An Open Letter to 2016

Dear 2016,


People hate you.


You were full of disappointments, loss, and a lot of negativity no one wanted. Sure, you tossed in a few high points that didn’t go unnoticed. Hearts were still left hurting, and many are celebrating your end has finally come.


I get it. I do. I actually don’t hate you. I feel for those who do though. I understand.


New Year’s Eve, 2010, I was one of the haters. That year (plus a few months) I had been stretched, tested, and felt a bit burned. My Grandfather died followed by my Grandmother a few months later. Planning two funerals of people so close to me was rough. My husband broke his foot while traveling overseas. My Father-in-law unexpectedly passed away while my husband was traveling in a third world country. We were heartbroken. We became pregnant with our first child, and then we tragically lost her in a miscarriage. I was crushed. My Mother-in-law had a heart attack soon after. Each day that passed, my Mother seemed to get sicker and sicker, but did not get answers on as to why. And right before Christmas, just when we thought we were about to get rid of you for good, our dog died. It felt as if you laughed in our faces as you took our four-legged Gracie. That New Year’s Eve, the only celebration we had was that you were over. As the clock neared midnight, my husband and I agreed we should list things we were thankful for and not launch the full on pity party we were feeling in our hearts. And so, like children being forced to say “Thank you,” we gave thanks we survived such a terrible year. We gave thanks for the things like a roof over our heads, cars that had gas, and for each other. Then we went to sleep and never saw you again.


I hated you back then. But as time passed, I learned to appreciate what I gained from you. You see, every tear that hit my pillow, and every scar etched on my heart was used. I was stretched. I was tested. I survived. Just as gold is refined through fire, I came out stronger than ever. I hated the things you threw at me, but serve a God that can turn the bad into something good. That’s the place where I found peace with you.


It’s okay for people to not like you, 2016. You don’t own them. You were only here to serve a purpose as they sojourn through. May they be strengthened by your stretching. May they be sharpened through your trials. May they be refined through your fire. May they give thanks even in the midst of not feeling thankful. May they find peace with the Greater Purpose the Lord has through it all.


Farewell, 2016. You will soon be gone, never forgotten, and always used for a greater purpose.



Photo Credit- Ian Schneider 



Build a Wall

I remember the first and last name of the salesman at Best Buy who sold my Dad our first ever CD player in the early 90’s. A man named, Clyde, installed new carpet in my childhood living room over 30 years ago. For some reason I can remember things like this, but I forget the one important item on the grocery list when I go to the store. And once, when we were buying a new car, we discovered I forgot to renew our auto insurance. This is how my mind works.


I happen to think random people are placed in our minds and hearts for a reason. I happen to think it may not be so random. I happen to think encounters aren’t coincidences. I happen to think the Lord might just orchestrate opportunities for us to be a light in a dark world; a world that cheapens encounters by camouflaging them as being meaningless. I happen to think prayer is powerful.


Years ago, I met someone who told about a wall in her home that was covered in pictures of random people. She spoke about how she would take pictures of people she encountered, post them on her wall, and pray for the people she met throughout the year. I’ve wanted to use her idea from the moment her words fell on my ears.


I’m not sure what happened to Jeff from Best Buy. I’m guessing he cut off the mullet, shaved the stash, and moved on to other things in life. I wonder if Clyde’s knees give him trouble these days from laboring as a carpet installer all those years ago. If I had a picture of them, you could bet I’d place them on a wall so I’d remember to pray for them.


Although it’s early, I’m going to jump the gun and make plans for a New Year’s resolution now. I’m going to start a picture wall. It’s going to be full of color, shapes, and beauty only the random can provide. It will be anything but meaningless.


Think I’m weird? You wouldn’t be the first. Think it’s cool? Join me. Build a wall. Pray. Make a difference in the life of the people you meet long after your paths go separate ways.


May your encounters with others mean something. May your wall be full of people who are in desperate need of prayer. May your eyes be open to those around you, and your heart be full from being used by Him.



Photo Credit- Redd Angelo 



Great Christmas Expectations

Years ago, I took my toddler and infant to see Santa. I expected a fairy tale memory and a frame worthy picture from it all. After waiting in a horrendously long line, it was finally our turn to walk up to the jolly old guy. I had one child hanging on my leg crying and the other on my hip refusing to be placed in the stroller. I had no free hands to push the stroller or hike my sliding purse back up to my forearm. It was a scene straight out of a zoo exhibit with other Moms practically watching the whole thing unfold with their noses pressed against the glass. None of them offered to help. As I was trying to push and steer the stroller with an elbow, someone finally came to my rescue on the long red carpet. Santa himself rose up, stepped down off his throne, walked toward me, and met me where I was. As he reached for the stroller, my purse fell, and all the contents scattered in opposite directions. A baby bottle went rolling to the right and lipstick went rolling to the left. Santa (Bless his heart) chased after them all and put my purse back together again. Awkward.


Thankfully, my sense of humor trumped embarrassment, and I chuckled past the other Mothers giving me judgmental looks. Clearly they were perfect, their children don’t always smell like mustard, and they have more than two hands to juggle life. Good for them. I would have happily refunded their zoo admission, but I wasn’t sure which pocket Santa had crammed my wallet into. Alas, we ended up with a mediocre Christmas picture with Santa and a lesson for me to set low expectations for the future years.


This week, our five year old informed us he wants a television for his bedroom for Christmas. Our three year old wants a bounce house. Neither is going to happen. I handed out tickets to the “Let’s set realistic expectations” show this week. The reviews were gasps and blank looks of shock. What? I want a 24-hour a day/365 days a year live-in maid for Christmas. That’s not happening either. I’ll get over it. So will they.


Christmas isn’t about gifts. It isn’t about pictures with a kind old man in a red suit with a white beard. It isn’t about the show we may be putting on for others to see. It’s about The King of Kings stepping down from His throne, coming our direction, and meeting us where we are. It’s about the Son of God coming to us as a baby in a manger. Why? So He could help us on our way. So He could pick up the pieces of our lives that get scattered in every direction. So He could rescue us in every way possible.


The Christmas party could be a disaster. Your Christmas casserole might go up in flames. Family dysfunction might just make you feel like you are in a zoo. Your Christmas wish list may get nothing checked off. Your picture perfect Christmas may come up short of your expectations. The things of this world will disappoint us. But when it comes to the Wonderful Counselor, All Mighty God, we can set our expectations high. He does not disappoint. Keep your focus on Him.


May your expectations of this season be realistic. May your expectations for Him be high. May you see Him at work today and throughout this Christmas season.


Photo Credit Chelsea Francis

Don’t Blink

As I rounded the corner of the diaper aisle at the store, I saw a young couple filling their cart with diaper products. I silently celebrated how wonderful it was I wasn’t filling my cart with the same. I’ve past the diaper season of parenting (of which I often thought might never end) and survived. Barely. I’m still suffering the trauma from one child who, let’s just say, got our money’s worth out of each Pamper. He aimed at filling each one with the weight suggestion on the box. Most days he succeeded.


I debated over pointing at the couple and shouting, “Suckers!” while having a good laugh and joy riding the cart past like the mature inner woman I am, or hugging them while whispering a warning to not blink; because if they do blink, the season will be over and they will miss all the precious moments that come with it. Ultimately, I opted to smile at them and pushed my cart onward.


In the few days our Christmas tree has been up, I’ve picked up countless ornaments that have been knocked off from brotherly battles and giant plush pythons that mysteriously climb the tree while disregarding their bodies in space. My boys even emptied their entire underwear drawers and placed each pair on the tree as ornaments. To their credit, each one was strategically placed on different branches. I was impressed they weren’t all clumped on one sprig of evergreen. We’ve improved since last Christmas. Sure, it was a mess, but it was cute. Super cute. Plus they were naked, so there’s that. I realize that when I blink, the ornaments won’t be piled on the floor and underwear won’t be on the tree. The house will be quiet, and my boys will be on to bigger boy things that don’t need Mom as much. It will be great, and it will be painfully sad. As time flows through the hourglass, so do the days of motherhood. We blink, and the seasons are gone.


It’s bittersweet, this raising children gig. It’s hard work. It’s exhausting work. It’s the stuff that stretches us in every way possible, Stretch Armstrong style. But the seasons don’t last long. The hard ones go by fast in the grand scheme of it all, even though the seconds of it sometimes drag by. The precious ones go even faster. Can I be honest? If I’m not careful, I get so busy looking forward to the next season, the next goal, or the next milestone, I sometimes miss out on the beautiful parts of the season I’m in. And then, poof, the season is gone.


Are you in a tough season right now? Hang in there. Seasons always change. Are you in an easy season right now? Enjoy it. Seasons don’t last forever. Can we enjoy the moment we are in today for all it’s worth? Can we bask in it, survive it, and not rush on to the next thing? May we relish the day we are in, the gift the Lord gives us today, and be thankful for what it holds. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. We will blink, it will be knocking at the door, and yesterday will be gone.



Photo Credit- Liam Welch