Nov 23, 2011

Microwave Thanksgiving

Lots of people have been doing a "30 Days of Thankfulness" on their Facebook page.  Each day, they post something they are thankful for (if they remember).  I have always thought this was very cool.  And this year I fully intended to do it.  But I forgot.  This is pretty normal for me.  I forget a lot of stuff.  I was very happy that the iPhone came out with their Reminders app.  I use that to remind me of things.  Unless I forget to put them into the app.  In which case I doubly forget.  I'm pretty helpless.  Anywho... This year I really wanted to express my thankfulness.  A lot has happened on a variety of fronts that has helped me to really appreciate all of what I have.  So, here goes 30 Days of Thankfulness in one day.  It's like a Microwave Thanksgiving.  (Oh, hey, that's where the title came from.  Heh heh.  Clever.)
  1. I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the reason I am who I am.  Everything I do, I do for Him.  And He is at the heart of my entire life.  I can't help this and don't apologize.  Without Him, the rest of these don't matter.
  2. I am thankful for my beautiful, brilliant, awesome wife, Heather.  I don't deserve her.  From the very beginning, people told me I was "marrying up."  They think this is a revelation to me.  It is not.  I was aware of this from the very beginning.  I may be dumb, but I am not stupid.  She pushes me to be better and constantly impresses me with her amazing talents.  (You aren't going to get through this without crying.  Are you?)
  3. Josiah.  He's my firstborn.  He is patient with me learning things as I go.  I get the joy of watching him develop his talent and expand his brain.  And he's just a darn cool kid.  
  4. Natalie. She is sweet and beautiful and incredibly smart - my little princess.  She cuddles with me.  I am proud as I hear her sweet heart and watch her grow into a wonderful young lady.
  5. Gabe. He's wild and crazy and funny.  But he also loves to snuggle and hang out with me.  He is just a fun little boy and brings so many smiles (yes, some frustration too).  I'm a lucky dad.
  6. My mother.  Patricia Staples poured her life into my siblings and me.  She fought to help us to become good people, despite the challenges in our path.  And she has always been there for us, no matter how old we get.  She is the best mom I possibly could have had.
  7. My in-laws.  Many people complain about their in-laws.  I don't because there isn't anything to complain about.  Sam and Lois Crissinger are the best in-laws in the world.  They support us and love me and set incredible examples.  I consider myself so lucky to have married into their family.
  8. Holly.  She was my first best friend.  And I still deeply value her friendship.  She forced me to move out of my shell when I was younger and challenged me to be better when I was older.  She's forgiven my stupidity more times than I can count.  Plus she brought my nephew, Toby, into the world - and he's just awesome.  (Bonus Thanksgiving point!)
  9. Chris.  I always looked up to Chris and wish I could have been more like him.  He had the work ethic, the athletic talent, and ethical commitment that I wish I had and was insanely jealous about.  I still look at him and wish that I could work as hard as him and be as diligent.  He pushes me, even when he doesn't know it.  (And, unlike when we were younger, this push isn't in a wagon down a hill.)
  10. Andy and Shell.  - Heather's oldest brother and his wife (along with their two beautiful daughters, Beulah and Chayah) have been two of my biggest encouragements and cheerleaders.  I cherish the time and conversations I have with them.  I often look at them and see the kind of parents and people I want to be.
  11. Mike and Ria.  Heather's youngest brother and his wife also have been incredible encouragements to me.  They also are a reminder to not get so worked up about things - to be patient and controlled.  I can get so high strung by life, but with them, it makes me realize things aren't worth getting so upset about.  (A very similar thing that Mike's grandfather used to do to me - gave me perspective.)
  12. Dave and Lacy. Heather's cousin and his wife have grown to be more than just extended family to us.  They are as close as siblings, but also two of our best friends.  They have filled voids in our lives and allowed us to fill voids in theirs.  In addition, they let my kids smother them with love.  It is rare to have friends like them - or to have family like them.  It is unbelievably rare to have both in the same people.
  13. Extended Family.  There are so many extended family that I could fill the rest of the spots with them.  From my half-sisters, Mary and Sue, to Heather's uncle Rich.  My nieces and nephew.  My sweet Aunt Dee.  Uncle Jim and Aunt Rosie.  Mark, Sherri, and their kids.  And so many more.  The encouraging words of Nila, Paul, and Diane.  Each of them holds a special place in my heart.  And my life wouldn't be the same without any of them.
  14. Defender Ministries.   I am blessed and honored to be able to serve in a ministry where my own personal failures are able to help others.  To be able to write and teach and develop resources is a humbling thing.  Our lessons and materials have been used by thousands of people in over thirty states and over a dozen countries.  That is just incredible.  You can't help but be humbled by that.
  15. Charles Wise.  My ministry partner and one of my best friends.  It is rare to be able to have both in one person.  He is like a big brother, a dad, an uncle - he's family.  He gives me guidance, calls me on my stupid behavior, and allows me to talk a lot.  We've been through lots of ups and downs through the last seven years.  But it seems a lot easier doing it together.
  16. Live in America.  It may seem trite or cliched to say this.  But it is true.  We live in a land of plenty and opportunity.  Even at its worst, with things looking so grim, where else would you want to live?  We have so much.  We are given such an advantage over most of the world.  We are allowed to be free to worship and live how we want.  It's easy to take it for granted, which really is a testimony as to just how blessed we are.
  17. Medical Professionals and Technology at Moffitt Cancer Center.  On Monday, my mother underwent extensive surgery to remove endometrial cancer.  In days past, she probably would not have survived that.  Instead, she is already home to celebrate Thanksgiving - walking around and getting back to her life.  The doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other personnel there helped that to happen.  I can't express enough thanks for that.  I will also lump into this the people who have made Heather's medical school experience so wonderful - the professors, preceptors, and fellow students.  (Especially Austin and Ashley Henkel. - Bonus!)
  18. Bananas.  I told Natalie today how I thanked God for bananas.  She looked at me weird.  But I do.  They are tasty.  They are a great way for me to stay on track with my food choices.  They aren't too expensive.  I just like them.
  19. Apples.  You may call me an Apple Apologist.  But I really am thankful for their products.  I love my computer, my phone, my iPod.  My wife loves her iPad.  I love the fact that their stuff makes my life easier and richer.  And it allowed me to work with some great people like Veronica Fish and Chris Anenome and the other people at R143.  
  20. Summit Church. We haven't been there long, but we are thankful for it.  I love watching my kids growing and having such a great experience.  I love having so many ways to serve for my wife and I.  It is a great church and we are thankful that we were led there.   And we get to see Erik and Tiffany Wieder a lot now.  And they are just awesome people.  (Another bonus point!)
  21. UCF. I love my alma mater.  On one hand, it allowed me to meet some great friends and have some great experiences.  It also helped East Orlando to develop - which gave us a reason to live there and work there.  I enjoy watching UCF sports.  So many experiences in my life began with my time there.  I'm thankful it was my school.
  22. College Ministry.  College Ministry changed my life.  And it changes so many other students' lives.  I am always broken hearted when I see a church think that college ministry isn't important enough.  Groups like BCM and Campus Crusade are invaluable.  In my own life, it change me forever - for the better.  In addition, it brought me into contact with people like Allen and Candy Turner, Matt and Sarah Sharp, Byron and Bern Kirkpatrick, and dozens of others that made me into who I am.  Having worked in that field for nearly a decade, I got to have so many wonderful experiences.  And I got to work with people like Connie Ricks, Brad Crawford, Rahul Agarwal, Lee Howell, Becky Crandall, Tony Olesky, and Loy Reed.  You can't help but get better in that crowd.  
  23. Holidays.  I love the fact that there are holidays.  They give you a break and a rest - often when you need it most.  But it also gives a reason to be with family and friends.  It isn't practical to drive from Florida to South Carolina on a whim.  But a holiday gives a good reason.  So that means I get to hang out this weekend with numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 13 on this list.  Holidays are awesome.
  24. First Years Preschool and Kindergarten.  All three of my children have now attended this school.  And it is, in my honest opinion, the best preschool in the world.  It equipped my kids to be prepared for school, developed their personalities, loved them, and taught them about God.  It has been such a blessing and built such a great foundation.  
  25. Mentors.  I can never express enough thanks for people like Eddie Gilley, Byron Kirkpatrick, Jeff Kipi, Bob Bray, Charles Wise, John Blann, Tadziu Trotsky.  Those guys invested in my life and pushed me to be better than I was.  They didn't allow me to stay in my goofy state - living a mediocre life.  They saw something worth developing and went above and beyond to work with me.  I can never express enough thanks.
  26. Memories. I'm glad that we can remember things.  That may sound stupid, but that is all I have left of people like my dad, my grandparents, and Heather's grandparents.  I may miss them, but at least I still can remember them.  So it isn't like they are completely gone.  
  27. International Community School.  One class.  One year.  It shouldn't have made such an impact on me.  But that school burrowed under my skin.  And I can't help but be thankful for it.  It rewarded me richly.  It gave me friendships with some amazing students, as well as with some terrific adults (Carrie Baker, Robyn Terwilleger, the Kreidts, Greg Willson, the Egglestons).  I still hope that at some point I can officially be a part of that school.
  28. Weight Loss.  I am glad that I no longer wheeze when I tie my shoes.  I'm not embarrassed to be in pictures.  I can play with my kids.  And I don't look like a shaved panda with a severe allergic reaction.  It's been nearly two years since I started the process, and have kept off the weight.  Unless you've been an enormous land dwelling mammal, you can't understand the freedom of being released from that.  
  29. Entertainment.  I like movies, sports, music.  I enjoy playing Angry Birds, Word with Friends, and Jetpack Joyride.  I'm glad that there are things to waste time on.  And I'm glad we live in an era where that is accessible and acceptable.  I'm thankful my days aren't spent winnowing and my evening entertainment is watching crickets mate.  I admit it - I'm soft.  I like my fun time.
  30. Hope.  I am thankful that we have hope.  It is a powerful thing.  It allows us to look to the future and dream of something better.  We can reach a different status.  We can grow a family.  We can think of something beyond this life.  To have no hope is a depressing thing.  I am thankful that is not where we have to be.  
  31. MEGA HOLIDAY BONUS!!! Friends.  I often have avoided doing these lists for fear of leaving someone out.  If I did, I hope I haven't offended you.  I am so thankful for my friends.  They are such a great blessing.  I have tried to embed many of those people in other areas.  But as a way to catch some who fell through the nets, I offer up this point.  I thank God for people like David Tarkington, Benji and Amy Stultz, Toney and Anna Sauls, Randy and Susan Gillis, Tim DeMoor, Thomas Blevins, Greg Ramer, and so many others.  I may stumble along the path, but I never walk alone thanks to these people.  

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