A few years ago, in December, I was wrapping gifts and– with the melancholy that sometimes visits during the holidays– letting tears slip down my cheeks as I mourned things that hadn’t happened that year, carefully crafted plans come to naught (primarily, a baby). I continued to wrap and cry, grumbling a bit that I wasn’t getting the gift I really wanted, when I remembered the friend who’d handed me tickets to a Christmas concert the week before. One by one, I began thinking of all the good things in the past year that happened without my planning, without my goal-setting. Joys, successes, new friends, small victories…handed to me with no effort on my part, wrapped up beautifully and tied with a bow. I ripped a piece of wrapping paper, turned it over and wrote down everything that had surprised or delighted me in the previous months.
Many items were simple: books and movies I loved, a childs’ award at school. Some were bigger: my amazing visiting teachers, new friends, an unexpected vacation with the family. The list grew long and joyful and a tradition began.
I guess it’s like a gratitude list, but our monthly gratitude poster on our fridge tends to be filled with the same things: food, the cat, Mommy (with a heart around it)…Whereas an end of the year list of surprises recognizes the serendipity of life, the endless possibilities, the belief that good things will continue to happen.
Sometimes I get stuck thinking there’s nothing good around the bend. But my past lists remind me– life is full of surprises.
I caught myself in that same mournful mood last Sunday. I’ll spare you my list of failures. But as I found myself sinking, I grabbed a pad of yellow sticky notes, wrote something different on each one and slapped them on the wall: Pioneer Trek, homeschooling Mary, attending a dozen 40th and 50th birthday parties (because I’m right in the middle), my son’s ACT score, my two youngest making it to the top of Timpanogus, a PUPPY, so many new friends…
And I can scarcely imagine what lies in store for next year. Yes, I’ll still make goals and work toward them. But I also hope to recognize God’s hand, to drink in the beauty and wonder of life without worrying too much about what I accomplish. I hope to dance joyfully through my kitchen, laugh with friends, bring comfort to those who mourn. To live unshackled from how I think things should be, rather to unwrap each of God’s mercies with gratitude and delight.
Tell me please, what were your best surprises of 2014? Where have you found joy, beauty, delight, satisfaction?