Saturday, December 31st, 2011
I’m thankful for the moments that have brought me to this moment.
Thankful for being raised by my parents, loved by my grandparents, befriended by my friends, taught by my teachers. Thankful for Latin homework and choir practice and going to skating-rink birthday parties and playing on the tennis team. For vibrant, giggly college dorm life and a lonely grad school apartment. For moving trucks and paychecks and bosses and co-workers and battles and working with ideas. For fresh starts and faithful churches and bumbling breakups. For tension and tears and prayers and acceptance and commitment and the settling of married life.
For a job that led me to a friend. For seeing that friend’s listing of things she was thankful for. For the prompting to try it myself and the glimpse of joy that propelled me to commit to 365 days. For the money to buy a domain name. For my husband’s help in booting up this blog. For God’s whisperings and opening my eyes to all of these posts and more.
For the changes this exercise has caused in my outlook and the days when others have voiced their thankfulness. For the friends and family members I’ve written about and those I haven’t. For the challenge of trying not to repeat a post, and looking that much harder for something new each day.
For the winter day on which I write this final post in the Year of Yay. And for the year of opportunities to come.
May every year be lived thankfully.
Friday, December 30th, 2011
It’s been a quiet week. I generally don’t enjoy the cultural “New Year’s Resolutions” push – so much pressure! We Must All Look Perfect and Smell Lovely and Eat Quinoa in 2012!
I’m putting together more of a to-do list for 2012. It includes: 1) hike more, 2) find at least one new way to fix potatoes, 3) use prayer cards, and 4) write more handwritten notes. These are all things I want to do, rather than resolutions that feel like horrid punishments (“Lose 47 pounds by eating only birdseed!!”).
And if I don’t do them, that’s okay, too.
Instead of reflecting only on what I need to change (which my critical mind tends to do on a daily basis), it’s been nice to reflect on simple blessings as well. I fear that by ending the Year of Yay, I will cease to notice those little things. Also on my to-do list: Keep noticing every blessing, no matter how tiny it may seem.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
It’s my birthday!
When it comes to being thankful, it’s always good to go back to basics. Keeping my heart beating is one of those things I can’t do on my own. And since everything else stems from that… I can’t really make much happen, can I? I can choose to let this make me feel powerless – or to thank God for keeping it all going.
Chris Rice’s song “The Power of a Moment” reminds me that “I have no guarantee of my next heartbeat” and God “knows the number of my days.” This song’s message, “right now’s the only moment that matters” and “show me the importance of the simple things,” is great fuel for thankfulness.
Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Today is a special day in the Year of Yay, as it is Thanksgiving! ‘Twas the Month of Thanksgiving last year that started it all.
I didn’t have to learn to be pessimistic. That has always come naturally. For me, living more thankfully has been a work in progress – a learned habit.
Obviously, some days it’s easier than others. It doesn’t mean I put on my thankfulness glasses and turn every circumstance all rosy. Instead, I would say, I see things I didn’t notice before. They were there – most of them had been there for years. But I wasn’t acknowledging them, or wasn’t thinking of them as gifts from God, not to be taken for granted.
If I had to describe it in one word, I think that word would be “reversal.” Finding things to be thankful for is a reversal of the way my brain wants to work. It wants to find everything that’s wrong, everything that can be improved, everything that hasn’t happened. I’m forcing it to do the opposite.
The old way takes the world around us as a baseline and sets expectations from there. The new way takes nothing as a baseline and adds to it… well, everything in the world.
Perceptions can shift. Thoughts can be directed. I can change.
This gives me great hope.
Monday, October 31st, 2011
Today is our second wedding anniversary. (Yes, we got married on Halloween – also Reformation Day! – but not because of the date.)
In college, my girlfriends and I made a whimsical list of Top 5 Reasons to Get Married. I can’t remember them all, but I do remember that two of them were bugs and jars. After two years of marriage, I still kill bugs myself when necessary, but I don’t hesitate to ask my husband for help opening the tough jars.
In honor of this day, I’ll offer 5 Things I’m Thankful for About Marriage:
5. I gained more family.
4. My new last name is tremendously easier to spell over the phone. (I went from Menefee >> Payne.)
3. My husband allows – nay, demands! – that we keep Cocoa Krispies on hand at all times.
2. God and my husband haven’t let me stay the same.
1. I get to hang out with this guy.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
I’m thankful for a band.
Once upon a time (11 years ago), a new friend handed me a CD and said, “Listen to this. I think you’ll like it.” It was Switchfoot’s album “New Way to Be Human.” I had never heard anything like it. The lyrics were personal; the songs had variety of sound; the rock rocked and the ballads were beautiful. And though their words were solidly Christian, they didn’t sound like a Christian band. (That could be another post for another day, but a lot of Christian-labeled bands have a certain similar sound.)
One of the reasons I like Switchfoot is that they have successfully broken out of the Christian label and boldly taken their theology to the world. They live and perform in the public sphere, not just at churches or Christian music festivals. This invites heightened scrutiny of their lives and their music from all sides. I believe this is what Bob Briner was talking about in “Roaring Lambs” – he had a vision of Christians working in all sectors and producing excellent products for general consumption, instead of producing art, music, or writing only for each other.
If you listen to their lyrics, they don’t sound like rock stars. They’re not cooler than you. They speak to downtrodden people – people outside the circle of coolness. People who are brokenhearted, down on themselves, questioning God, trying to hold on. They’re not just playing guitar riffs to distract us from our daily struggles; they are hitting our deepest issues head-on.
It was a beautiful letdown when I crashed and burned. When I found myself alone, unknown and hurt. It was a beautiful letdown the day I knew that all the riches this world had to offer me would never do. In a world full of bitter pain, bitter doubts, I was trying so hard to fit in until I found out I don’t belong here.
This approach is intentional. Lead singer and songwriter Jon Foreman explains that “Switchfoot is a surfing term. We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”
Since I was captivated by “New Way to Be Human,” the band has gained two members and released six more albums. I associate each album with the time in my life when it came out, and in many cases, certain songs spoke directly to my situation.
I was working an incredibly tough summer job when “Gone” hit my CD player and encouraged me that this too would pass – and soon.
“Golden” hit in another phase of life when I had recently uprooted. I was struggling with deep questions and needed to know the struggle would be worth it.
She’s alone tonight with a bitter cup… she’s been staring down the demons who’ve been screaming she’s just another so-and-so… You’re a lonely soul in a land of broken hearts – but far from home is the perfect place to start. You are golden. You are golden, child. Don’t let go.
Listening to the first chords of their newest album, which came out yesterday, I was nearly giddy. The lyrics, once again, are killer, and I love hearing the new twists on their sound.
But even after all these years and all the songs, my favorite is still from their very first album. It’s called “Home,” and they’ve never played it at any of the four concerts I’ve been to. It sums up faith so well with this one line that has brought me comfort enough to fall asleep many nights: “All that’s in my head is in Your hands.”
Sunday, September 11th, 2011
I have been thinking for two weeks about what I would write on this day. There are memorials to the fallen, remembrances of what we were doing that day, and gratitude to our military all around.
I am thankful today for the present. Instead of focusing on the past, or vowing what we will do in the future, I don’t want to forget the simple lesson that life is fleeting.
One of my favorite writers, Andree Seu of WORLD magazine, wrote recently about being fully alive in our everyday duties: “I had not been fully present in the task. My mind had been occupied in some hypothetical ‘important’ living that I wanted to do.”
We classify our days into good and bad, important and mundane. But 9/11 showed us that we never know when a routine day can turn into something historic – for better or for worse.
“Therefore, if these small things are the fabric of our days, and if we pass our days always focused on some imaginary future of ‘important’ things while grumbling through the chore at hand, then we are never living. We are always postponing living because we do not consider this present moment valid life.”
Monday, August 15th, 2011
News coverage of presidential candidates today was so frenzied, you’d think the election was tomorrow. Sigh.
Goodnight, Cain. Goodnight, Romney. Goodnight, Bachmann. Goodnight, Perry.
Goodnight, Man on the Street, who is already showing up in every news story.
I’ll be seeing you… for months to come.
Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Jobs are so much like dating. You have to get to know different ones before you find your niche and figure out which qualities are most important to you. (And when you’re on the hunt, you have to strike a balance between showing interest and not looking desperate.)
I got to meet some summer interns this morning who are new to D.C. It was fun to share commuting tips and restaurant recommendations with them, and I also shared some things I have learned from working in different positions.
Or condense a life into a resume.
I know that’s all it was to them – a quick mention that yes, I’ve learned a lot since my first internship (11 years ago), and I’ve circled back to working on content from a stint in media relations. I’ve worked here, here, here, here and here. Blah, blah.
I remember coming out of school, looking at job postings and thinking, “What does someone with X years’ work experience have that I don’t have?” Ha.
The stressful late nights working on project deadlines. The mind-numbing meetings. Awkward office celebrations. Frustrating political realities. Building “Survivor”-esque alliances. Career milestones. Lack of funding for great ideas. Mentors. New skills. Game-changing announcements. Networking conferences. Utter failure.
There’s just no substitute for experience. And while the interns are justifiably excited by the blank canvas stretching in front of them… I’m actually thankful that my canvas is messy.
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
There’s something to be said for not being the first to do something. It has been incredibly helpful to watch and learn from friends who got married before I did and are now having babies first. I’m sure younger siblings the world over can attest that their parents were easier on them than they were on the oldest children. Sometimes, good things come to those who wait.