As we were finishing off a few leftovers from Thanksgiving, I commented to mom and dad:

“Does anyone really like dressing?”

Mom looked up from the stove, horrified.

“Of course!” she proclaimed.

“Well, it’s good, but it’s not like sweet potato casserole,” I said.

Dad chuckled and said under his breath, “Dig yourself out of that one.”

I continued, confident I could prove my point, “OK, so is dressing your favorite?”

“Well, no,” she said.

“So, I would say its like-ability  comes after the sweet potato casserole, the purple salad, and even the ham and turkey, wouldn’t you?”

She stared at me.

“In fact, isn’t dressing just an obligatory side for Thanksgiving?” I asked.

She shook her head wearily, as if I was just being inane, but I declared myself the victor  in the dressing debate.

Whether it’s your favorite dish or not, I am thankful for dressing. I’m just more thankful for those gathered to eat it.

Back in 2006, I wrote a blog post about whom I’m thankful for. After reading it and being moved again by how gratitude emboldens contentment, I wanted to update it for this year.

Top Five Things for which I’m thankful…

  1.  Blacksburg. We’ve lived there for a little over four years now, and each passing day prompts me to be thankful for the location I’m blessed to serve God from. It’s a distinctly beautiful place, nestled into the New River Valley of Southwest Virginia.
  2. Our church. I love the people of Northstar. Sometimes when it’s quiet, I wonder why God has allowed me to serve with them.
  3. goldbondGold Bond lotion. For the past several years, I’ve loved these little 99¢ tubes of lotion and usually have one in my car or in my desk drawer. Sorry to bust your bubble with something so simple, but if you can’t be thankful for little things, I don’t know that God will give you bigger things for which to be thankful.
  4. Apple products. Yup. I know. I’m a fan boy, but I really am grateful for the products that “just work” and that have made me more productive, enhanced my creativity and given me a digital family of strangers-turned-friends from arenas of life I’d not normally find myself in.
  5. WoodWick candles. I love their little crackling sound. It’s like sitting before a miniature fireplace. Combine them with a cup of coffee and your Bible, and the ambience is wonderful for a quiet time with the Lord. I didn’t know until recently that they’re made in Virginia by the Virginia Candle Company.

Five People I’m Thankful for…

  1.  Carolyn, Sam, and Adelyn. OK, I’m cheating here by listing three for the top slot, but can’t I be effusive in my thanks for my family?
    • Carolyn. She’s my hero, my human anchor, my encourager and my best friend. She believes in me, roots me on, and picks me up. She hates it when she laughs at my dumb jokes. I love her. I’m attracted to her. She’s mine.
    • Sam. He’s loyal, loving, fun, obnoxious (wonder who he got that from) and has learned this year the power of God for salvation. He’s growing as a leader, a friend and a servant. His gratitude for his receiving a truck this year keeps me smiling.
    • Adelyn. She’s creative, crazy, a lover of gifts, books Starbucks and movies. We really connect over these last three. Her quick wit and sly smile keep us on our toes.
  2. Jim Rancourt. He’ll be surprised he made a list like this. Jim’s on the Leadership Board of our church, but since coming to Blacksburg, I’ve always felt completely supported, encouraged and challenged by Jim. His integrity and desire to grow personally in Christ has been a blessing to me.
  3. Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 8.22.06 PMBen Coulter. He’s a great musician, but I’m simply thankful for his unqualified support for my book this past year. He’s been “all-in” in helping promote, recommend and encourage me about its content. From its release last December to today, he’s been a great friend and support. (If you like country music, you need to check him out on iTunes!)
  4. My parents. Yes, I’m cheating again, but getting to spend this Thanksgiving with them by myself (Carolyn and kids prevented from coming due to winter weather; I flew in early) has been easy, fun and relaxing. They have always encouraged me to be me and supported me in every strange endeavor – from starting a graphic design business to entering ministry to starting a church to moving to Virginia to pastor another.
  5. George Renninger. He invited candy corns in the 1880s as an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company. When combined with peanuts, these little orange jewels make me happy. Thanks, George.

Spiritual Mile Markers Folks…

These are people who have had a distinct impact on my walk with Jesus this past year. They’ve been used by God in special and sometimes quiet ways to keep me centered on what and who matters.

  1. Michael Kelley. His book Boring was one of the top 5 I read this past year (review here). It’s message of not getting down on the repetitive and the “mundane” reminded me of the importance of faithfulness in the small things. Though we’ve only interacted a few times on a personal level, he’s real, and he’s always been an encouragement.
  2. Pete Wilson. Never met Pete. He’s the pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville. He spoke at the Refuel Conference in Lynchburg in October, and his message was exactly what I needed for that time. Thanks, Pete.
  3. John Shockley. I could have put John on the list above, but I wanted to include him here. He’s also on the Leadership Board of our church, and his tireless service and hard work as one of our Sunday volunteer leaders has a constant impact on me. Plus, he laughs at my jokes (and tells me new ones).
  4. Mystery Pray-er. There have been a few moments I’ve experienced a sense of profound spiritual peace, awareness and simply life this past year. The most recent moment was standing in line at the Starbucks in Target in Christiansburg. Not to sound all mystical or misty-eyed, but these have been tangible encounters with God’s loving presence. Each experience has been sealed with a quiet awareness of someone’s prayers. All I can say is that these moments have come at the most surprising yet perfect intersections this past year. Thank you, whomever you are, for your consistent intercession on my behalf. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.

There are so many others who could have made these lists. I have so much to be thankful for. In 2006, I included Jesus on my list, and it’s not that He doesn’t belong this year. It’s because I see Him as the author of these lists.

For what and whom are you thankful this year? Even if you miss a Thanksgiving day entry, I’d encourage you to articulate your thanks. One person’s thanks engenders another’s. The simplest things can provoke our gratitude. Even if it’s dressing.

On this day...