Monday, December 31, 2012

1,000 Gifts + A Farewell to 2012

"Speak the unseen into seeing and feel it, this steady breathing in the rhythm of grace...the eyes focus, apertures capturing beauty in ugliness. All the world is a window. If we are willing to see - people, circumstances, situations, relationships - all is transparent. All of this globe is but a glass to God."

I've written and re-written this post more times than I care to count. I'm reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote,"Life is too deep for words, so don't try to describe it, just live it." It's so hard to sum up a year of living into mere words. But, I'm sitting here, on the couch, curled in a blanket, Christmas music playing softly in the background, and the kids I'm nannying are sound asleep, so I'll give it another try. 

Where does time go? I clearly remember writing 2011's epilogue - I know it sounds cliche, but it really does seem like it was just yesterday. It seems like just yesterday we were flipping over new calendars, anticipating what the year ahead would hold. And now, it's gone. Life flies by and doesn't stop for anything. 

So...2012. Here goes...

It started out with the ski trip up to Lutsen - three days at the North Shore, enjoying the outdoors and the company of good friends. There was the final "fast food Friday" at my grandparent's house before we said goodbye to it - a house that was at the center of countless happy childhood memories. There was the launch of Northern Lights Radio Theater with the production of My Fair Lady. There were the random jobs that God so graciously brought along after mine had came to an unexpected end. There was the trip to Manitou Springs...spending a week hanging out with the fabulous people at IPS. Learning all about flashes and soft-boxes, (including the fact that they drain batteries at a rapid rate), and coming home inspired to use my skills not only to take great photos, but to advance God's Kingdom. Then there was graduation. Happy day! 21 months of studying like crazy, taking numerous tests, and experiencing so much grace, coming to an end when I slid my tassel from right to left and became a college graduate. Just a few short weeks after that, there was the trip down to El Paso, TX, and three weeks spent working with Bearing Precious Seed. What a privilege it was to serve alongside the incredible BPS staff, and how truly amazing it was to see souls come to Jesus. (I wrote a lot about my experience down there - if you haven't already, you can read about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Then there was a weekend up at Bri and Dana's cabin, picnics and volleyball on summer evenings, an afternoon tea, a pedicure and lunch with Mom, the annual camping trip to Itasca, the Great Minnesota Get Together, and softball short, everything summers should be filled with. There were lots of photo shoots (it's official - I have the best clients ever!), the "new" car (thanks, Dave!), the new nanny job, and teaching debate. There was a trip to Valley Fair with cousins, a corn hole tournament, a camping adventure in Mille Lacs, and the annual weekend at Storybook Lodge. There was another recoding session and an opening mid-night showing of The Hobbit. And there was that night in October that could have turned out so terribly wrong, but by God's grace didn't. 

Those are some of the "big" moments. But for me 2012 was also marked by the small moments. The moments that for years had been overlooked in the rat race of life. There was the conscious effort to slow down and enjoy the moment - little people laughing, the whole family around the dinner table, biting into a juicy Colorado peach, pausing to watch a caterpillar inch its way through the grass, singing "Our God Reigns" on a Sunday morning...

I'm not saying that I appreciated every moment or always lived fully in the present. I didn't. There were times I rushed right through, not stopping to see the beauty God was giving me right at that moment. 2012 also brought moments that I would rather forget about. There were hard times. Trials with work, trials in relationships. Times of feeling overwhelmed and helpless, times where I felt like there was an ocean standing between who I am and who I want to be. But in the midst of the trials there was this reminder, "whatever is chasing you- no matter what it looks like- it's grace. And grace isn't what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes more like Jesus." 

Right in the middle of it all - the beautiful days and the ugly ones - right smack in the middle of everyday life, there was grace. There was the Gospel. In the slowing down, in the counting of 1,000 gifts, I was struck time and time again with the astonishing beauty of the Gospel. The greatest gift of them all. Immanuel. God with us. God sending His very own Son into the world. Jesus taking the wrath that should have been poured out on me. Such amazing grace. 

This challenge, this endeavor to count 1,000 gifts in a year is not going to end tomorrow when the calendar reads January 1, 2013. The grace gifts won't stop coming, so why should I stop counting? 

And how about you? Write a list, keep them in a notebook, start a blog of your own. Count the ways He loves you. Listen to your life sing. Expect to be changed. "Joy is dangerous - it's igniting and contagious, and is revolutionary: it goes straight against the way this dark world spins."

Now, to count the last gifts of this year...

1048. Hockey with cousins

1049. Family Christmas
1050. Mom's whole family sitting down playing games together
1051. My diploma!
1052. Christmas Eve Candlelight service
1053. TV Mix and M&Ms and the family around the table playing games on Christmas Eve
1054. Finally beating the boys in a board only took till 2:30 am :)
1055. "You're here with us"
1056. Little people on Christmas morning
1057. Reading the Christmas story after brunch
1058. Wrapping up Christmas Day by watching "It's a Wonderful Life"
1059. Friends home from school
1060. Skating on a frigid winter evening
1061. Freshly fallen snow sparkling on the ground
1062. Staying up late...and being able to sleep in in the morning
1063. Praying with friends

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