1. Christmas music.  I am one of the people who refuses to break out the Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but when I finally do I simply can’t get enough of it.  There is an inescapable joy in the thought of God entering our world specifically to be our Savior.  I also think Christmas songs are the most singable songs ever.  I belt them all over the place and I am not the only person I know who does.  Every year, a group of my family friends gather around a piano and go through an entourage of carols and goodwill and that is inevitably one of my favorite parts of every year.
  2. Walking into the kitchen and instantly being overwhelmed with an incredibly delicious smell.  It doesn’t really matter what is cooking, as long as it smells fantastic it brings a smile to my face.  And the best part is that I get to eat that smell later.  Dinner for the win.
  3. Going new places in your hometown.  I played with my Jazz band at a restaurant/club place that I’ve never had any reason to visit before.  I love that area of town anyway, and the venue was really fun.  I didn’t have anything to eat or drink, but I just really enjoyed the atmosphere.  Everyone seemed so nonchalantly enthusiastic to be there, which made me even happier to be able to experience it all.
  4. Decorating the Christmas tree.  Can you say nostalgia?  It is the perfect opportunity for “do you remember…” and “pass the adorable baby photo ornaments” and the making of beautiful new memories.
  5. Meowing back at cats.  If my cat meows at me, I will communicate back.  Usually, I try to do it in her language.  Does that make me the most sane person on the planet?  Not particularly, but hey, at least I’m having fun.
  6. Swinging around light poles.  You reach out your hand and wrap it around the cool metal.  Then you let your weight hang from that single point and fall forward.  That’s all there is to a return to childish laughter and fun.
  7. The Shack by William P. Young.  This story is so interesting and it contains some really great thoughts of God from a completely different angle than the normal view.  It really did a bunch to reinforce old lessons for me because they were presented in a way that I’ve never seen before.  There are times when the theology is a little iffy, but for the most part this book really gets it right.
  8. Doing trivia with friends.  I’m a nerd, I know, but trivia is super fun, especially when you introduce a little friendly competition.  Also, you get to learn a bazillion different things that you had no idea were important parcels of knowledge for life.
  9. Leading worship.  It is amazing to join in with fellow believers, especially singing.  Music is a source of community which is why we love to use it to worship our God together.  It is such a beautiful blessing that God has given us.
  10. My amazing mother.  She has been an inspiration and a role-model my entire life.  If I ever need to talk, she lets me cry on her shoulder and then she helps me get back on my feet.  She is an incredibly hard worker and strong person.  She is such a huge reason that I am the person I am today, and I cannot express how thankful I am for her guidance and parenting.  She has a strong faith that she has shown to me and helped me grow in my own faith.  I’m truly at a loss for words to describe how much I love her and how much she means to me.
  11. When something jogs your perspective on life and you just can’t even help from smiling and maybe even a burst of spontaneous and genuine laughter because your heart is all of a sudden so incredibly full of joy.  It could be something you read or something someone told you or maybe even just surviving finals week.  But sometimes life just moves your perspective be it slightly or drastically so that you feel as if your heart is so full that you can’t believe it hasn’t simply burst.  But it’s also the most amazing feeling.  You look at the stoplight where you have been stuck for five minutes late at night and marvel at how beautifully the red stands out against the dark sky behind it.  A home cooked meal sends raptures of revelry through your taste buds.  In those moments, you think about how life is so beautiful even in its brokenness.  But can you imagine when God recreates heaven and earth so that the brokenness is gone?  All that will be left is this incredible heart-rending joy that sweeps us off our feet and the perfectly beautiful God who gives us that joy.  I cannot wait for that beautiful beautiful day.
  12. Lutheran church food.  It’s Advent, which means that every Wednesday my church provides me with a meal that is nothing short of stellar and it is wonderful.  We Lutherans may get skepticism about out potlucks and whatnot, but there is never a shortage of amazing food made with love at my church.  It is an opportunity for us all to serve each other and gather in community – as well as fill our bellies.
  13. Seeing old friends you haven’t seen in a while and the relationship coming right back.  There are definitely some times when I bump into people that I used to be super close with but we’ve just grown apart so much that all of the old familiarity and ease of the relationship isn’t really there.  Those times are awkward and usually don’t really brighten my day.  However, there are the times when it seems like nothing has changed in two, three, five years and they are usually such memorable, treasured moments in my heart.  I leave those situations feeling like the world just got a few shades more beautiful.
  14. Falling in love with a favorite all over again.  It might be a book you read years ago and finally made your way back to, or maybe a movie that reminds you of sharing popcorn with your family.  A place, an object, a song, even a person.  Sometimes we are disillusioned if we return to something we loved once upon a time but it is somehow less wonderful than we remembered it.  Other times, our love of it only continues to grow when we come back to it and find it not only still perfect, but we also see something new in it that we had never seen before.
  15. The fact that the word “verb” is a noun.  Yep, I’m a nerd.  But just think about it for a second, it might drive you mad.
  16. Reading with my sister.  We don’t read the same book out loud to each other much anymore, though we used to when we were kids.  That was fun, but nowadays we usually just curl up on opposite ends of a couch and stick our feet under the same blanket from either end.  Occasionally, one of us will make a comment about our book to the other person and we will send ourselves into a fit of giggles or a rounded discussion on something that does not matter at all.  It’s a really fun use of my time and even though we are each immersed in a different world, we are bonding with each other, which is extremely fun.
  17. When people do something kind of out of the blue and unexpected.  My theology teacher bobby pinned Christmas baubles into his beard today.  He’s pretty festive.
  18. My sister’s kind heart.  My sister always intuitively knows how to cheer me up and she never fails to do so.  This morning I was super stressed about finals and trying to cram in some last minute studying so she offered to pack a lunch for me.  When I sat down to eat it at lunch, I discovered that she had thought to use all of the things I would like on the sandwich that she fixed for me, even though most of them were things that she herself wouldn’t eat.  She also packed me a piece of the special super fancy chocolate that she got as a Christmas present from her dance team.  i actually almost cried at how sweet it was.  I am so grateful that God gave me such a wonderful person as my sister and my best friend.
  19. Going to places that might be a little outside of your comfort zones and having a ton of fun.  My Spanish class went to a little Mexican bakery today to practice using the language.  It was in a part of town that really isn’t dangerous, but it is a little run-down looking and possibly scary if you aren’t used to it.  The bakery turned out to be delicious and, even better, ridiculously cheap.  That meant we could stuff ourselves with delectable pastries and not pay seventeen dollars per bite like most little bakeries seem to cost.  I would never have gone there without my Spanish teacher hauling us all down there, but I definitely might go again if I get the chance now that I know about it.
  20. That time around Christmas when the kitchen smells perpetually like something is baking.  The best word I can think to describe that blissful inhaling as you near the kitchen is cozy.  Everything is wrapped up in its own little blanket of beautiful feelings and goodwill to men.
  21. Spending the night in a cozy hotel.  There are some hotels that are… less than pleasant.  As in, please cue the horror movie music because it would fit really well in those hotels.  Then there are nice comfy hotels that kind of make you just want to move in to one.  There is yummy breakfast, soft sheets, not having to look after yourself.  It’s a nice little relaxation.
  22. The “Hi how are you!  I’ve missed you!” hugs and gathering with family when you get together for Christmas.  Everyone just sort of mills around, trying to hug everyone else and lug their bags inside all at the same time, and the initial bustle of everything is so genuinely infused with happiness to see everyone.
  23. Breakfast nooks.  This is officially a thing on my list of things I want in a house someday.  They are so cozy and breakfast is my favorite, so breakfast nooks are me personified into a room.
  24. Candlelit Christmas Eve church services.  The service is full of hymns, joyful ones, announcing Christ’s birth.  The pastor speaks about the coming of Christ in the manger.  Then, at the end of the service, everyone in the congregation pulls out a thin, white candle that has a base to catch drips.  The ushers light candles from one at the altar and the lights dim.  Slowly, as people tip their dark candles to the lit ones beside them, the room fills with twinkling light.  The congregation begins to sing Silent Night, resolutely clutching their small beacons of light.  By the third verse, the piano has dropped out and everyone sings a capella. The voices don’t sound like the carefully trained throngs of a choir, or the heavenly strains of angels.  Instead, they sound like people.  A bunch of imperfect people gathered together to celebrate truly and joyfully the coming of their savior.  This, to me, is one of the most magical moments of Christmas every year.
  25. Christmas.  God became man so that you could live eternally with Him.  Unto us a child is born and he shall be called Immanuel, which means God with us.  Merry Christmas!
  26. The way that snow looks when it gathers on hair and eyelashes.  Beautiful little specks of white that are so innocent, but kind of attractive at the same time.  Also, they tend to highlight joyful faces who are out in the snowy weather to have fun and enjoy it.
  27. Chatting long into the night with good friends.  This is especially relaxing if there is a fire to sit around, but it isn’t necessary by any measure.  Sometimes we forget to get to know other people.  I am constantly finding out new things even about the people that I love most, and I learn a bunch of that when I am simply sitting with no other purpose than to talk.  My family and I spent a good couple of hours tonight talking about everything from girlfriends to pet names to bad driving.  I learned so many new stories from just a simple time of listening and relaxing.
  28. Genuine gratitude.  If we’re being commercialized about Christmas, I had a really decent Christmas.  I got all sorts of things I wanted and that I like.  But, a lovely side effect of that is saying thank you.  It is honestly more fun to say thank you when you really mean it.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever you are thanking someone for is your favorite thing, but it is such a good feeling to look into someone’s eyes and say “Thank You”, completely acknowledging the effort and thought that they put into whatever it is that they did for you, no matter how much or how little it might be.  By living a life of gratitude, all of the little things in life become God’s gifts, which gives even more cause to be joyful.
  29. Creative retellings of favorite stories.  I love Jane Austen’s novels.  Okay, so I’ve only actually read three and a half this far, but I still love them.  The first one I read was Pride and Prejudice because I got the Kiera Knightly version of the movie for Christmas one year.  That one remains a very close second for my favorite of Jane Austen’s books so far behind only Emma.  Therefore, I was delighted when a friend recently told me about the Lizzie Bennett Diaries.  They are a group of little vlogs that takes Jane Austen’s classic story and puts it in a modern setting.  The actors do such a phenomenal job of capturing those nineteenth century characters and placing them in the twenty-first century.  I am having so much fun with them.
  30. Closure.  I’m the kind of person that cannot miss the end of a movie.  And if I start getting into a book, I absolutely must know how it ends.  I need a healthy dose of closure in my life, even in the most minuscule of details.  As we come to the end of another year, I can’t help but be thankful that God put it in someone’s mind to make years.  Life moves so fast that I need the beak of a new year to remind me that the undesirable things in my past can stay there, because the year is over.  There are the beautiful memories that I want to frame and keep shiny and new forever, but even those aren’t the life I have right now.  The closure of the old year helps me to set my sights forward onto the beauty that God has given me today.
  31. The heart that beats in my chest and the soul that God has charged to be uniquely mine.  I am alive, people. Blood and oxygen flow through my veins because my lungs expand and contract and my heart pumps blood through my veins, whisking life through me over and over and over again.  I can move my fingers to type these words and my brain has the capacity to read them and understand them.  More importantly, God loves me and has taught my soul how to love.  That is truly a blessing.

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