I’m fairly certain I’ve spent most of my life riding in the back seat of a car. That’s an observation, not a complaint: I love riding in the back seat. It’s therapeutic for me. Being a passenger and not the driver means I have to utterly let go of control, utterly trust the driver, and look at the world as it rolls by the window.

My favorite drives are Sunday drives with The Boss to and from the Asian supermarket. We travel along winding back roads that twist haphazardly through stretches of open space and small neighborhoods. There are decade-old potholes as deep and as wide as casserole dishes that The Boss steers around out of habit. On either side of the road is a tangle of trees with occasional breaks of houses or mom-and-pop stores.

We always drive through at that time of day when the summer sun hits at just the right angle to make the leaves and grass glow like emeralds in the light. There is one area with a horse farm and you can watch the horses toss their tails as they graze on grassy hillocks settled behind white picket fences. The sky is a golden-blue—not the clear, clean blue of an autumn sky, but the kind of sky that’s smeared with the gathering heat. And all around are the lazy heads of mountains lolling sleepily in the sun.

A few minutes later and we’re out of the middle of nowhere and back on a busier road, but even the cars, with all their different shapes and colors, are oddly beautiful. There are trees lining the highway, tall, thin, and old, but majestic and watchful. I see birds on the telephone wires: coal-black crows and daffodil-yellow finches and cardinals the color of Christmas and fat robins with tangerine-colored vests.

I watch patches of weeds whisk by the car window.  Why is it that even the pesky plants can be beautiful? There are purple thistles and sunny dandelions and Queen Anne’s lace like wisps of cloud. Then there are those little unidentified weeds with velvety leaves and tiny purple blossoms that poke out like clusters of grapes. And then I realize that “ugly” is truly a relative term. Children gather handfuls of dandelions for their mothers. The mothers tell them they’re weeds. The children insist that they’re beautiful flowers.

Today I got the overwhelming feeling of being incredibly happy to be alive.

I breathed in the feeling. I’m sure The Boss wondered what it was that I was inhaling. But I simply had to. The past four months have been some of the worst of my life. Beyond that, I feel as though I haven’t been able to breathe properly for the past two years. Recently I confess I’ve been battling regret for those two years, knowing all along that the things that happened were not my fault. I was trying to do right in the power of God. As a result I have learned to lean on Him in ways I never thought possible before—and that I cannot regret. I was led through the valley of the shadow of death and came out alive and, finally, free. Vague, I know, but this is the internet, and for now that’s all you’re getting.

And today I felt that freedom. I looked at the world through unclouded, unworried eyes. I breathed into lungs unfettered by self-doubt and anxiety. And I saw such a beautiful, beautiful world.

How I pity people who walk around with their eyes, minds, and hearts closed.

We live on the prettiest planet in the universe. We are incredibly blessed to be alive. We have so many wonderful things to be thankful for.

May we—may I—never take them for granted.