1. Beginning something.  I don’t mean something that you can just give up on, or something that doesn’t really hold your interest.  I mean, pushing up your sleeves, getting your hands dirty, and beginning.  You know that someday, maybe even someday soon, you will have a new accomplishment to add to your list.
  2. Picking up a book that you just can’t put down.  The kind that makes you forget about meals, race off to appointments in a rush, neglect social duties, savagely use an entire box of tissues while cursing the author, strain your eyes just one chapter more… until suddenly it’s three in the morning and you have finally turned the last page.  That is how to truly invest yourself in a book, but it takes a special sort of book to do that.
  3. Writing down quotes.  I love how we can frame a beautiful photograph or painting that perfectly captures some aspect of life.  But I also love how words can do the same thing.  They can encapsulate life in a way that repeating them becomes magical.
  4. Sleeping in your own bed after a vacation.  I know full well that this is a luxury in many facets that much of the world does not have, and I am thankful for it.  First of all, adventures into the great wide world are amazing and eye-opening.  However, they aren’t home, and strange beds certainly can’t compare to the one waiting there.  Then, walking across the all-too-familiar threshold, dropping the suitcase, and flopping back onto the covers that understand me so much better than a hotel bed.  It is one of the most relaxing parts of any vacation.
  5. The tap-tap-tap-swish of speech books opening.  If you ever manage to venture into an OID round at a meet, you will likely hear it.  This is the sound, like the wood blocks at the opening of a Kabuki theatre production, that says, “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”
  6. Going to see something rated PG at a cinema and ending up with an adorable young narrator somewhere near you.  The kid that occasionally makes a comment that is about 200% funnier than the actual line in the movie.  The kid with the sweetest laugh that giggles at everything.  Children that don’t understand irony when it tumbles from their own mouths.  I can’t help but smile.  Those are the golden ones.
  7. Significant glances.  A quick eye-roll across the table to my sister at my parents’ endless engineer speak, an inside joke that takes only an eyebrow raise to convey to my friends, accidentally locking eyes with a crush for half a second; whatever it may be, eyes were made for a reason.  A blink can convey more meaning than a rambling speech and joy is felt more clearly in someone’s gaze than in their dancing.
  8. The charged atmosphere at a concert.  I am too much of an introvert to do the whole concert thing all of the time, but when I do go to see groups perform, I love the energy.  Everyone feeds off of everyone else and the whole place becomes this ball of exploding excitement.
  9. Really swishy dresses.  You shift feet and suddenly there is a whirl around your knees as your skirt flutters and twirls as if you were in the midst of a graceful and free-spirited dance through the meadows.  Then you feel like dancing gracefully and free-spiritedly through the meadows and life is a little bit brighter.
  10. When people talk about things that they are passionate about.  Their eyes light up and their voice takes on an intensity that enthralls you as you listen.  They start gesturing about everything, and it suddenly seems that nothing could be more important than that one thing.  That is the most beautiful a person can be to me.  God created us to love Him passionately and to live life abundantly.  We weren’t meant to slog through life without that spark that God has given us, so why would we.  Find your passion and love it shamelessly.
  11. Pouring steaming water into a tea cup.  It is such a refreshing and satisfying action.  Also, it means tea is on the way and that is something that I certainly can’t object to.
  12. Belting out songs along with the radio in your car.  You’ve done it.  I know you have.  And you’ve really enjoyed it.  Don’t worry, I’m not judging you.  I think you are the coolest and you should keep up the serenading.
  13. Learning life lessons from those who look up to you.  I know as an older sister, high school senior, childcare worker, and babysitter, there are a fair number of people who look up to me.  Most of them are about five years old, but that’s an irrelevant fact.  The point is, I often feel like I have to teach them about life, but I usually end up learning so much more from than them than I think I could ever impart on their minds.  They remind me of the valuable things in life and they open my eyes to perspectives and ideas that I’ve never seen before.
  14. Front porches.  This is possibly one of the most underrated parts of a house in today’s society.  Neighbors used to be friends, but now they are often strangers because we don’t want to take the time being visible in our homes to get to know them.  I love just sitting on the porch where everyone can see and reading a novel or chatting on the phone.  It is an illuminating place to be.
  15. Having guests.  A home is a great place to invite people. I love bringing people into my house because it feels like I am giving them a hug and an insight into myself that strengthens any relationship.  When my house is full of people, it is usually spreading the most joy and that is something that I love to do.
  16. Rain gear.  Rain is usually described as a little depressing, but rain gear is one of the happiest things on the planet.  It is nothing short of the best kind of childishness to tug on a bright pair of rainboots and splash unrestrainedly through every puddle you come across.  Yellow raincoats are like their own little rays of sunshine for everyone to bask in, and umbrellas were really made to twirl.  So go ahead, be a kid when the rain starts; I’ll join you!
  17. Doodling.  I’m no talented artist, but I do appreciate filling the margins of whatever paper I’m writing on.  It inspires all sorts of little connections and ideas to stew on for later.
  18. Waking up all by myself.  No alarm, no cat, no family, nothing to disturb the peace of drifting out of sleep.  Feel free to savor those last few Zzzs before digging into the day, because sleep is a precious thing.
  19. Brushing your teeth.  The feeling of a fresh, clean mouth makes you feel as if you can conquer the world.  Your whole countenance becomes brighter and cleaner and crisper.  And your smile looks fabulous too.
  20. Singing your heart out to God.  Sounds cheesy, I know.  But there are sometimes when you are singing a song to worship God and something clicks.  Once that happens, it is no longer just a song, but a prayer of praise and wonder to the scintillating God of the universe that simultaneously tunnels your focus toward God and increases your awareness of the nuances of the world around you.  Music can express things that mere words cannot, which makes is all the more influential in praying with your heart bared to Christ.
  21. Really solid high-fives.  The ones that hurt your hand but they make such a satisfying smack.  Whatever reason you high-fived in the first place, it is successfully verified by that perfect seal of approval.
  22. When you stop to think about how blessed you are and you can’t help but gin a little.  Life is far from perfect, I’m not denying it.  But some days, you see so many of the little blessings that God has strewn across you path and it is a little overwhelming.  He gives us second chances where we wouldn’t give them to ourselves and he throws in a heaping dose of extra love to keep us warm when we need it.  Sometimes I can do nothing in my awe of God’s amazing love but disentangle myself from all of the distractions and pause to grin at God’s beautiful gift of life in Christ.  Take a minute; think about it: Despite everything that you’ve done wrong and all of the times that you have messed up today, this week, this month, this year, God chose to take on human flesh and die a death so horrible that the Romans had to create a new name for the pain – excruciating – and rise from the dead.  All of this was for you.  Yes, count your little blessings because those are from God too, but count this one the foremost of all.  Because you are loved, and you are blessed.  “Jesus loves you” is a loaded sentence, and it is improbably, unbelievably true.
  23. Accidentally taking a stellar photograph.  Usually, I work super hard to get a decent picture, and they turn out decent after several attempts.  There are rare occasions where I take a picture just to take it and it turns out frame-worthy.  Those are the best.
  24. Burrowing into a hug.  Hugs happen for all sorts of reasons, but there are sometimes you just need to snuggle down into the hug to really appreciate the lovely person that has their arms around you.
  25. Laughter at the dinner table.  My family is not Downton Abbey-esque.  We do not have strict rules about dinnertime conversation.  We laugh freely and without and worry of judgement.  There is already such a bond of eating together, but laughing together ties that bond even tighter.
  26. Sincere forgiveness.  In my Christian Ethics class today, we had confession and absolution.  That sounds super religious or cultish, but it was extremely informal.  The best part was that, after confessing our sins, we went around in groups and bestowed God’s forgiveness individually on each person in the class.  It is a beautiful thing to hear that God forgives everything I’ve ever done, and to hear it with my own name in the absolution.  It was so personal and such a cleansing experience and I loved it.
  27. My speech team.  They are all lovely people and they are my second family; the crazy one that I keep in the closet.  But despite all of the strangeness and spazzing, we are all so close.  There is nothing quite like a speech meet to bring people together in an extremely unique way.
  28. Dress-up days at school.  These are the days when we can dress like idiots and be appreciated for it.  Sometimes, we all just need to wear clothes that no sane person would wear to let off a little steam.  Life is also more fun when you are dressed like the world’s tackiest tourist.
  29. My sister.  I was planning to post this one on her birthday, but I totally spaced it and am doing it now.  That’s something that she doesn’t struggle with too much.  I’m pretty sure my sister is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful people that I know, and she has a beautiful soul despite her gorgeous red hair.  I have always kind of dragged her around with me whether she wants to come or not, but she is always a good sport about it.  She can have me laughing so hard that I’m in stitches at the drop of a hat.  She may be a little klutzy sometimes, but she is a graceful dancer who has really found her niche twirling around with her dance team.  She has a fierce mama bear instinct and she does everything in her power to protect the people she cares about from getting hurt.  She is a habitual enthusiast, which means she is always overflowing with things that she loves.  She may be my little sister, but I’m pretty sure she has taught me so much more in my life than I could ever hope to teach her.  She is my best friend and I love her dearly.  God has blessed me so much more than I deserve with such a wonderful sister.
  30. When people go out of their way to support you.  My school hosted a speech meet this weekend, which we do every year, but it is usually not very well attended by student or adult supporters.  This year, we had some pretty sketchy sludge falling out of the sky all day, but a couple of my rounds were simply packed with friends, teachers, and parents who had come to support me or my fellow speech people.  One of my friends came in from out of town and braved the terrible roads near his house just to come watch my poetry.  Before the weather, there were several people that I hoped would come, but many of them were knocked off of that list when the snow/rain nastiness started happening.  He was actually one of those people I figured would, completely understandably, not be able to make it, but he showed up nevertheless.  It was a really cool feeling to be able to look around a room full of people and realize that over half of them were there to support me and watch me present a piece that I worked hard on and was proud of.
  31. When my friends are happy.  I have a friend who is one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  She is constantly thinking of others before herself and loves to serve.  I admire her strong faith and the fact that she is not afraid to let that light shine into the world around her.  She has also gone through some really rough stuff.  Whenever she is struggling, my heart hurts for her because she is the kind of person that you can’t help but love and care about.  But when she smiles, when her face is genuinely full of joy; and when her every sentence is punctuated with satisfied grins and giggles; and when there is a contagious sort of spring in her step;  those are the times when I can’t help but be happy too.  Her joy is infectious and I love to see someone who has brought so much love to my life have her own wonderful life.

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