No, 2020 has not gone the way we hoped or expected. No, 2020 has not been my favorite year. Think about the times we tried to understand all that has been happening. Covid. Grief. Change. Masks. Anger. Stress.

I remember finding my father’s body after he had breathed his last breaths on earth. I remember staring through the window to see my wife in her hospital room day after day. I remember trying to adjust and endure new guidelines of just being around people. I remember being exhausted, unsure, worried. I remember many difficult days.

But I also recall blessings. Amid the stress, there have been calming moments of hope and assurance. The smiles. The conversations. The meals. The words.

I could write a very long list, but I’ll select five things I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving 2020.

1. People

My family and close friends, students and staff, pastors and parishioners, writers and editors, the young and the not-so-young. Miles do not have to separate true, deep, authentic relationships. We can connect. The texts, the calls, the face-to-face conversations, the evenings feeding a few cows, the silence when sitting together, the long walks, and the honest talks have been medicine to my soul. As people, we need people. I am thankful for those people in my life.

2. Poetry

Yes, my tenth book came out in a year that would cancel my travel and lower sales at a time I really needed to make some money. Yes, not everyone enjoys poetry. But I’m thankful for poetry. To read it. To write it. To hear it. To reflect on it. Poetry invites readers to pause and stay a while. Slow the pace. Read. Read again. Stay a while. Amid the depressing news reports, poetry provided therapeutic prayer for me.

3. Prayer

Yes, some of my favorite poems are prayers. Some of my deepest prayers are poetic. Don’t you love the honesty of the Psalms? Isn’t it nice to communicate with a God our eyes cannot see but our lives depend on? Prayer—intercession, petition, study, worship, silence, listening—has offered me a safe place to grieve, to celebrate, and to rest.

4. Promises

I know we often take scripture out of context and turn it into a promise we want to believe. We confess it and repeat it and memorize it, forgetting the original meaning of the text. But, that mistake should not keep us from accepting and believing the true promises of God. They are there. They fit here. I’ve held on to them this year. Or maybe I’ve tried to let them hold on to me.

5. Peace

Even when there is chaos and division and hate and hurt all around us, there is hope for inner peace. I think back to hearing bad news following bad news during 2020. I remember Debbie and I hoping 2020 would be better than 2019, then realizing we were wrong. Yet, through the storms of disease and distance, of financial concerns and long term effects of Covid, of schedules shifting and plans changing, of medical bills and painful conversations, peace comes. God’s peace isn’t dependent on external circumstances. He can bring rest even when our world feels like a culture of consistent chaos. He offers calmness in the eye of our own hurricanes. Let’s receive His peace.

Well, those are my five. What are yours? Write them down. Refuse to be controlled by all the negatives. Let us rejoice today and give thanks.