And Now, A New Year

The tree came down this week. It was our very first real tree as a married couple and I didn’t mind the mess of the needles one bit. I’ve been warned that I’ll still be finding them in June!

Our area has been under a no indoor/outdoor gatherings restriction for the past month, so Christmas was very different for our family. I fully expected no indoor gatherings, but the no outdoor gatherings rule was tough to adjust to. Once the shock wore off and the sadness blew through, I made the decision not to let my anger at the whole situation rule the holidays. For us, “making the best of it” meant organizing Zoom gatherings and leaving lots of space in our home for play and rest. Although I missed my people desperately, in the end, it was a gift. The slow pace, the long stretches of nothing on the schedule — after a long year of abrupt changes and periods of adjustment, it was beautiful. And every pine needle I find in my living room for the rest of 2021 will serve as a reminder of the difficult and wonderful Christmas we shared.

And now, 2021. 

Already — a shocking year. This morning at the breakfast table our almost 8 year old asked why God lets people die if He knows we’re going to be sad about it. From our first experience with the death of a pet or a loved one to the very end of our days on earth, we grapple with the hard questions that have no simple answers. Our discussion this morning revolved around the freedom to choose and what life would look like if that simply did not exist. We talked about how God knows things we don’t know — that’s why He’s God and we aren’t. And we were honest about the existence of suffering: the Bible doesn’t promise a pain-free life, but it also shows us that very good things can come from going through very hard things. As we were talking, a passage from 1 Peter popped into my head.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

1 Peter 3:3-9 (NIV)

These past twelve months have given us plenty of opportunities to live in a constant state of outrage. It’s exhausting! But the good news of Jesus is the oasis in the desert, quenching my anger-parched soul with fresh, clean, cool water.

In this broken world, there can be no true flourishing apart from Christ. He is the inexpressible and glorious joy that fills our hearts when it seems all is lost. He is the One in whom we put our trust. The hope He gives cannot be dashed, the love He offers cannot be lost, the peace He brings cannot be disturbed.

The most beautiful thing we can pursue this year is to grow in our faith in Christ. May it be the kind of faith that transforms both us and the places we find ourselves in! 

Happy New Year.

January Sky

Lingering a Bit Longer

Can I just say that I love the New Year? I stood in the hallway looking at the Christmas tree the other day, knowing that it will have to be cleaned up this week, and I felt wistful yet hopeful.

Every 12 months we have this beautiful moment to look back and realize just what we have accomplished, and celebrate the things we’ve made it through. We’re so quick to forget those tough things, as if dwelling there for a moment will somehow affect how much trouble we’ll encounter in the next 365 days, but we need to linger a bit longer before we move on.

This past year was filled with moments that were so. incredibly. difficult.

We each have a few that stand out – the kind of moments you can’t even believe you made it through. Some may have been played out in the public eye – others are silent struggles that no one else could know. But you and I both know that there is One who sees us and stays by our side through it all. On New Year’s Eve I felt like I wanted to grab onto all my people and hold them close and cry and look each one of them in the eye and tell them I love you and can you believe we made it!

Instead, we played homemade Name That Tune and did the countdown and clinked our glasses with sparkling apple cider, wishing each other Happy New Year and texting fireworks to our family and friends who are far away.

In this life we always have the awful alongside the awesome – but I am praying for wisdom to recognize the latter in the middle of the former.

I choose to be thankful for all of it – the worst and the best of 2017, because of course, like any good year, there were also some moments that were so. incredibly. wonderful.

Are your highlights rolling through your mind right now? Mine too. They make my heart smile! The funny thing is, most of them are smack in the middle of some really tough times.

Let’s embrace 2018 with the confidence that, as in years past, we are never forgotten in what we are facing – the very good, the not-so-good, and all the in-between.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

 – Isaac Watts, 1719

sky colors

One of my favourites from 2017. Sunset glory.