. with (gasp!) drama and gossip and everything else that comes with the joy (or despair, depending on who you are) that is high school. and what fun it has been to work through it all with them. to experience with them, all the fears and excitement and giddy anxiety that comes with being young. it is a great way to be gaining perspective on how fun life can be. not to mention the fact that I am getting pretty darn good at pre-dance makeovers.

    pointer: I am thankful for joy. again, seems somewhat obvious. who isn’t thankful for joy? but this year has been one of learning to find joy in everything. of learning to see the true, unyielding, unfailing joy of the Lord in the midst of every single situation. this year, God has not just revealed his steadfast goodness (a term I was wrestling to even believe just a year ago) to me in obvious ways. he has also been faithful to remind me of this goodness in small ways every day. his goodness shines through in all the details of life around me (hence this blog) and helps me rest in unceasing joy. I may not always be happy. happiness is a feeling dependent on so many things I cannot always control. but the unending joy of the Lord. a joy that is not dependent on emotion but is a gift from One who pours grace over me to the point of overflowing. that is something I am finally beginning to understand.

    thumb: I am thankful for words. let me tell you something, friends: words are just the best. the bees-knees if you ask me. the way they somehow string themselves together to form comprehensive statements that convey my message to the world. the way they fill up a blank pice of paper in a lovely, accomplished sort of way. if all I could ever do was process my life within my own mind, I would go crazy. without a doubt. certifiably insane. but words. they save me.

    so while I think of it,
    let me paint a thank-you on my palm
    for this God, this laughter of the morning,
    lest it go unspoken.

    the joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
    dies young.


    Filed Under: THOUGHTS ON...

  • January 11, 2011

    these friends of mine

    although it stinks to find out the hard way, it’s always nice when you find out who your friends are. it’s nice to know who you can really count on even when it’s because you find out who you can’t.

    but I am not going to let this be about how hurt I may or may not be right now. it’s going to be about how undeniably, inexplicably blessed I am to have the true friends that I do. after a year of wondering what the heck is wrong with me, I am finally starting to find great friends right where I am. and going home for rach and steve’s wedding only confirmed that I have a group of soul mates in portland (and lincoln city, and omaha, and sacramento and montana and even denver and arkansas) who never let me forget that no matter what happens I will always have people who care and love for one another in a way that proves God’s goodness. when I think about what it must be like in heaven to have perfect community with the One who loves me more than I can ever imagine…well the only thing I can think of that even begins to help me understand what this will be like is to think of these people who are my best friends.

    so here’s to you – you beautiful friends of mine.

    you show me what it looks like to love others in a way that is truly glorifying to God. from the careers you choose to the way you treat every single person you meet with respect and true acknowledgment of their precious place as God’s creation. you inspire me to live for God and for others more than myself.

    when I’m with you I see who God is more clearly. when I’m with you I am truly joyful. when I’m with you I know who I am. I honestly don’t know what I would do without you.

    and let’s be honest – you are all just so dang good looking!

    the one who will always be my sister and best friend

    the ones who will always be my soul mates (and future neighbors)

    (other than the first one, all of the above photos are credited to the lovely mrs. leah ell.)



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  • November 25, 2010

    let me paint

    welcome morning – anne sexton

    there is joy in all:
    in the hair I brush each morning.
    in the cannon towel, newly washed,
    that I rub my body with each morning.
    in the chapel of eggs I cook each morning,
    in the outcry from the kettle
    that heats my coffee each morning,
    in the spoon and the chair that cry
    “hello there, anne” each morning,
    in the godhead of the table
    that I set my silver plate, cup upon each morning.

    all this is God,
    right here in my pea-green house each morning
    and I mean
    though often forget,
    to give thanks,
    to faint down by the kitchen table
    in a prayer of rejoicing
    as the holy birds at the kitchen window
    peck into their marriage of seeds.

    so while I think of it,
    let me paint a thank-you on my palm
    for this God,
    this laughter of the morning,
    lest it go unspoken.

    the joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
    dies young.

    whenever I think about being thankful I come back to this poem. it reminds me to be thankful for everything. every detail. and lately I have just been floored with how awesome and cool and amazing God is. and that reminds me to be thankful. because he works all things for good. and to his glory. and there are one in the same. and I cannot comprehend how he does it. so all I can be is thankful.

    in my grand tradition of painting a thank-you on my palm here are five things I am thankful for – one for each of my fingers – with the hope that I can share my joy before it “dies young.”

    pinkie: I am thankful for details. I love seeing the little aspects of life that I miss if I don’t look hard enough. lately people watching has been a big thing for me. and dc has proved to be a very useful place to practice. watching the way people interact on the train. watching the way they walk down the street. watching the way the kids in youth group are a family. the way they hug each other and love each other in a way that truly mirrors how Christ loves us. watching the way the rainclouds move slowly in. and then watching the raindrops fall as people in umbrellas run through the rain looking for shelter.

    ring: I am thankful for my morning walk to the train. let’s be honest, most of the time I hate commuting. but on the mornings when it is nice enough weather (and I am not running late for work) the mile-long walk to the metro station is refreshing. it is such a nice way to wake up and be thankful for the day that has been given to me. to see the blue sky and feel the cold morning air mix with the rising sun on my skin. to walk in time with music and remind myself that God is good. all the time.

    middle: I am thankful for people who smile for no reason. every once in a while I will catch someone smiling just because. sometimes, on the train, they’re reading and find something funny that no one else can see. sometimes I think they just remember something and it reminds them that life is really great. sometimes – and this is always the best – they will smile at me for no apparent reason too. and that just makes me happy. because people around here don’t smile too often. they are much too serious for that. but every once in a while – when they look up from the street or the newspaper or their phone and smile – well that just makes me so thankful to be a human being.

    pointer: I am thankful for flowers. this is an easy one because, let’s face it, flowers are a must in winter. when things are cold and dreary I try to have a continuous flow of flowers reminding me that life is just so very beautiful and worth all the hard stuff that we go through. reminding me that growth and sanctification are hard but always produce that which is beautiful to God.

    thumb: I am thankful for friends. I know this seems cliche to say in the thanksgiving season, but lately it’s been more true than ever. as I have begun to finally connect with people in dc and as I have had such wonderful friends visit me and call me and care for me well from 3,000 miles away, I have been astounded by how awesome community is. for a long time I used it as a crutch to rely on other people instead of God. but lately I have been learning how community is necessary not because it replaces God – but because it is a reflection of the perfect community we will one day have with him. and when I realized that everything about my friendships changed. the way I love people. the way I receive love from them. every aspect of my relationships should glorify God. and when I stop making my relationships about how they satisfy my desires and insecurities and start making sure they are pleasing to God – well that just makes me so much more thankful to know the amazing people that I do.

    the joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
    dies young.

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  • March 14, 2010

    rainy weekend

    it is a rainy weekend. yesterday I drove into the District to drop a friend off at Union Station, and although I was right under the Washington Monument, the clouds hung so low I could not make out its sharp tip pointing into the sky. I drove through the city and along the National Mall as a steady, soft drizzle coated my car and bounced off the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. as I passed by Honest Abe in his limestone temple, I was reminded just how far from home I really am. but still the rain fell, and as I drove over the Potomac River, I could have sworn it was the Willamette.

    almost a year ago, as I was getting ready to move to Washington, D.C. and preparing myself to leave Portland, I wrote about the rain – about how it comforts me and energizes me with its ability to instigate growth and make room for new life. I wrote about how, years from now, I will look back on this time in my life as a period of “rain, falling down, cleansing me from who I thought I needed to be.” and honestly, even a year later, not much has changed. I am still fighting against expectations I have for myself. and I still love the rain.

    this is what the rain does for me, as I try not be lonely so far from home: it comforts me and reminds me, for the hundredth time, that I am a lot more than I often allow myself to be. it reminds me that home is fluid and abstract and always more than four walls. the wetness drenches my windows, and as my wipers sweep over the windshield, they wash away any inclination I might have to be anything but myself. the clouds hang low, enveloping me like my favorite, tattered baby blanket – calming, but a bit sad.

    this weekend, my car is my home, the downpour continues, and the sky stays gray…and I might be the only person happy for the rain.


    Filed Under: THOUGHTS ON...