2015: How Hope Returns

I honestly don't know what happened to 2015. It was January. And then it was May. And now it is today. Here we are on the cusp of 2016, and I need a moment to look back before we lunge forward. Because this year was fast, but it was also real. And I don't want to forget it. A few nights ago, I read what I'd written in my journal on June 22, 2015:

"Maybe this is how hope returns. Slowly at first but then suddenly in a shape we can't deny. And we fit ourselves into it instead of trying so hard to fit it into us.

And we wake up rested, but we still remember how it felt, for all those months, to wake up restless. And He wrestled right there with us until we rested--weary and worn and sad. And we can see Him now, the shape of Him, in our memory. But we know that we did not sense Him then.

So today [June 22], as I wake up grateful in a season of new that He has given [I had just gotten a new job], I'm not so surprised that I don't sense Him. But I've the surest suspicion that, looking back, I'll see the shape of Him wrapped tight around my waking form."

I was right. It helps me to look back and see Him. It helps me to remember that He was there and that He's also here and that I never go alone.

He's not launching us off into 2016, He's wrapped here tight around our waking forms. And I am grateful. And I don't want to forget.

I learn a lot here on this blank space of a blog screen. Writing is how I make sense of things. I come here more often with something to learn than with something to say. So thank you for being a sounding board for my ramblings and my wonderings. Below are a few things I learned here in 2015. (Should you care to remember as well, you can click on the link to read the original post.)

1. I can be told “no” more times in one month than I’d have thought possible. And I can survive it even if I don’t enjoy it. [But, dear Lord, thank you that January 2015 didn’t last forever!]

2. The conversation about God's faithfulness and our singleness makes me a little bit uncomfortable. God is not going to be faithful. God already is faithful.

3. Sometimes a year teaches us a lot about endurance. And sometimes we don't realize, at that one year mark, that we're still in the thick of it. My friend Bethany wrote on Instagram the other day: "I don't know what it is about the passing of 365 days that pressures us to 'be over' something." It's true. We do that. To ourselves and to each other. If you're on day 371 of something, I get it. You're not alone. May you know God's peace and His presence right there in the middle of it.

4. It's really fun to make a list of things you want to do during the last year of your twenties and then pressure your friends into making it happen!

5. It's good to know what we don't do. Boundaries. Big and small. I leave my bed unmade on Tuesdays to remind me of this.

6. Sometimes the healing comes in the telling of the stories we'd rather forget. I'm going to be honest about something because I think some of you might need to hear it. I wrote this post in April. I didn't finally let the whole story spill from my lips until well into September when I was ready and when someone sat down to listen, asked just the right questions, waited just long enough for the answers. I wasn't keeping scandalous secrets. I was just mulling over details of a story--of my story--that I couldn't make sense of, that I'd let swirl in my mind for over a year, that I'd refused to lay down at the feet of our Father, that I needed help carrying to Him. If you can't tell Him the whole story on your own, get yourself to the home of someone you trust, and ask them to go to the Lord with you. I am so thankful for the people in my life who will do this with me--who will listen to my story and tell me theirs. Really. I love each of you so much.

7. There are seasons when we feel sidelined. And they're hard, but they're also sweet. And it's hard to know when we're ready to run again.

8. A summer without Blue Bell is a sad, sad thing. But this too shall pass. And for me, the ice cream famine of 2015 ended with a coffee shake before work on the day that Blue Bell returned to stores. August 31, 2015-you were a glorious day!

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11. God still sees me. He still remembers. He still moves on my behalf. And sometimes we need a tangible reminder. And He knows that. And He gives it to us. And when He does, we get to stand right there beside that memorial stone and remember that He remembers.

12. We all need rescuing. [And I am stubborn and don't like to admit it but actually want it just as badly as everyone else.]

13. There is freedom in being unfinished.

14. Sometimes we're just scared. And fear wants us to stand stoic, to deny it, to ignore it, to stare down danger in the name of boldness. But faith? Faith kneels and confesses the fear to a Father who kneels to comfort.

15. The world needs our whispered stores. Because the whispered stories are still the ones that speak the loudest of the faithfulness of our God. The whispered stories are the ones lived out by those we know and love and linger with around the table–the ones close enough that we can hear the whisper. Maybe that’s what Jesus knew: that the quiet voices closest to us would manage to speak louder than the world.

And maybe what stands out the most is what the Lord showed me about restoration. That we can be restored to life. And love. And laughter. And hope. And wholeness.

That's what 2015 really was for me--a year of restoration. The first half of it was hard. Because I was tired, and uncertainty outlasted my optimism. I looked around at a life I hadn't expected, and I didn't know what to do with God in the midst of it.

But God knew what to do with me.And He knows what to do with you too. And He is faithful. And He will keep showing us that He is over and over and over again. Because that's what faithful Fathers do.

May you look back and see the faithfulness of our God. And whether you wake up in 2016 rested or restless, may you know that the Lord is wrapped tight around your waking form. And if it's lost, may hope return. Even if it's slowly. Until it takes a shape that you can't deny.

Oh, Lord, keep making Yourself known to us. We need you so desperately. We love you so much.