We have been meaning to write a blog post coinciding with the new year, new season, etc. for some time now—but are just now getting to it! Does it still count as a ‘Happy New Year’ post? Ah well, if it doesn’t that is okay too. We were so blessed to spend three weeks in the States over Christmas and New Years. It was an extremely busy time, but it was full because of lots of time with family and friends, so it was a good busy. We are thankful that we had the opportunity to go, especially with it being Norah’s first Christmas…it was made extra special being able to be surrounded by family for it. Now that we have been back in Malawi for several weeks, we finally feel like we are back in our routine. Norah’s sleeping schedule has FINALLY normalized again (so thankful for that!), and we are feeling back to normal ourselves; so we have had a bit more time to process where we are at and what we are praying for this new year.
This year seems to hold a lot of promise and milestones for us. We will celebrate 4 years married, 5 years out of college, we will enter into the ‘late-20’s’ age bracket, and our first baby will turn 1 year old (!!). When I think about it, it seems hard to believe that I am at this stage. You know how you never really feel like you are getting older, and then all of a sudden you realize that you aren’t 18 anymore? I feel like I still identify with high-school graduates heading off to college, and then realize that was quite a long time ago for me! I love looking back over the past 10 years of my life and seeing where God has led me. What he has steered me away from, and what He has led us into. He is so faithful, and it is so evident as we look back and see His hand. He has always provided for us, when we received bills we never thought we could pay, somehow the money was there…when we felt like we had no idea where we were going or what we were doing, somehow we found ourselves on the other side. It is such a JOY to walk with the Lord and trust that He knows where we are going. Thinking about that is such a good reminder to me to just trust. I have a tendency to freak out about what may be coming next, etc. but then I remember that He has is all under control. He knows. Amen!
A big part of what is shaping my prayers and vision for 2017 is something that happened right at the end of 2016. Right before Christmas, my dear Grandma Dot passed away. Five days before we were scheduled to land in Buffalo. At first I was so angry at God. Why couldn’t He have waited to take her for five more days? Just so I could see her again, and she could hold Norah one last time. I felt angry for a while, first at God and then at myself for not somehow being there. I feel like I always end up missing major things by just a few days. But God challenged me in my anger. His timing is not mine, and I was able to come to a place of feeling peace in my heart knowing that maybe for some reason He didn’t want me to be there right away. I still don’t necessarily understand, but I am thankful for the reminder that He has called us to Malawi, and that He is sovereign in all things…even the things that are made difficult by the distance.
I miss her a lot though. I am so thankful I had time with my family that week after she passed away. But Christmas was so strange without her. She wasn’t there sitting in her rocking chair by the fire opening her new slippers and nightgown and shaking her head saying “you shouldn’t have got me this, I don’t need anything new!” She wasn’t in our annual family pictures in front of the Christmas tree, surrounded by all of the grandkids. Death is not a natural part of this life, but I am so thankful that in Christ we can find some peace in it. And I am thankful for the memories that I have with her. I can look back and feel her hand in mine, giving me a little squeeze as she kisses me goodbye. I can remember spending countless New Years Eve’s with her at her house, eating lots of junk food and nudging her awake time and time again so she could see the ball drop with me. I can remember going for drives with her, and just heading out into the countryside and getting purposefully lost and just talking and sharing stories for hours. I can remember coffee dates, and mall trips, and having ice cream together, and having sleepovers growing up, and riding my bike in her basement, and on and on and on. So many sweet memories of such a loving and remarkable grandmother.
So heading into 2017, I am issuing myself a challenge to live a life worthy. Grandma Dot lived a worthy life. She preached the Gospel unashamedly. Not just with words, but with her actions and her love. She poured into all those around her relentlessly, and always was willing to lend a hand. Even as she got older and slowed down, she was always so aware of those around her and their struggles more than her own. She inspires me to live fully. She had so many stories of her life that she lived with my grandfather and her own family that she was able to pass on to me. I loved sitting and listening to her recount all the different places that they lived, the different people they crossed paths with and the many things that God had led her into and through. Her life was a testimony to living faithfully and fully. And she truly left a legacy of love behind her. She loved her people fiercely. She was strong, but not hard. My Grandma Fran sent a sympathy card to our house that I think sums up Grandma Dot perfectly: “She loved strong, and her love lives on”. My prayer for 2017 is that I would love strong. That I would love my family, my community, my church, and everyone around me strongly, fiercely and with abandon. That Christ would be glorified through each part of my life, as He so clearly was through my Grandma Dot’s life.
We love you Grandma Dot. We always will, and we will miss you always.