As we approach the Christmas season, I began to think about our Christmas letter. I love Christmas letters. I love writing them, I love receiving them. It's a chance to connect with friends, both old and new, and get a brief glimpse into their life, which is why I will continue to send them, even though I do believe the tradition is slowly dying. Anyways, as I thought about our Christmas letter, I began to think about our year. It's been a great year, though hard to believe it's almost over. Our daughter was born 10 days before 2016 started, so most of her life has been lived this year, and it's crazy to imagine life without our dramatic and energetic baby girl. Emmet had the flu twice this year, as well as it was the year he turned two. By the end of 2016, two more of our siblings will have gotten married, as well as we've traveled a bit to visit family and train students for mission. It's been an exciting year, and a year full of adventure and new things.
It's also been a year of something else. If we had to highlight a theme for the year, we would say it was a year of walking out life with those around us. We have had many instances this year where we have struggled in a relationship, had a hard time understanding someone, had friends in crisis situations, or been given opportunities to extend grace to a friend while they work on an area in their life. It's been a year of recognizing humanity, a year of recognizing sin, a year of valuing faithfulness, a year of understanding grace. We have given grace, and we have received it so much more, simply being thankful for what relationship looks like when we are committed to look beyond the quirks and faults of one another. I have been reminded so often of when Jesus looked at the crowd and said "you who is without fault may throw the first stone". It's been a year of recognizing that humanity will fall short, every single time. We make mistakes, we hurt people, we say mean words, we are careless, we are thoughtless. I am all of these things in so many ways, and so are the people around me. Even with the Holy Spirit, people will still fall short. We are not perfect, and the Holy Spirit does not make us perfect.
One of the things I have found to be beautiful this year is our depravity as humans. We are desperate, we are messy, we are incapable, we are lost. But it's in the darkness of our depravity that Christ's sovereignty and perfection and forgiveness and salvation shines so much brighter. I don't know if we can fully recognize how great He is until we realize how inadequate we are. There have been so many times this year where I have been driven to my knees in tears, simply crying out to the Lord because I don't know what else to do. We have watched dear friends experience crisis in their lives this year, and we have seen those crisis' simply drive them, and those walking through the crisis with them, to Jesus because there is nothing else to do. In a moment of such emptiness, we are made aware of everything that Christ is and how our lives are so much more about Him and His glory than we often remember.
We experienced this when we found out about our third pregnancy in June. Contrary to our other two children, we did not experience excitement when those two pink lines showed up - rather, we experienced dread, fear, and incapability. As I began to accept the fact that we would have three children under two and a half years of age, I found myself in such a place of inadequacy. The words "I can't" came out of my mouth so many times during the week that followed those lines, until it drove Joe and I to our knees by week's end, simply crying out to the Lord and asking Him to equip us, because we couldn't imagine how this was going to work. I should add, we are now very excited to meet her in February, and that the Lord has helped us to adjust and prepare. It helped to find out she was a girl and give her a name: Hosanna Noelle. What I find funny is that we picked her name because I really liked how it sounded. So, Joe, being the good seminarian that he is, informed me that while we often use it as a term to praise the Lord, like in Palm Sunday, it actually is a cry that means "Lord, please save us". Noelle fits perfectly, since that represents Christmas, which is when our precious Savior is born. We did not pick her name because of our year, but have come to realize her name acts, in a way, as an alter and testament to our year.
One of the other things that has been trending this year is the hashtag #allthefeels. Usually, as far as I've seen, this hashtag is used to describe moments of emotional overwhelming, either with joy, mixed feelings, sadness, etc. In some ways, I feel like I could describe those moments of total depravity and total hopelessness as #allthefeels moments. It's the moments when sin, pain, and hurt are so great that it's hard to see beyond to anything else. It's those moments, those painful and dark and overwhelming moments, that should drive us simply to the foot of the cross to cry Hosanna, to cry out to the Lord to save us. It's in those raw moments that all we can do, and sometimes all we want to do, is to praise Him, focus on Him, cry out to Him, because He is so much bigger than us. 1 John says that God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. Everything. So in moments when we can't see a millimeter further, God can see the whole 5K. And because of this, I have learned to love the moments of depravity, because it's in those moments that I get a glimpse of the true and unveiled greatness of our Father and Savior.
This past weekend, one of my best friends lost her dad in a tragic and completely unexpected dirt bike accident. In a matter of hours, her world was turned upside down and will never be the same. I'm thankful that her father knew our precious Lord, and so He is now home, but that doesn't lessen the impact of the pain and the shock and the shear fear that hit Saturday night. So many times I searched for words of encouragement to text her, and came up empty. In the end, I simply texted that "God is good". Because He is. I have been so amazed as I have watched her and her family deal with this extreme grief, and yet continue to say "God is good, God is faithful, God is sovereign". It still feels so unreal and so impossible that I do double takes every time I see something on Facebook that mentions his passing.
So, near the end of 2016, I am left saying we serve a great God. We serve a God who can be found in darkness as well as in the light. We serve a God who is faithful to us when we struggle, and equips us to be faithful to others when they struggle. We serve a God who mourns with us in times of grief, and rejoices with us in times of joy. We serve a God who is bigger. We serve a God who deserves to be praised. We serve a God who saves. We serve a God, who in His infinite knowledge and sovereignty, has designed us to desire to praise Him in the moments where we don't know what else to do. I am reminded that life is so much bigger than me, than my schedule, than my family, than my relationships. Life is about Him and making Him great, and I pray that when trials and crisis' come my way, I am able to remember to praise Him. It's been a year of letting #allthefeels drive me to #hosanna.