life-changing

“Like I don’t want to hype the coffee up but it will change your life,” the text read. I almost laughed. Regardless of how life-changing the coffee will be at this new place, I am just looking forward to spending an evening with this wild, beautiful friend of mine.

Perhaps because I am a word-nerd and perhaps because I’m looking forward to good coffee, I’ve been thinking about that text message all day. (Heck maybe I’m just crazy for thinking about a text message all day. You decide.) Around lunch time, laughing through a staring contest with my toddler, the silly joy of it all just landed where I needed to hear it: what if you let it change your life?

Not in a big way – I don’t mean that. I’m not going to be stopping here every weekday AM for my morning coffee or anything. But I could let this expectation of great coffee fill my evening up with joy like a helium balloon so sky-bound it tugs against its string.

And if coffee can change my life, why not a silly staring contest with my toddler over lunch? Why not the contrasted flavor of sweet potatoes and a bowl of chili? Sometimes there just enough laughter involved in my grinning boy smearing his lunch across his tray (who says you can’t play with food?!) that clean up brings a memory and a smile, not a groan. On Wednesday the sky was pink with sunset clouds that hovered behind bare tree limbs. I left the sidewalk for the grass and snow, just to be more inside the sweet soft dusky beauty.

Maybe we need more moments like this. Maybe looking up at the smallest, most simple things can change our ordinary lives in the most profound ways of all.

counting

Songbirds are not as common in Colorado as they are in northern Minnesota. I miss them. Each time I hear one, I listen. I want to write it down, remember it. The songbird trills warm me gently like audible sunshine.

Last year I created the habit of cultivating gratitude. Each morning as often as I could I wrote down something I was thankful for. Anything, even simple things. A healthy meal. A quietly playing boy. Baby smiles, husband flirting, slow dancing, clean laundry, sunny days, snow on the mountains.

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I’ve gotten a bit out of the habit lately. This year I wanted to practice trying new things in courage, but I haven’t stuck to the gratitude as much, at least not to writing it down. But each time I hear birdsong, I still stop to listen.

My friend Mariah once gave me a tiny book Santa Claus on the cover. There was twine strung through a hole in one corner – it was meant to be a Christmas ornament. Instead I started writing down what I was grateful for; 1, 2, 3, … I skipped every other number to leave space for her. Then late in the winter I gave the book back.

“Here – it’s a gratitude journal for you!” She smiled and started writing; 2, 4, 6, … A few months later she gave it back.

“I originally gave it to you – I want you to have it!” she said gleefully. I read through her moments of gratitude and remembered my own. I kept writing. Later I gave her a small journal I had picked up in India. “I got us another,” I said eagerly, “Let’s keep writing!”

Journals have been going back and forth for almost four years now. We hunt down the sweetest, prettiest small notebooks and journals we can find for each other. One came to me at my bridal shower, a yellow leather book with loose-leaf pages on tiny five-ring binder. Another came with a baby package she sent us; this one a tiny journal with an adventuring compass on the front.

I get to see her in four days. I have a tiny notebook that didn’t quite have space for 600 numbers, half-full and waiting to memorialize her happiest moments. Time and again when I’ve forgotten this habit of counting, counting, that I learned first from Ann Voskamp, I suddenly remember Mariah and our shared tradition. It brings me back to rootedness. I plant myself in gratitude, listening eagerly to the few songbirds we do have, counting their trilled whistles slowly and happily.

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