Today I wake up to the smell of pancakes. My roommate and friend, Ida, says that her love language is food, and I am often the lucky recipient of her culinary skills. Thank you Lord for friendship and warm pancakes.

As I’m getting ready for the day, my phone rings. It’s my sister-in-law, Shira, who lives in Kentucky. She fills me in on the latest happenings with my baby niece, Lily, who is starting to crawl all around the house!  Thank you Lord for my family. For allowing us to be close, even though we live so far away.

I meet Denise, a friend from church, at Starbucks. As I reach for my wallet to pay for my pumpkin spice latté, I realize that Denise secretly paid for my drink before I even arrived. We have a sweet conversation about what God is doing in our lives and in the life of our church. Thank you God for the way your joy shines through Denise and for Spirit-led conversations.

I spend a few hours in my office at church. I work on the script for the children’s Christmas play, trying to make sure that every child has a part. I visit with our youth minister about our summer interns, check with our financial secretary about some budget questions, and work with our missions minister to plan an upcoming fundraiser for global missions. Thank you God for the life and work of our church, and for allowing us to be a part of what you are doing in the world.

I head to Subway and pick up sandwiches for lunch with my professor, Dr. Gloer. At lunch, we talk about preaching, pastoral care, and how to nurture our interior life with God amidst all the pressures of ministry. Dr. Gloer has a way of being with people that invites them to speak from their soul, and time with him is always a gift. Thank you Lord for for a seminary where I am affirmed and equipped to do what You are calling me to do and to be who You are calling me to be.

When I arrive back at the church, I pass the sanctuary on the way to my office. Light is pouring into the room through the stained glass windows. This sacred space is peaceful in a way that draws me in and invites me to stay awhile. Thank you Lord for the people who sit in these pews, for the people in our neighborhood just outside of these walls, and for your presence here with us.

Downstairs Sheila is preparing a meal for our children’s tutoring program. Her face beams with joy as she uncovers each dish and fixes each child’s plate. Thank you Lord for a home cooked meal for children who need it and the loving hands that have prepared it.

Tonight I receive lots of hugs. Davarien reads Dr. Seuss books to me, and I can’t help but notice the confident smile that lights up his face as he finishes each book. I hear the sweet sound of children singing Christmas music with their choirs. Thank you God for children who remind me what your Kingdom is all about.

As the night progresses, the children begin to unravel. I talk with a boy in the hallway who refuses to behave and quickly figure out that he just wants my undivided attention and love. I unsuccessfully try to redirect children who are bouncing off the walls and offer a word of encouragement to parents who are beyond exhausted. I hear one too many burps and other noises followed by bursts of laughter and wonder if the children are hearing a word I am saying tonight. Lord, I need your patience and wisdom, and may I leave this place tonight with my sanity intact.

I head home, crash on the couch, and watch my new favorite show, Parenthood. I love that I laugh and cry, at least once, in every episode. I try to read for school until I realize I can’t hold my eyes open much longer. Thank you, Lord . . . 

Mary Alice Birdwhistell is minister to children, Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas. She is also a student at Truett Theological Seminary.