Hope and Expectation

securedownload-1My favorite iphone photo processing app is Pic-Tap-Go. One of the settings is called EZBurn which darkens the corners and edges a bit. As the new year dawns bright and hopeful, for me there is always a certain darkness, an EZ Burn curling around the edges of the calendar,  threatening to overshadow all that is hoped for.   We can’t know the future on January 3rd any easier than on September 3rd.  Despite the planning and resolve that happens with the clean year ahead,  there will be a few stories in our lives in the next 365 days we wish we didn’t have to walk through. As much as we want the year to be laid out flat and smooth,  it will undoubtedly have its twists, turns and possibly even a cliff or two.

We live in a broken world. And no amount of disciplined goal setting can fix that truth. We aren’t even out of the starting gates and already broken stories of loved ones are littering the days.

And yet…hope continues to dawn bright. Relentless in its sustainable, reliable, neverending mercy.  Holy cow! The grace of this overwhelms me at times.

So in this first week of January, I’m making a choice. The choice to make plans loosely.  To hopefully expect good things but to grip gently those expectations. I’m making the choice to release quickly those same good things if life so requires. To refuse to be derailed or disappointed by bumps in the road, but instead to embrace them and the lessons they offer.  To joyfully watch for pitfalls and accept challenges as part of this crazy roller coaster life I’ve been given.

And to be fully grateful each day for ALL the stories that lie ahead in the land of light and dark.

Anticipation is a sweet emotion. Here are few stories I’m hopefully expecting this year:

1. Abby and I have had the Hope Spoken conference in Dallas on the calendar for roughly a year. I am looking forward to hearing Shauna Niequist and from many other women who I’ve gotten to know through books and blogs. Expecting MUCH from this weekend.

2. IF:Gathering – The vision of author Jennie Allen and numerous others, this event has the feel of revival for the generation to come.  This gathering’s purpose is to simply ask, “If God is real, then what?” Requiring more than a bit of hobbit-esque courage, I will be hosting a small local event designed to attract women from all backgrounds and churches, in hopes that by the end of 2014 God will reveal a vision for bigger events for us here. 1381392_1377914739117176_1380596599_n

3.  I’m hopeful to begin a new story volunteering with our local hospice.  Several years ago, God planted a tiny seed for this ministry in my heart. It’s taken awhile to grow to maturity, but with the exact right set of “chance” encounters I am moving toward something that feels scary and perfectly right at the same time. I’m almost finished with all the prep work that is required and it only seems appropriate that the new year will begin with this new opportunity.

4. Wednesday nights are like little oasis spots in the week. Difficult to get to, but life-giving when reached. Meeting with like-minded women is refreshing in a way that is just hard to explain. We are planning to devour two potentially life changing book studies in the next few months. First up is My One Word with Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen.  Choosing one word to focus on the entire year. So practically transformational. Then we are going to go through Bob Goff’s (!) Love Does DVD study that is just being released. Sa-Weet!

5. Books! Of course, there is always books on every new horizon. Here are a few on the list to read right away:
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally by Tsh Oxenreider
Restless by Jennie Allen
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

6.  Working to eat as many Paleo recipes as possible and cut out processed foods and sugar.  You know, eating like a caveman and all. Hmmm, we shall see.

7.  My baby turns 13 in February. (pause, while I die a little…because I just realized that my other babies will turn 18 and 21…) Both of the older sibs have enjoyed a big travel adventure with mom the year they became a teen. So, in true Caroline fashion, we’re whiteboarding a pros/cons list of destinations and are in full on planning mode.  Her main requirement? We take a train to get there.

I could experience all these things in 2014. Or perhaps none of them. The truth is stated best by James, the brother of Jesus, a guy who knows something about twists and turns and cliffs.  Make some big plans this year my friends, but hold them oh so gently.

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”James 4:14-15 (NLT)

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