While tomorrow marks a traditional day of giving thanks, it also ushers in the official Christmas season for the Neal family. I don’t know about you, but the whole holiday season feels like ‘thanksgiving’ to me. Everywhere I turn, I’m reminded how grateful I am for something – for the lights strung everywhere, for the Christmas songs on the radio, for the smell of pine and the secretive hiding of presents you just know the recipient will love. This year more than most, I have so much to be thankful for. It’s been a year of dark clouds and bright silver linings, of black mistakes and overwhelming forgiveness. There are things I’m thankful for every year – family, friends, life, health, but this year I’d like to detail a few things in particular, new to this year, that I’m so grateful to have.

This year, I’m thankful for

  • The gracious forgiveness of family and friends when I mess up in ways I never thought myself capable of. These past few months have been a veritable flood of grace and love, and have revived my faith in people.
  • Arielle, my old-same and soul-sister. We knew each other for years, but we didn’t find that special bond until earlier this summer. Our souls met and said ‘oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you,’ and she’s one of the best women I know.
  • Lauren, the other half of my brotp. We bonded in pieces – first over Once Upon a Time, then over JuNoWriMo, and then over…well, everything. Here’s to a year filled with messy, tear-filled ranting and laughing until our ribs hurt.
  • My college daughters; Laura, Dabby, Liz, and Christine. They are bright lights and strong, growing, beautiful young women I’m proud and privileged to know. (Also, they’re crazy and I adore them.)
  • My publishing contract with Paper Crowns, a gift from God I hoped for but didn’t expect to receive so awesomely.
  • John Howe, the Merlin of art, and his willingness to guide me and answer my unending stream of questions. I never would have thought that I would personally know the man who inspired so much of what’s important to me.
  • The forward leaps my writing and art have both taken this year.
  • Last but not least, the painful (super painful) personal, spiritual growth I’ve done this year. It’s been a year where I’ve been broken into pieces, and putting those pieces back together has hurt. Re-setting fractured bones, learning to walk again. But those cracks are slowly, surely being mended with gold, and I’m becoming kintsukuroi.

What are you thankful for in this moment?

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