As this year has drawn to a close, I’ve had a hard time thinking back over 2014 with anything besides regret and disappointment. Regret over decisions I’d made and disappointment that I haven’t finally gotten this life thing down. I mean, wasn’t this the year I was supposed to finally do that?
It’s no wonder that as soon as we cleared Christmas, I started gearing up for 2015 (read: getting ready to make 2014 eat. my. dust). So when the email from Ann Voskamp where she wrote about going into the New Year without fear hit my inbox, my first thought was: I am sooo one step ahead of you, sister. I don’t even need to read this.
Except I wasn’t. And I did.
Ann wrote about her daughter’s piano recital and the adjudicator’s words that I’ve had taped to my computer monitor for a while now, the grace-filled echo of something my mother told me when I first started playing piano these 30 years ago. Ann wrote about the lists we play in our heads at year-end, how the list of our failures is the wrong list to be playing, that we ought to instead be playing our gratitude lists.
It sounds so simple – this gratitude list – and sometimes I think we regard gratitude as such, and ourselves so ever-loving above it. Lord, save us from our ignorant pride that keeps us from Your joy.
I thought about the list I’ve been playing, largely in the minor key, this sad, broken refrain, and I thought: wouldn’t it be nice to head into the new year with a list of 2014’s gifts instead? So instead of telling you how much I failed at life this year, could I maybe tell you how much grace filled these days? Some of them will be big heaping piles of obvious grace. Some of them will be seemingly insignificant smatterings here and there. But the more I’ve made my list, the more I’ve realized: this year has been a year of grace. Not mine, of course. But His. And so I begin.
January 2014 – The (Almost Entirely) Free Remodel. House flood and homeowner’s insurance means new floors and bathroom cabinetry that I love and got to pick out myself. And now I also know I can survive a major home renovation.
March 2014 – #bostonbaby. Olivia and I got to spend a week in Boston
seeing my sister and her brood – including the baby niece. Upon arrival, I
plopped down in the living room comfy chair. Sharla handed me Baby P
and we snuggled and snoozed as the afternoon sun warmed the room and children wandered in and out, cousins playing together so naturally after almost three years of not seeing each other. Baby P and I, we stayed right there until dark. Never have I been able to be in Boston so soon after one of Sharla’s babies was born to hold and know them in their newness. It was easily the sweetest moment of our trip.
April 2014 – WOO. I spent four days away from it all and I got to know these seven women who have made my life rich in a way I didn’t even know it was poor. You know, in the church, we call each other ‘sisters’ in the sense that if we’re both believers, we’re sisters. But these women – these women are my sisters. As in, I’ll fight a bear for any one of them. A real freaking bear. It’s eight months now we’ve been on this journey together, and I still marvel at this gift, this grace.
May 2014 – The Anchor. There was this thing that I kind of had a feeling was happening, and it was an unpleasant thing. So I asked myself, what would I do if this thing actually happened? Would it destroy me? The answer was no. It would hurt, but it wouldn’t destroy me. In fact, I have watched far worse become my good. But as I was thinking this through, the Spirit said to my heart: In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. And I knew I’d be okay, no matter what.
June 2014 – We Made It. In early June, I spent several days in Omaha with colleagues from across the country finishing a revision project we began three years ago. It was a long, hard work, and there were times when I think we all wanted to burn those 200 pages we were revising. But we finished, and we finished well. Two weeks later, I sat in the movie theater watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 with Olivia, and I thought back to when we saw the first movie three years ago, and how we’ve been watching the TV series ever since, and how amazing it was that we’ve made it safely through all those days in between, with all their twists and turns and crazy. And I cried.
July 2014 – Dream Car. In mid-July, I paid off my beloved Highlander. And it was totaled exactly 15 minutes later. The accident was very scary. It was on the interstate, and a car that should have collided with Olivia’s side of the car somehow missed us entirely, leaving her completely unharmed. After the accident, I started looking for a new ride. One afternoon, I was half-praying, half-snoozing, and I made a list of everything I wanted our new car to have. And at the top of the list: PAID FOR. I refused to go into debt for another car when I’d just paid mine off. Three days later, my snoozy half-prayer was answered. Her name is Stella, and she’s our pimp ride.
August 2014 – The Anchor Held. That thing I’d had this feeling was happening back in May – I found out I was right, it was happening. Mere minutes after I found out, a sweet friend sent me a text. She said she just felt like she needed to remind me that God’s love is an anchor for our souls. That’s right – she said anchor. And right then, right at that moment, I started to feel like myself again – alive. Free. Whole. Anchored.
September 2014 – Fishing. From fishing off the bridge at my dad’s place to hanging out on Nimrod with my stepdad to the absolutely lovely weekend we spent on Bull Shoals with the Keltons where Olivia learned to fish and I learned what it’s like to burst with pure, unadulterated pride over this crazy natural ability you had no idea your child possessed and to not even care that, in the meantime, she is out-fishing you, it was a great month for fishing.
October 2014 – These Magic Moments. My sister’s birthday
party firepit, going to the shooting range with my stepdad and almost losing
my shoulder – but not my aim, hot air balloon night at MacArthur park with
Rachel, Robin, Ava and Livi, finally getting a sleepover on the schedule with
Holly’s sweet kiddos, Bekah coming to the State Fair with me and Livi and
making sure we had a ton of fun, and singing John Prine by the Maumelle
November 2014 – NoLa and Thanks. Went to New Orleans for work, wore an evening gown and sparkly earrings, walked the French Quarter, saw the St. Louis Cathedral, ate beignets. Came home and faced something scary and dark and gross, and my sweet Ines walked right up into it with me just so I would know I wasn’t alone.
December 2014 – WOO Take 2. I went back, this time as part of the leading team, and got to experience it all again, only this time with my heart a little more whole than it had been earlier this year, and I saw new things in myself – some good and some that make me wince at my still-brokenness. But over it all, grace. So much grace.
There have been lunches and dinners and sleepovers and lakehouse weekends and text messages and phone calls and that one time that I may or may not have slept out in the freezing cold with my amazing friend who may or may not be from Nicaragua. And in all of those moments, grace. Through all of these twelve months, grace. I have been loved well. By my Father and by the people He has let me love and be loved by.
So I’m done calling 2014 a disaster. I’m done mourning what I failed to do this year. Instead, I’m raising my Ebenezer. I am saying: here by Thy great help I’ve come. With never-ceasing mercy streams, His goodness has once again bound my wandering heart to Him.
And, oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.