Get After Grateful

The days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting colder. The sun still has its ways of saying hello.

It comes up at an angle near the southeast in the mornings like it’s peaking in and saying hello to every nook and cranny the beams find their way to. The light even makes its way into my apartment on the bottom floor of my complex — where I’m burrowed and cozie halfway underground.

The sunlight likes to stretch across my kitchen island. When this photo was taken, I wondered how blessed I am to feel this warmth, see this light, and be here.

I made myself pour-over. I cut a pear for breakfast and used a little bit of whipped chocolate honey on the side. I felt grounded and grateful.


It’s one week until Thanksgiving.

I have to work all the way up until Thanksgiving day. Instead of taking the entire day before to do all the cooking, I’m going to take the evenings to cook several dishes for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I don’t know how it has already gotten this late in the year. I felt like it was just 80 degrees outside, and I was sweating through my shirts. Part of me doesn’t feel ready for the holidays, but here they are, coming upon us as quick as ever. So I’m embracing it.

I’m not always good at practicing gratitude. My mind tends to naturally fixate on the things I want or don’t have instead of the things I do. But to combat this natural instinct, here are a few things I’m grateful for.

The morning this photo above was taken.

Crips leaves and the smell of a bonfire.

Being a daughter and a sister.

A lover who is like no other.

Roasted chicken.

Green sweaters.

Purple nails.

Ginger lemon honey tea.

The view of serious the dog star from my kitchen window.

A fridge full of food.

Coffee with eggnog.

The Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.

Having my own kitchen this year. (Something I’ve been wanting for a long time coming.)

Writing for a living.

Making pasta from scratch.

What are you grateful for?

bold and scrappy

I keep a poem by Lori Hetteen on my dresser. It’s been there for several months now. When I ordered her poetry book, it came on a small square card. I typically have it propped up against a glass bottle that holds a paper flower. Sometimes the little card slides down and becomes covered with the messiness of my dresser, but I always find it and prop it back up again. 

At first, I didn’t understand the poem, but I kept it because all of her poetry should be treasured — even if I didn’t quite understand this one. 

It wasn’t until this week that I genuinely grasped the poem’s meaning. After months (years, really) of questioning myself and whether or not I’m a good enough writer, some words of a person I don’t even truly even know knocked me down and made me really sad. I stumbled into the darkness of insecurity and embarrassment. 

After a week of this person’s words bothering me, Lori’s poem popped up in my head. It was like a reminder that all was going to be okay. The poem came to me from memory, and it resonates with me like it hasn’t before. 

Her poem is in the bold italics, and my words follow. My words are not to change or enhance her words, but to document how the poem made me feel. When I talk about the work, for me, I mean my writing, but it could be anything you’re passionate about, a talent you’ve been given, or the things you’ve felt called to do. 

The darkness will not go quietly.

The darkness will not move willingly. There will always be busyness. There will always be unmet expectations. There will always be insecurity, sadness, loneliness, grief, guilt, shame. 

There will always be people who say mean things. There will always be those who call us not good enough. 

There will always be the darkness that haunts us. Those subtle and strong feelings make us wonder, “If it wasn’t for this, we could do the thing. We could be happy. We could feel on top of the world.”

The darkness will not go easily, and it will not go quietly. It will always be here, knocking on the door, prancing onto our welcome mats, peaking in the windows. 

If we let it, the darkness will come right in, curl up next to us on the couch, and make a home. It will whisper in our ears and play tricks on our mind — enflaming the words of other people, fixating on them, consuming us until all that’s left is tears and no willingness to move on.

We must be bold.

But even with this darkness pounding on our doors, sometimes making a home in our hearts — we must stand up in defense. We must rise and become strong. We must march the darkness to the door and onto the street, saying it doesn’t belong in our heart’s home. 

We must remember that a greater power will fill our weak cracks, broken bones, and bruised souls. 

We must be bold by continuing in the direction we’ve had our eye on, keeping our head focused on our work. Keeping our hearts and minds grateful. We must be bold for love. We must be brave for the wonders of being human. We must be fearless because this life is a gift.  

Despite the darkness that temps our minds to ruminate, we must stand in shaky confidence and do our work anyway. 

And also scrappy.

Once the darkness is on the street, it will become angry. It will become like a great wind that whips past our shutters and calls us cowards and selfish creatures. 

But despite this, we must seize every moment we find. In the tiredness, in the middle of crazy life, when everything seems more important, the work calls our name. With must be scrappy with resources available to us. 

We must stop comparison, jealousy, hatefulness, greed, consumerism — the friends of darkness. They’ll surround our homes and keep us from focusing, occupying us with their banter. But we must say no to these feelings that consume us and keep us from the work. 

We must continue — even if we’re unsure of the processes. We have to trust ourselves and our Maker for giving us the intuition to keep going. 

We must work amongst the piles of dirty dishes and laundry, the ever-growing to-do list, the texts, calls, and emails to make. We must do our work when everything seems to be caving in, and we hear the darkness say, “Stop. You’re not good enough. Look at them instead; you’ll never be as good as them.” 

We must pick up where we left off when the darkness pushed us down. We have to trust that we have the pieces in our hands to finish what we started. We must take what we’ve been given and where we’ve been placed and make the most of it — and most importantly, be grateful for it. 

We must continue like our life depends on it. To say we can do it anyways. To live out our story. To do our work. To keep the embers in our fire warm so darkness and friends can’t come in uninvited. Because this is our heart, our home, our life, and we are to make the most of it.

Light with lingering shadows

Light with lingering shadows

Today is the winter solace. The longest day of the year. The mark of winter. This morning I lit a small tea candle in a jar of water to celebrate that we made it through the night of the year where the darkest lingers around the most. That’s something, especially for 2020.

It’s probably just me that’s now noticing this, but we celebrate the time of light amid the darkest time of the year. When the days are the shortest, when the nights are the longest, we decorate our houses with lights, hang up decorative trees, and light candles that cast long shadows. We bake for celebration, cookies and warm soups, bread and pastries. We cozy up by fires. Some of us bundle up in sweatshirts and coats to walk through the cold and sometimes snow to attend festivals of lights. Some of us celebrate the birth of when the One, True light was born upon the earth. Because even in darkness, with the long shadows cast over the ground throughout the day, light penetrates through. Light overcomes. It takes only a little bit of warm glow to penetrate and brighten a whole room of darkness. 

Just like it only took a little baby of light to penetrate through a blackened world. 

All of this brings me to the thought of this year and its peculiarities and also the upcoming year. 

2020 hasn’t been isn’t the only time where the world felt an unusual heaviness. It hasn’t been the only time we have experienced darkness and sick and other undesirable things. This isn’t the only time and it won’t be the last. But even so, I strive to celebrate the light, hope, and joy that comes with this year and the new one to come. 2021 brings just as many uncertainties as it does hope. The type of hope and joy that aren’t present on their own, but coexist with fear and pain. The joy and hope that happens despite that hard times. 

As I celebrate Christmas, the celebration of light in darkness, and the birth of a new year, the hope and joy of what is to come, I hope to remember this year for what it was. Not as one that I never want to remember, but one that I made it through clumsily enough, the one where I found love, hope, and joy in the small things right under my nose. The one where I lit a candle with lingering shadows.

Love is weird and wonderful

Love is weird and wonderful

One year ago today, I met this wonderful person at a Mexican restaurant downtown during a holiday work lunch. Little did we know, we’d have our first date at Coat Check Coffee a little less than a month later. Our second date was a museum and dinner, our third we went swing dancing, and the rest would be history. When the pandemic came, and we spent 40 days quarantined apart from each other. But we came back stronger and I’m ever grateful for it. It will always be apart of our story. What a year 2020 has been, it has been my favorite. Love is weird  and wonderful that way.

Beauty Seekers

Be a beauty seeker. 

This is what I tell myself when I’m scared and worried, when I scroll through the news on my social feeds and it creates more fear than my body can sometimes handle. 

When fear grips me, I focus on the beauty of my surroundings and the people near me. Whether that beauty is the yellows and reds that are showing up in the leaves or the moment my mom steps through the door at 3 am, making it safely home after being gone for two weeks. It’s the beauty that the moment means that holds me together.

This past week I read Aundi Kolber’s book Try Softer. There is so much I want to say about this book but I’ll have to save that for another post. In the book she quotes John O’Donohue:

“Beauty isn’t all about just nice loveliness… beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. So I think beauty, in that sense, is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

It’s not just about loveliness, it paying attention to the great senses around, me, you, us. I want to live in the depth of beauty of the world around me. Beauty from nature and people. Joyous beauty that stems and grows out of the pain and anxiety of this life. 

The beauty of independence and pain that comes from an empty first apartment. 

The beauty that comes with staying at home during a pandemic, with people who love you and who let you stay.

The beauty of deep roots in your hometown, blooming where you’re planted.

The beauty of the guitar music flowing down the hallway.

The beauty of late nights driving home with my Plus 1, our eyes tired, night lights shining on our faces through the windshield. 

The beauty of an early morning with coffee brewing, the nearness a cold of winter creeping in, hugging against the kitchen window. 

The beauty of photos taken on birthdays and anniversaries. When you’re so excited or nervous your hands shake resulting in a blurred, grainy photo of the beauty of the moment. 

The beauty of days where you get pizza and a movie and cuddle up with a blanket and rest from a busy week.

The beauty of dirty dishes in the sink because after a dinner that was delicious and left you too tired to clean.

The beauty of a backyard full of family that you haven’t see together in months. 

The beauty of working through anxiety slowly, surely, coming home to yourself in the process. 

Sometimes the beauty isn’t what it always looks like, but it’s what it means. These are the types of beauty I love and I’m seeking. These are the moments of beauty I’m grateful for. 

Getting closer and closer to this beautifulness. Each day I want to come near in search and connect with the beauty around me and the lives we all live together on this earth. I feel as if so many people are distancing themselves from each other due to politics and differences and disagreements of the world these days. This may be on the verge of being cliche, but I think this is where we need to come together the most. 

In Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Dead Comes,” she writes of living fully present to the beauty of each person and moment of life. Her final stanza ends this way: “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” 

I want to live in a way thats not just surviving or striving or getting by. 

Oliver’s gorgeous words here are like a beacon for all of us who want to do more than survive, do desire the abundant life of which Jesus speaks (John 10:10). And perhaps this abundance is not made up of wealth and stuff, perfectionism or business… 

but of awareness, beauty, presence, and connection.

This is the beauty I want to seek, this is the way I want to live.