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With Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude for the many people who have blessed my life. There are so many people, opportunities, and experiences I am thankful for that there is no way I could contain them all in a list. I hope that after you read my list, you will take an opportunity to show gratitude to someone today, too.

1. Mom, thanks for all those nights you sat up at the foot of my bed when I was sick. For all  the things you did to make every day count. For the way you made my birthday seem like one of the most important days in  the whole world. For nights of baking treats for school or soccer when we forgot to tell you very far in advance. For singing hymns with me and teaching me to harmonize. For your patience with me as I grew up and tried to figure out who I wanted to become. Of course there have been times, like all moms and daughters have, where we butted heads or disagreed, but I have never doubted that you love me. You are a great Grandma to my kids, and they love you so much. Thank you!

2. Dad, thanks for all those nights you stayed up late and helped me on science projects I put off until the last minute. For all those days at the kitchen table where you patiently explained geometry (or some other math) to me time and again until I got it. For those times where you showed emotion and let me know that even strong men cry sometimes. For teaching me to clean my own fish – even though it grossed me out – and for showing me how to change a tire so that I wouldn’t be helpless on the side of the road. For the way you sacrificed so much to provide for our family, and still gave so much to my brother and me when you were home. You are a great Papa, and my kids think the world of you. Thank you!

3. To my brother, thanks for being the best little brother I could have ever had. For LEGO battles and Nerf wars, and epic games of hide and seek. For the way you picked on me just enough to annoy me, but never so much I doubted you loved me. For the way you and your wife send the most fun family activities to us in the mail. For including us in the big moments of your life. Thank you!

4. All my family, thanks for the way you make everyone feel welcome, no matter who they are. For the way you make every family milestone an event that will never be forgotten. For your zest for life, your all-embracing hugs, the way every time we are together I laugh more than I have in a long time. I miss all of you so much, and I love you. Thank you!

5. The friends I have made and kept over the years, thank you for the ways you have changed my life. You have had kind words when I needed them, reality checks when I needed those more, and most of all your time and friendship. Even though many of us are separated by hundreds (and thousands) of miles, we always seem to pick up where we left off, and I know you are always only a phone call or email away. Thank you!

6. My fifth grade homeroom teacher, thanks for making me stay after school for handwriting lessons. You saw potential in my work, but knew that if I couldn’t learn to communicate in a way others could read, I would be hindered for the rest of my schooling. For the faith you had that I would grow up to accomplish amazing things, and for the way you found extra things for me to do and learn so I wouldn’t be bored. For teaching me that the two  most important rules to live by are to show respect to myself and to show respect to others. Even though you towered above us in stature, and looked strong and menacing (from running multiple miles every day), you were firm, but caring. You loved every student you had, and wanted great things for them. Thank you!

7.  To my pastor who taught me the basics of faith, thanks for the way you showed unconditional love to everyone. For giving me my first opportunity to read Scripture in church. For the way that, even now, you are just an email away when I have ministry questions, or have struggles and doubts. You have shown me that ministry doesn’t end when someone grows up and moves away. Thank you!

8. To my freshman year writing professor who gave me my first C and told me I’d never amount to anything as a writer if I didn’t get better at revising, thanks for teaching me that if people can’t understand my writing and speaking, they can’t understand me. Thanks for giving me my first experience of being unsuccessful at something I cared about because it lit a fire inside of me that changed my life. Even though we didn’t see eye to eye, and even though there were times where I felt humiliated in class, I’m a stronger person with clearer goals as a result of having you tell me that I could amount to something great if I just tried harder. Thank you!

9. My husband, you and I have been through so much over the last 13 years. I’ve finished my bachelors degree. We got masters degrees together. We’ve spent time unemployed. We’ve gone through times of sickness, and times of well-being. We’ve had two great kids together. Through all of the experiences we’ve had, you have taught me the importance of servant-hearted love. For the way you get holes in the knees of your jeans from playing games on the floor with the kids. For the way you support me and love me. For being the great pastor you are without sacrificing the father and husband you were first. Thank you!

10. To my kids, you have shown me what a joy it is to watch you grow into who you are. For the way you love each other. For the way you notice things in the world I would otherwise miss. For the deep and abiding blessings and love you give to me every single day. My life would not be the same wonderful thing it is if you weren’t in it. Thank you!

11. For people who shine light into every room they enter. For those who live lives of integrity. For those who are unafraid to move slowly and be patient in a world that would rather us be frantic and scattered. For those who “pay it forward,” and share little bits of grace through random acts of kindness. For those who haven’t become cynical, hardened, or defensive. For those who give selflessly. For those who live simply. For those who count each day an opportunity to change the world for the better. We need you. Thank you!