For loose holds and the last day of class - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 49

#SevenGratitudes is a weekly gratitude practice for the enlivening of my soul, a deepening engagement with the world, and simple encouragement for anyone who stops by.

Thanks for being here.

This week I am grateful…


For Christmas trees in Advent, a lesson in loose holds.

Embracing the liturgical year is a beautiful thing, but it is also a conflicting thing. The Year has cost me some expectations and traditions I grew up enjoying because the Year invites me to dwell deeply within the dynamic story of God’s love for the whole world. This means good news, but it also means I sometimes have to give up the kinda good for the better.

I have come to know that knowing God means holding things loosely because God is always better than I hope, more benevolent than I imagine, and wilder than I can fathom. Trusting God, therefore, is a risk. The symbols and traditions I come to love so much can all of a sudden and drastically not fit the grace I experience, the glimpse of the divine that She gives. Love confounds and breaks the handholds I contrive.

"Let them be signs, beloved," she says, "Let them be reminders and pointers—temporary shelters, not permanent dwellings. Go where I go, hold onto Me. There will be more signs and wonders."

Practically speaking, holding on loosely has looked like an assessment of personal practice and traditions. Aaron and I have been intentionally trying traditions together as a family. It is both fun and frustrating. We have enjoyed listening and learning from the multitude of signs the Body of Christ has recognized over the centuries—form the silly and superstitious, to the sanguine and sacred. But I have also at times gotten stuck in my deliberations with questions like, for instance, when in the WORLD should the Christmas tree go up?

I know some folks put theirs up at the beginning of Advent. Others do a progressive tree dressing: they set up the tree on Advent 1 and add to it every week, with the lights coming on St. Lucy’s feast day and the star on Christmas Eve. Still others save the whole shebang for a solely Christmas Eve tradition, the tree staying up ‘til Epiphany. I have been conflicted about the entire question—I mean, what even IS a Christmas tree anyway?

And then a gift unfolds in the doing. A sign emerges.

o christmas tree

My roommates and I put up our tree last Sunday because Holly wanted everyone to be able to enjoy it before we go our separate ways. We gathered. We untangled lights and unwrapped ornaments. We argued tree placement—here or there? This angle or that? And it was perfect.

Meagan pulled out these adorable magi and held them just so, and, just like that, I saw the sign of the Christmas tree for this Year.

magi traveling

I saw pilgrimage and anticipation. I felt the Advent, Christ’s coming, but not yet. I felt my own place on the road, in step with the wise ones from the east on their journey toward a Star they knew meant something wonderful.

The tree became a symbol of Advent. It became a guide for the mystical liminality of this season.

As the magic magi travel up the psychedelic spiral of our colorful Christmas tree, they are leading me onward towards Home.

Thanks be to God for simple signs and wonders.


For the week of the lentils.

Someone reminded me that one way I can remember the pilgrimage and preparation of Advent is through my food. So instead of indulging in EVERY piece of cake that has offered itself to me this week (and that has happened SO many times this week—holiday parties FTW), I enjoyed a few things on purpose—like this cupcake on Aaron’s birthday, provided my Islam professor.


Other than that, I have enjoyed The Great Week of the Lentils as I worked toward cleaning out my pantry before I move home to Dallas next week(!). Black Lentil Chili with tons of spiced veggies and Green Lentil Curry with fresh ginger and brown rice—YUM.

I am thankful for the gentle nudge to keep it simple, to take care of myself, and to herald the coming Day even with the food that I eat.


For my husband’s 28 years.

That’s right, Aaron had a birthday this week! This wonderful man of mine…I cannot wait to celebrate him in the flesh. Make of that what you will.

Grateful for all that has been born in him and through him since that first day back in 1989. Thankful for the person he has become, even before my own eyes, and I cannot wait to see who he will be. I am here for it. Every bit of it.


For a hard lesson in expectations—that I am learning to set more realistic goals for myself.

I missed a deadline I set for myself this week which, dadburnit, BUMMED ME OUT. I wanted to finish this one project by a certain time, but that certain time was not carefully chosen. It was not realistic. I am not a robot.

Thankful to learn this lesson in self-expectations. Thankful for professors and colleagues who, instead of shaming, help me reflect, adjust, and grow.


For the holy joy of sneaking and scheming on St. Nick’s day!

st nick

The ol’ bishop of Myra snuck into our apartment this week. We woke to a gift in three:

  1. Coins to remember St. Nicholas’ social engagement—when he threw money down a chimney this one time, he intervened in a situation that would have led to human trafficking.
  2. Socks to remember the ones who received his help in a spirit of cooperation—legend holds that the chimney-money fell into stockings hanging by the fire to dry.
  3. And chocolate-caramel candies because these memories are sweet and something to chew on.

Luna the Cat said St. Nick woke up too excited to sleep at 3 a.m. He stumped his toe in the dark, but loved it anyway. She saw it all. She always does.



For the last day of class.


It was yesterday and I cannot possibly write about it yet. I will just say that it was fitting and full. It was surprising and sacred.

My bosom friend preached. Tears, mine and others’, fell on my face. My cohort began making decisions about graduation in May. I hugged deans and professors and alumni. We drank beer and talked Baptist theology into the night.

It was good. May have even been epic. I am thankful for such a close, and for the hands that hold me still.  



Right now, as I write, it is snowing all over the southeast and right outside my window. With the flurry comes blurry memories of other moments in the snow. Like the peace that came last year around this time.


A post shared by Leanna Coyle-Carr (@leannacoylecarr) on

Thankful for creation’s voice and artistry—all in response to our Creator’s gentle love. How marvelous.

How are you venturing this Advent, beloveds? What gratitudes stir in your bones?

Thanks for being here!