1. When the leaves start to turn in earnest.  When the leaves first started turning, there was a lot of brown and sadness.  But now, late in the season, they have begun to flare and fluctuate into beautiful medleys of brightness and brilliance.
  2. The way music can change how we feel.  I don’t care how you want to explain that away, I still find it to be a form of pure magic.  One of God’s astronomical miracles.  After all, noises are usually just that, but for some reason when we arrange them in a certain way they can leave us with an inexplicable urge to dance with abandon or weep boldly.  Music can lull us to sleep or charge us with adrenaline.  If you ever need a little more wonder in your life, music can certainly provide.
  3. Family banter.  I have more inside jokes, funny stories, and general fodder for lighthearted banter with my family than with anyone else.  I may no longer live with them, but somehow we still manage to make each other laugh.  At least they make me laugh and I hope I return the favor.
  4. Wandering around bookstores forever.  I spent an irresponsible amount of time in Barnes & Noble today and I regret nothing.  Bookstores are chocked full of adventures, all sitting patiently on the shelves, waiting for you to come along and discover them.  The aroma of the paper adds a level to the mystique as well as the tall wooden shelves and their somber presence.  Running your hands along the spines or letting the pages fly through your fingers.  An entire galaxy of worlds rests at your fingertips.  All you need to do is reach for it.
  5. When your impromptu harmony totally works.  As a soprano, I usually sing the melody and I admire the people who can just pick up a harmony without even trying.  When I try, I usually make myself a situation where I need to immediately switch back to melody so as to prevent the world from imploding.  But every once in a while I hit a pitch or even – on a really crazy day – a series of pitches that just jive with the melody and I have to give myself a little time for a victory dance.
  6. Welcoming people into your home.  There is something about having visitors that makes a house into a home.  You get to show them where you live and share that habitat with them for a little bit.  Whether it is a tea party or a rave, it is still a unique outpouring of you and the people who love you will love experiencing your home.
  7. Watching old favorite classics with new favorite people.  The movie you loved from your childhood has a special relationship to you and especially with the people you always used to watch it with.  But when you watch it again with someone new, you get a whole new experience of the movie.  Suddenly it has the addition of whomever you happen to be watching it with and your affection grows and changes.  That is certainly a beautiful way to bond with new friends.
  8. Sun halos.  The sun glances off of your hair at just the right angle to give a little bit of shine around you.  There is a reason this is a popular angle for photos.  Hint: it’s because it makes you look like the magical being that your are.
  9. When the young are eager to serve.  One of the ushers at church this morning was a boy that I would guess to be about seven years old.  He stood attentively with a welcoming smile on his face and bounced a little to the beat of the songs as they played.  Every time he needed to be available, he perked up and his smile got a little bit bigger.  It was so cool to see someone so young so willing and excited to serve God even in his own little way.
  10. Sitting in a coffee shop and talking to your friends.  Coffee shops are the perfect atmosphere for… well quite a few things actually.  But going to a coffee shop with a friend or two and just sitting and chatting with no agenda and no strict adherence to any sort of timetable is its own sort of relaxing.  Plus, you get the bonus of getting to know someone a little bit better, if only to know how they take their coffee.
  11. The scientific breakthrough that there are actual things in existence that manage to still taste good with the taste of toothpaste still in your mouth.  It seems like almost everything either tastes terrible with toothpaste (looking at you orange juice) or you can’t taste it at all behind the overwhelming mint.  But this morning, I brushed my teeth right before class and then took a mug of tea with me to class.  And the tea tasted fantastic.  I mean, of course it did it was the beverage of divinity and also the Queen, but it was still a pretty big moment to make that discovery.
  12. Opening night.  Theatre is one of my favorite things in the whole world and there is an extra special feeling on opening night.  It is an entirely different experience than practice and it becomes so much more real and it starts to matter more.  Also, having an audience builds a new measure of credibility to the entire endeavor.
  13. Real people’s real stories.  I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting and listening to a Holocaust survivor talk about her experiences today.  Her life and accomplishments, her perspective on life, to see her yellow Star.  I can never see the world the same way again and I thank God for that.
  14. The way the entire world can rally when there is injustice.  Too often, we are silent.  Too often, Satan has a romp through this world and we just sit back and watch.  Or worse, we turn our backs because it does not directly affect us.  But not today.  Today, all across the world, we are saying no.  We are loving the people of the world who are suffering so very hard right now.  Loving recklessly and with abandon.  Our arms are around the people of this world and I can tell you right now that mine are around you, wherever you may be.
  15. When you are so close to the cast at the end of a show that you have zero problem bawling all over each other and giving the best of hugs.  Rarely have I ever been as close to a cast as I have become to this one.  They have become such beautiful people in my eyes and I am so privileged to have been able to work with them on such an amazing show.  Cast of Butterfly, you are all my favorites.
  16. Waking up early and feeling refreshed and on the ball.  I love to get up early, but as a college student I generally end up not doing that.  But if I do, I was usually up super late the night before so getting up early doesn’t have quite the same appeal that it used to.  But some days when I actually get to bed like a regular human being, I can get up nice and early and feel lovely and refreshed.
  17. Snuggling up in a pile of comfort and childhood to face the grim world of homework.  Sometimes, life is stressful.  And sometimes it feels a whole lot nicer to do your homework from underneath a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and some fruit snacks right beside you.  It makes the world feel a little more tackleable.
  18. Gigantic study groups where everyone is a ball of slap-happy stress.  Half of my honors class is currently gathered in the library for some late-night desperate attempts to write the massive paper we have all procrastinated.  And despite the slightly hysterical giggles that have not really stopped since we got here, we have actually managed to learn a little bit from each other and discuss our thoughts and ideas.  This is the kind of bonding that happens in college.
  19. When your little baby hairs stick out at the top of your ponytail.  The ones that are baaaaarely long enough to make it into the ponytail at all but somehow manage it.  Then they spend all day being happy and perky and generally making themselves look like happy little go-getters.
  20. Running around like a kid and laughing like one too.  We had the first snow of the season today.  So naturally, the entirety of campus had to run out and have snowball fights.  We didn’t care how childish we were being because we were having such pure fun.  We laughed for no reason other than that we couldn’t help it; the world was just too beautiful.  Sure we came in soaked, but our hearts were glowing.
  21. A no-expectations kind of day where everything seems to get done.  You sleep in for a while and when you do get up, you take your time.  A leisurely breakfast, a nice long shower.  Your schedule is wide open and you feel like today is going to be a good day.  You wash the dishes, make your bed, maybe even sweep.  Somehow, your homework miraculously gets done and you don’t even feel like you’ve been doing work.  Suddenly you can move on to writing those letters you’ve been putting off and finishing that painting you wanted to do.  Yoga?  A movie with a friend?  It seems like anything could happen.
  22. Asking the hard questions.  We don’t like to focus on things that are difficult to deal with.  Because they are hard to deal with.  But sometimes, asking those questions is the only way to lead to a solution.  Or even the first step to a solution.  But either way, it is so much better to talk about these things and learn about them than to let them fester and become real problems that seem nearly impossible to overcome.  (On a related note, Amazon’s new series The Man in the High Castle is a quality example of this sort of self-reflection.)
  23. Hosting new friends.  Getting to serve and meet knew people at the same time makes me happy.  I love the opportunity to offer space and food and fellowship to new people and share it with them.
  24. Spending time with family.  When I lived at home, this was something I took completely for granted.  Now, it is such a beautiful privilege to be able to hug my family in person and harass them and poke my cat.  It makes all of the time I have with them that much more special.
  25. The ability to smile.  I’m no scientist, but I know that smiling is healthy for you and scientifically makes you happier because of chemicals and science.  But beyond that, smiling is kind of contagious.  It feels amazing to see other people smile and then you feel yourself doing it and it makes you feel even better.
  26. Thanking God for every moment of every day.  Trust me, he deserves it.
  27. Really neat, unique pieces of personal history.  I got the chance to see my great grandma today and she was wearing a necklace, specifically a locket.  We got to talking about it and she opened it up.  The first thing that surprised me was that it held four pictures in the little chamber, one on each side and two extra little frames flipped out of the sides.  In those frames were my grandparents, my mother, and my aunt.  These pictures were over forty years old and they were current photographs when my grandma gave the locket to my great grandma.  All of these years, she has kept this beautiful little piece of history simply in her jewelry box or around her neck.
  28. Cramming your entire gigantic extended family into one house.  Yes, it is most certainly noisy and yes, it does feel like the air is boiling and yes, the kitchen is absolute chaos.  But there is something about that noise that just exudes joy and you don’t even mind how toasty it gets because you are next to people that you love and the chaos in the kitchen smells heavenly anyway so why not just enjoy it.
  29. Finding random foreign foods in your local grocery store.  HyVee in the middle of the American midwest sells Jaffa Cakes.  Needless to say, I now have an abundance of small British… whatever those things are sitting in my dorm room.
  30. Big flaky snow.  It drifts down almost lazily in huge fluffy torrents.  If you want to catch snow on your tongue, this would be the kind of snow to do that in.  No rush to the ground, no frenzy or ice, just beautiful snow.

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