This year hasn’t turned out quite like I’d hoped. Okay, it actually hasn’t turned out anything like I’d hoped. But as typically happens when you stop trying to force your will and submit to God’s leading in your life, it turned out like I think it was supposed to.

I had a good feeling around this time last year that 2016 would be a year of big change. Of course, I thought that meant mostly external changes. Changes to our circumstances. Changes for the better.

That really hasn’t happened (although it seems some big changes of that variety might be on the horizon). What I got instead was internal change. I think my husband and I both went through a lot of growing and having our faith stretched this year. I went through some painful but incredibly necessary healing from my past. My husband went through some scary health-related trials. And although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that, outwardly, nothing about our lives has changed, I’m also daring to hope that this was a year of preparation so that we’ll better equipped to handle the kind of change I’m hoping for.

And through all the highs and lows there has been so much to be thankful for. So many blessings–some big and obvious, some a little more hidden. And while I’m of course thankful for the obvious things, like my husband and family and pets and a roof over our heads and a steady income to help keep it there, I want to list a some highlights of what God has done for me this year, for which I’m deeply grateful.

My husband is healthy!

As I mentioned, he had some health scares this year. It was quite a roller coaster ride, but the end result is that everything was treatable and manageable and, overall, he has a clean bill of health. With his medical history, this is seriously something to be grateful for. What’s more, throughout it all we could see God at work, comforting and encouraging us in very relevant and specific ways and getting Mr. B in touch with just the right medical experts who knew exactly what was happening and what needed to be done in the midst of a lot of confusion and cluelessness.

My oldest, fondest dream came true.

A few weeks ago, I became a traditionally published novelist. After a long, long road that included a lengthy detour through self-publishing, I realized a dream I’ve had since I was a teenager of holding a book in my hand that I wrote and that an actual publishing company believed was good enough to publish. I’m not knocking self-publishing, and I’m proud of my self-published books. I put a lot of work into them and I think I turned out some good products. But becoming a self-published novelist wasn’t what I longed for throughout the last three decades of my life. I had almost given up on that dream when God almost literally dropped a three-book publishing deal into my lap last year, which goes to show that if you have a God-breathed dream that seems to have died, just because you’ve given up on it doesn’t mean that God has. He can make it happen. He is faithful, just as he was faithful to answer the prayers of a young girl who dreamed more than anything of being a published novelist some day.

My past no longer hurts.

I didn’t exactly have an easy time of it growing up. Abuse, bullying, constant rejection, a tumultuous relationship with my dad . . . I carried around a lot of pain. I’d believed that they were all scarred over and toughened up, but God showed me how they were simply scabbed over wounds and how easily they could be opened up again. But then he bound up my wounds and truly healed them once and for all. Even more, I realized that I believed all of the lies that were spoken over me throughout my life, and adopted all of the labels that the enemy used hurting people to place on me. The Lord helped me to reject those labels and lies and replace them with His truth and the words that He himself has spoken over me. There’s still some work to do here, but this year I shed so much of the garbage that the enemy tried to attach to my soul and became much more fully my true self, the woman God purposefully created me to be. And it feels really good to be her.

So when I list it all out like that, this has actually been a year of pretty big change after all. It’s definitely been a year of blessing. And as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend here in the U.S. I’m also going to be thankful for small blessings like roast turkey and dressing and pie and cookies and the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix.

And of course, after Thanksgiving comes Advent. This will be my second year observing Advent (I come from a non-liturgical evangelical background that never really acknowledged it), and as part of my effort to be mindful and focus on what really matters as I prepare my heart and mind for Christmas and the coming year, I’m giving myself permission to slack off on blogging for the next few weeks. I’ll be re-posting some “best of” posts from the archives, and I’ll be back after Christmas to talk about my hopes and plans for the new year, but don’t expect a lot of fresh new content between now and then.

What are you thankful for this year? And if you’re here in the U.S. (or are an ex-pat who’s observing it far from home), Happy Thanksgiving!