because every year is just another chapter in a far greater story that’s still being told

another year–gone. another year of memories and feelings, experiences, lessons learned. another year full of ups + downs, highs + lows, and i look back and i remember and i breathe thanks for each + every moment of it.

twenty-thirteen was one hell of a ride. five days into the new year, i returned to liberia, to life lived in hard places and this messy-beautiful thing called ‘missions’ and ‘ministry’. i taught and i preached and i laughed and i loved. i ached and i held and i cried and i fell apart. i lived. looking back, i think that’s one of sweetest gifts liberia has given me:: the ability to live, fully, in the moment, to suck the marrow and bloom where planted and seek the gifts–because He is good, and everything that comes from His hand is good as well.

this year i embraced change. i walked away from what had become my new normal: round-trip tickets across the ocean, a life lived out of suitcases and plastic bins. i hugged “my” children, sons and daughters not of my womb but most assuredly of my heart, and i told them goodbye. i walked away from needy ones and hungry hearts, with tears in my eyes and arms that felt so very empty. i chose to fight for my well-being, to look grief and trauma square in the eye; i chose to not let it win. i talked about what i’d seen, what i’d felt, what i’d lived through, and it hurt–good Lord, how it hurt. but the hurt eventually gave way to hope: hope that there could be beauty from ashes, healing for the tender places. hope for a new + better story.

this year i saw reconciliation in ways i never thought possible. and i remember praying for that one year ago, and i swallow the lump in my throat as i reflect on the Faithful One. there was closure and i’m sorry’s, and i finally felt the weight on my chest lifted, and oh, it felt so good to breathe again. i realized that sometimes, healing comes in the most unexpected of ways and often looks nothing like we think it will. but it’s better, somehow, because it feels more deep and more true, like it was always meant to be this way all along. and now i can think of what once wounded me and wish it well, and there is such an incredible freedom that comes with it.

this year i learned about grace, about loving the unlovely, about the hard work of making peace and extending mercy. i learned about swallowing my pride and keeping my mouth shut, about being slow to speak and quick to listen. i learned to no longer fear that which looks foreign, that which i cannot yet understand. i learned to embrace mystery, to be content without plans and guidelines and step-by-step directions. i learned that messy can still be holy —because there’s a Jesus who kneels with us in the dirt and grit.

i don’t know what 2014 holds for me yet, and really, i think i’m okay with that. so often, i rush into what’s next, into the new and better thing that’s waiting on the other side of the door. but for now, i just want to pause. i want to sit in what was and what is and celebrate. i want a moment to pay respects, to give a proper goodbye. i want to linger, to remember, to simply hold this year in all its weighty glory before i go turning that next page.

Image                                               [Photo by Martin Marcinski, Creative Commons]