1. Taking time to soak up God’s peace in stillness.  In today’s constantly on-the-go world, stillness is not something that is particularly easy to find.  But when you do find those moments of complete silence and calm, God just invades you with peace.  The snow was falling slow and sparkly tonight as I walked across campus to my dorm.  I loved passing through that beautiful peaceful world and I did not want to leave it.  So I grabbed a friend and we went to stand out in the darkness and let the snow fall over us.  The silence was close and intimate as the snow muffled all of the chaos around us and blanketed everything in a pure cocoon of warmth, even though it was made of crystals of ice.  Every flake that kissed my cheek was like a personal little kiss from God.  We didn’t speak, we didn’t move, we just….were.  And God was there.  In the stillness and the silence God settled on our hearts and steadied our souls.  Yes, we still had the same mountain of stuff to be done when we went back, but it was suddenly so much more manageable.  God was almost tangible in his peace as it flowed through us and gave us that sense of direction and an internal quieting of the storm.  Occasionally we spoke, but only to marvel at God’s creation and the awe that we simply could not contain.  But mostly, we just stood and looked up at the sky as our Creator showered us in love and peace and his indescribable beauty.
  2. When other people take care of you when you are sick.  They mother you and pamper you and make sure you are alright.  And no matter how much you protest it, they continue to love on you as much as they possibly can.  Those are the best friends.
  3. Sitting back and watching other people put on a show for your enjoyment.  I love being on stage.  I love creating a story and telling that story to a bunch of people for their enjoyment.  However, once in a while, it is fun to turn the tables.  To take the time to just relax and enjoy.  To laugh and applaud and show the performers how very much you appreciate them.
  4. Chatting with my sister on the phone.  I miss seeing my sister every day and hearing all of the mundane details of her life.  So when I finally do get to talk to her, we talk for. eeeeever.  It starts out about big events until eventually we are telling each other about when the sidewalks were cleared of snow the day before.  And when even that runs out, we just make noises at each other.  It is really nice to stay in touch with her despite our busy lives.
  5. Singing Christmas carols with the people you love.  Back home, my parents are in a Bible study group and it has been our tradition since before I can remember that sometime in December every year, we all gather together, someone plays tunes on a piano, and the rest of us belt out Christmas songs all night.  Frosty the Snowman to Away in a Manger to Deck the Halls to Jingle Bell Rock.  All of the classics and old hymns.  As Buddy the elf put it “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”
  6. Meeting your friends’ parents.  It is generally a rule that at some point in a person’s life, they will encounter the awkward stage in a friendship where it is time to meet the friend’s family.  You dread the inevitably awkwardness, but, as it turns out, the parents of your friends are pretty nifty human beings.  Before you know it, they are no longer Mr. and Mrs. Soandso but your besties Julie and Greg who also happen to have offspring that you get along with.
  7. Going on walks with people you like.  Wandering around with your friends for no particular reason can be so relaxing.  You can talk or just absorb the world together.  Everything becomes even brighter and more beautiful when you can enjoy it with someone that you also enjoy.
  8. Being respected by people you respect.  When you look up to a person, their opinion happens to be just a teensy bit more impactful than someone who maybe you don’t have as much appreciation for.  If they are disappointed in you, you are disappointed in you.  But if they are proud of you and impressed by something you have done or who you are as a person, you definitely feel like you are on the right track.
  9. The color of Christmas lights’ light.  The sparkly golden glow of peace on earth and joy to the world.  Each little bulb emits just enough of its own intimate radiance to feel individual, celebratory, and oh so special.  Something about those little chains of light is reminiscent of candlelight and romance, but there is an extra unique element of cheer to the scene.
  10. Back and forth heart-to-hearts.  Sometimes, a really good deep talk can feel like it is just going one way.  One person spills their life story and the other person listens and comforts them and life moves on.  But the best kind of heart-to-hearts are the ones where you both lean on each other.  Nobody is devoid of problems and nobody deserves to feel that they are responsible for holding everyone else’s burdens along with their own.  When you can share your worries with each other and with God, everyone gets a lighter load and you all grow closer to God and to each other.
  11. Watching God work through you in other people’s lives.  I have been told all my life that I am a blessing to other people, but Satan is nevertheless really good at telling me that I am insignificant.  Over the past few days I have been able to watch with my own two eyes as God has put me into other people’s lives as a blessing and an outlet of His unfathomable love.  It’s not to say that I have never witnessed God work through me, but I don’t think it has ever been in such a tangible way.  By using me to help others, my super nifty Creator also gave me a pretty huge blessing in knowing that I have a very definite purpose and God can use me in any sort of situation.
  12. Taking time to destress during the craziness of finals.  Yeah, grades are important, but they don’t matter if you don’t survive.  Sometimes you just have to blast Christmas music and have a dance party for a little bit to remind yourself that life is not so bleak as it looks after staring at notebooks for days on end.  You can make it!
  13. Coming together at Christmas.  There is just something so magical about Christmas that somehow draws all sorts of people together and makes them bestow hugs far more liberally than usual.  Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that Christmas is really just a bunch of broken sinners seeing a ray of hope become a dazzling star and a multitude of angels singing of the wonder that is Emmanuel.  God with us.  An infant that was born to save the world brought us all to himself that he might free us by taking our shackles, binding himself, and nailing it all to a tree.  No wonder we gather at the manger in surrender, because at the cross we are made free.
  14. That feeling after you finish a huge test.  All of that stress and anxiety is just balled up and thrown out.  It’s over.  You are done.  You might start giggling hysterically or frolicking through meadows, but whatever you do, it will no longer be torturing yourself with facts, figures, and stress.  You go Glen Coco!
  15. A story you love reincarnating itself in your life.  I’m not even going to try to make this one general; it’s about Harry Potter and the fact that there is now a trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  I’m pretty psyched for next November.
  16. Hugging your family.  Hugs are a whole lot more than just temporary people traps.  They are a way of osmosising love from you to someone else.  And there is something extra special about giving that love to the people who are closest to you.
  17. Tying on an apron.  When you are in the kitchen, it feels about three-hundred percent more like legitimate professional Dave-Ramsay-could-walk-in-and-maybe-even-compliment-your-cooking-at-any-moment cooking than just regular old cooking.  You can conquer whatever complex recipe anyone throws at you just so long as you are wearing your armor.
  18. Returning to your roots.  I went to a speech meet today for the first time since last March and it made my little heart glow.  People in suits stalking around everywhere with schematics and little black binders, visual aids and OID boxes.  It felt a little like coming home.
  19. Digging up really cool old pictures of your family.  There is a story behind every picture, but finding ones that showcase your family are some of the neatest.  I found one today of my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle all walking down a street and laughing.  Their hair was flying behind them and their smiles were wide and bright.  None of them can actually remember when that picture was taken or why, but the amount of joy in their faces and postures is enough to make my little heart glow.
  20. Trying to be a ninja about your presents for other people.  Sneak them in the house when no one is looking.  Wrap them in the stealthiest way possible so that they have no chance of guessing what it is.  Slip it under the tree like it appeared by magic.  Smile at the knowledge that they are going to be completely surprised.
  21. Movie marathons with friends.  I have spent the past two nights watching the first six Star Wars movies with my friends and I have zero regrets.  Sure, I didn’t get to bed until two either night and I had to get up early both mornings, but it was worth every minute of it.  Less for the movies and more for the special kind of bonding that only comes with staying up recklessly late to watch a bunch of movies and commentate them all together.
  22. Getting hugs from little ones who haven’t seen you in a while.  It is one incredibly warm and fuzzy feeling to get a hug from someone you love and miss.  It is an equally warm and fuzzy but very different sort of warm and fuzzy feeling to be bestowed a hug by a young kiddo who is more than adept at the art.  When you smush them together and get a hug from a little kid who you miss you get double the warm and fuzzies and general happiness all around.
  23. Watching the steam rise off of a hot cup of tea.  Hypnotic swirls almost tell a story as they twist and spin and float away.  Mysterious and relaxing, lazy yet enchanting.  If you are looking for a way to wind down at the end of a long day, this is certainly not a bad one.
  24. Getting out all of the fancy dinnerware just for a family meal.  I don’t know how it is in other households, but in mine the china is lucky if it comes out of the cupboard once a year.  Usually, it is only when there is company and a fancy meal combined (which is not often) that it sees the light of day.  But occasionally, usually around Christmas, we decide to get all dolled up with the food just to enjoy each other’s company and I think that is pretty swell.
  25. God’s utterly irrational perfection.  He came to save us by diving right into creation as an undignified infant.  Not only that, but he was born of a homeless mother in disgrace without any earthly pomp and circumstance.  The angels were certainly psyched, but they did not immediately instate this infant as the global king, rather they sent a few shepherds to see him in a haphazard shelter meant for animals.  That infant grew up and spread the direct love of God on earth before slaying death by dying himself and returning to life.  None of that makes sense by human standards, but it was the most perfect scenario in its own illogical way.
  26. Doing puzzles at Christmas.  My family just completed a two-thousand piece puzzle in two days.  Four of us.  We puzzle at Christmas and let me tell you we do it right.  Hours on end of nothing but finding the little pieces and watching them all come together from random blotchy patches to a whole cohesive picture.
  27. When you are listening to music and give in to the urge to let your hair down and just dance like you have no cares in the world.  Music has this magical quality of motion.  I am no scientist, so I cannot possibly explain it to you, but it is undeniably there.  The notes and the rhythm and something about the quality of the sound just tell your body that it needs to move.  And when you let it, there is this effusion of celebration that just accidentally happens.
  28. Watching someone you love figure out something that you love.  I love learning, I love people, and I love to watch people learn.  I just sit there and grin when I get to watch the pieces come together on someone else’s face as they understand something.  Even better is when they start to get just as excited about it all as you are.
  29. Singing Easter hymns at a funeral.  My grandpa passed away last week and today my family dragged me kicking and screaming (internally) to his funeral.  I hate funerals.  They are oppressively full.  Of death, of sadness, of heavy cloying grief.  But sitting in my grandpa’s funeral, I felt something that I have always known but never really liked to accept: that Christian funerals are about a certainty that we call hope.  We sang the song I Know that My Redeemer Lives and I couldn’t help but marvel at what a bold claim that was.  To stand looking at a casket and to sing an unwavering truth of life.  It was as if we stood there and spat the words triumphantly directly into the face of sin and Satan.  Life has conquered the grave utterly and permanently.
  30. Reading incredibly old letters.  Today I had the immense privilege of holding a piece of paper enscribed with the heart of a young woman in 1932.  Feeling the crease and the weight of the paper and seeing the lilt and bold lines of her text.  It was as if I had actually met this young woman and gotten to know her in just a few short lines.
  31. Closing the page on a chapter.  I love the end of the year.  2015 has been a wonderful year, and I am so glad to have lived it.  However, I am jumping at the gate to set this year aside and start a new one.  I will forever have all of the massively eventful memories of this year, but they are no longer my now.  They are merely wind in my sails, a place from which to go.  I am thankful that God has given me another year and I can’t wait to see where he leads me next.