I love it when snow falls outside my office window. The flakes flirt with the wind currents between skyscrapers, sometimes drifting both up and down as the breeze catches them.
What might be tumultuous at street-level looks graceful and peaceful from 27 stories high.
And that’s a good metaphor for how 2016 was for me – sometimes challenging in the grit and grind of the everyday, yet so eternally beautiful and good when seen in rearview.
When I walked to work this past week – with flakes stinging my cheeks – I was reminded of how wearying life’s sting can be. But protected by panes of glass, the snow falls silently and without harm. It dances – it shifts.
When I walked through some really hard choices and faced ugly, jealous, insecure feelings this year, I felt despair starting to sting me. Why do I always come back to the same, tired issues? Why does that old, hurtful memory keep crippling me? Why haven’t I learned better by now?
And yet. When time passed and I looked back, things shifted in my view. What felt tough and tired in the moment was – when viewed from a distance – revealed to be eternal, good work that God was doing in and around me.
When 2016 was just beginning, I wrote about hope. It was my word for this past year.
As 2016 closed, I wrote down what happened over the course of the year. I listed the gifts and the milestones in my journal in black pen, and then I went back with a red pen. I read over my handwriting and I scrawled the word HOPE in the margins each time I saw it reflected back at me.
I went to new many cities, and returned to small towns that hold big places in my story. I saw more of the world out the windows of cars and trains and planes, feeling adventure unfold in both new and familiar ways. That was hopeful for me.
I practiced living in messy, beautiful relationships, and saw a little more about what relational wholeness looks like – from my friends and my family, from my small group and my fellowship program, from dating. Hope was there, too.
I learned a lot. I took a cooking class and I took personality tests. I toured the Art Institute to hear about their programs. I wandered libraries and museums. I read. I explored new neighborhoods of my own city, got to know parts of this place that I have overlooked before.
But the best part, I realized, is that hope became more than a perspective for me in 2016.
Hope became a practice – more than it ever has been in past years.
I practiced looking for hope right in the margins of life, where – of course – it is always waiting to be found.
This hope-seeking became crucial in times when things were not easy. In times of loss, in politics and worry. Somehow, by writing down the word, and by looking for it in the margins, God fostered hope in me, right in the messy middle of the everyday.
I saw hope in the midst of hard things sooner and more willingly than I have in past years. I didn’t have to wait to the end of the year to see it. God helped me practice hope and joy in the moment.
So. As one year of gifts turns into another year of opportunity, I’m thinking we all have the chance to see hope more readily in our everyday. Each new day this year is going to give us the gift of seeing, of learning, and of practicing hope.
Hope is always available because God is. His very character is one of hope, and His hopeful presence is always ours as his children.
We get to choose what goes with us into the new year. Let’s invite HOPE to make the list.
I’m praying that we’ll see it this year – together. Whether from across the table, from across the street, from 27 stories high.
Or, maybe, in the margins, where – of course – it is always waiting to be found.