an (un)surprising end to an (un)surprising year

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

We were supposed to spend the weekend at the cabin with the family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – all of us under one roof, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s together into one giggly gathering of generations. We went to bed with the bags packed, the car filled, the fridge stocked with food to bring.

But our plans were interrupted when midnight brought a sudden awakening, the unmistakable bark of croup. He heaved with sobs and jagged wheezing whether we whisked him outside in the frigid night air or wrapped him up warm in the steamy bathroom fog. A frantic call to the doctor confirmed that we were staying put. No road trip, no cabin, no party.

Just the four of us at home to end the year.

So we sighed and pulled clothes back out of suitcases, stretched Saturday laziness into Sunday pajamas-till-noon, tried to cover up colds and coughs (now shared by both brothers) with snuggles, songs and stories. And somewhere along the way, between the heaps of laundry and the piles of presents strewn across the floor, I realized that maybe there was no more fitting end to the year than one last upended expectation.

Our weekend wasn’t perfect. There were tantrums and squabbles and interrupted sleep and heaps of housework – the usual ups and downs of life with littles. But there were also quiet moments full of God: doing nothing and resting after, slowing down and listening, living and forgiving each other. I watched us each relax into the rhythm of hours together in the heart of our home, a microcosm of our lives, everything I write about in this space condensed into the final hours of a full year.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But it was. And the way our weekend ended was exactly the way the last 12 months rumbled along: unexpectedly, a little rocky, but full of grace.


This morning, the last of the long year, we feasted on a rich breakfast, eggnog French toast dripping with cinnamon and sugar, sweet and sticky on our fingers. The sick boy perched on his tiptoes in front of the stereo, spinning his favorite CDs while he wiped his runny nose on his sleeve. I was grateful he chose a quiet one for the morning, a favorite calming album, and I listened as the lilting voice sang:

Oh, you’re growing up so fast. Right before our eyes. You don’t have to figure everything out; you just take your time. You just take your time.

It’s my prayer for them, and God’s prayer for me, too, I think. To realize the growth, to take the long view, but also to stay grateful in the moment, to breathe in the present.

The unexpected gift of time on the cusp of another year.

8 thoughts on “an (un)surprising end to an (un)surprising year

  1. I’m so sorry about the croup, but deeply moved by how you have written about this today. As for the writing on tall the other days, I’m pretty moved by that too. Peace and good to you all – and health also!

  2. I remember reading something recently about how paintings of the Annunciation often show Mary interrupted in the act of reading — just one example of the interruptions of life, and how embracing those changes of plans can be holy indeed. Your post illuminates that theme beautifully. Blessings to you and yours this New Year!

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