Top: Me on my 3rd birthday, a la Miranda. Bottom: The first picture I’ve found in which I look like Kaykay.

It may not come as a surprise to you that sometimes I can have a bit of an attitude. It comes out in my sarcasm, my punning, my quippy comebacks. What it is, is defense.

I told someone this week – a new friend, a cool friend – that I still feel like a dork most of the time. In school I never was the first with a cool accessory (Kanga Roo zipper shoes, Jordache purses, parachute pants – God was actually watching out for me there), I was self-conscious about my pre-three-years-of-braces smile. I was more bookish than athletic.

In the last few years, something has happened to me. I have been reconciled. Know what I mean? The awkwardness of childhood, the crazy mistakes of youth, the tentativeness of becoming an established grown up… it is gone. I am who I am and no longer offer apologies. It’s not because I am perfect or better or even very confident. It’s because I accept that I am who I am supposed to be, where I am intended to be, doing what I was meant to do.

For that, I am truly very thankful.

I am also thankful for this trulytrulytruly amazing and adventurous year. I still cannot believe that Rod and I ‘threw a convention’ this year, in a town we’d never even visited… but what is more unbelievable is that it all worked and fit. We made friends we will have forever. We have new dreams we will chase forever. We have Branson in our hearts as a home, be it full time or some time. We know what we are supposed to do, and that is to forward the gospel message by uplifting those who sing gospel music. Whaaaat? That is so far removed from ‘teaching high school English,’ which is where I always thought I would be. Crazy. Wonderfully crazy.

I am thankful for old friends who have trickled back into my life. I accept that Facebook means we sometimes have passionate and wordy reunions before sometimes drifting into an occasional click of the ‘Like’ button. It’s ok. There are more than a handful of people whom I thought I’d never talk to again, and now I’ve gotten to see their pictures and hear their stories, and for that I am so, so grateful. I am also thankful for the truly rekindled relationships that have blessed me this year and friends who have come careening out of nowhere right into my daily walk.

I am thankful for each of the four kids living under my roof. I am thankful for the laughter, the insanity, the understanding, and the richness that our unconventional family affords us. I am thankful to be a ‘young mom’ of teenagers, because though Josh and Paige might not believe it, I do really, really remember what it felt like to be all hormones and few brain cells, all heart and little regard, all pop cans and no garbage cans, and my memory helps me to navigate through territory that scares the crap out of me as a parent. I am also thankful that even through brain lapses or insensitive days/episodes/years, I know they love being part of this family as much as I do.

I am thankful that Miranda makes the consummate effort to call me ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’ instead of Mom, because she knows how much it means to me.

I am thankful that Kaity knows every word to every song in her repertoire and sings in her sweet voice no matter who in the grocery store or church pew might not appreciate it as much as I do.

I am thankful for my anchors… my Mom and Dad, our family, my friends, our multiple church families, for not letting me forget what home is.

I am thankful for every encourager who spoke to me this year at just the right time. You know who you are.

I am thankful that my best friend still wants to be with me every day and night, especially now that he works mostly at home and is truly with me every day! I am thankful that he overlooks that nearly two years after Kaity was born, I am still ‘all baby.’ (Tae Bo and Weight Watchers, take me away). I am thankful he has not asked me to change my Italian-Irish sense of passion but waited patiently for God to turn me into a minister’s wife. I am thankful for our date nights and our laughter and for that moment in May across our desks when we vowed to follow a call together no matter what it costs us. The payoff has meant everything.

I am thankful for Monday nights on Jen’s couch just watching TV and for coffee and kid dates when none of the mommies care how messy it is as long as we get to actually talk for awhile!

I am thankful that after 25 years – no joke – of writing and writing, there are people beyond the ones who know me who read these words. I don’t know what’s next. It’s humorous how much I don’t know what is next, but I know that God has plans and purposes and as I read today, “Unexpected blessings already on their way.”

I am thankful for Mary Beth, Jenny, Cheryl, Kerry, Heather, and Rachel, who are walking roads this year I can only begin to imagine in my worst nightmares, but who continue to do so in grace and strength that both breaks my heart and inspires it. I have no idea why God has put you in my daily prayers, but I know that He is holding your angels close and waiting for you.

I am thankful for dark chocolate, fresh coffee with flavored creamer, a fenced in back yard, health insurance, Hollywood Boulevard cinema, a sunroof, Twitter, that I can see the Chicago skyline from my neighborhood on a clear day, and of course and mostly, for the Giver of all things. Thanks for this incredible life, Jesus. You do miracles so great.