Dear Friends and Family,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I hope this finds you well—well with your souls, at least—and that you are knee-deep in the sort of celebration that defies darkness and winter. Don’t feel guilty. Ignore anyone who says parties and presents threaten the “true meaning” of Christmas. If the first people to recognize infant Jesus as Lord were three “kings” who brought some awesome gifts, (Money? Expensive perfume, anyone?) who are we to scoff at sparkle and cheer?
In times like these, we need it. For me and many of you, it’s been a big year—a hard year. Big celebrating brings hope.
It turns out, I didn’t know Hope as well as I thought I did. I knew wishes; I knew expectations. But those have been broken wide open by the tumult of this year.
Hope has been that gossamer thread that divides the now-struggle and the not-yet-joy.
Don’t get me wrong: 2014 saw some glorious moments. I moved into an adorable sky-lit cottage, my favorite dwelling space I’ve ever had. I had hilarious visits with faraway friends and family. I grew this blog space and started to find my voice. I taught some extraordinary students, met brilliant colleagues. I went to YoungLife Camp in Oregon and got involved with YL’s Marin work. I helped with two beautiful weddings, got a new car, made new friends, started work as resident faculty at a new boarding school and began making much of my living as a writer.
But I didn’t do all of that by choice. My goodbye to the classroom was an unwilling one. I’m no longer driving my beloved racecar (to your relief, I’m sure) because of an accident I didn’t cause. People I dearly love moved away. I weathered the heartbreak and disillusionment of changing churches and of the shifting relationships in my “tribe”. I surrendered a ministry I built for 4 years, and I’ve struggled working 2-3 jobs at a time. With dubious victory, I fought an ongoing battle against isolation, loneliness, and despair. (And I couldn’t bring myself to post about most of that in the last six months.)
But that’s the thing about gifts. We make our lists, our specific requests of what we want and when, and then we wait. We think we know what we’re doing, what we’re getting—how it will turn out—but as the paper unfolds, we find something very different.
The truth is, my favorite presents have been ones that I never knew I always wanted. Beth and my mom are famous for this—a shirt I wouldn’t have had the courage to buy myself, a Kate Spade bag I carry every day, one I’d never even seen before opening it.
My best friend was surprised this year by a miracle son who has been our frail face of Hope and Glory.
Our greatest gifts come not from our own design, but from the unexpected stuff that rocks our world, even if we don’t know the implications of it at the time. Even if what’s been broken wide open feels more broken than open. Even if the small daily stuff stings. Hope is to say, “I don’t know how God is going to fulfill His promises, but I know that He will.
Today, I know He is with me. And I know one day, my deepest longings will be fulfilled.”
When we live with Hope, we don’t get tangled up in how our hurt and frustration will be relieved. We wait with openness, having learned we are more flawed than we ever knew, but also more Loved than we ever dared imagine.
The Christmas Miracle Son is our certainty the Promise will be delivered, and He’s our reminder we don’t know when or how it happens.
My prayer for all of us is this: that my life, your life, will radically change in an instant because the work of God was underway long before we knew it. I pray we’ll see the “unexpected” for the gift it is.
Until then, dress well.
Put a bow on it.
Let’s all Pop-Fizz-Clink and celebrate like it’s already here!