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Life is good. Silver light refracting in little Xs on the window. An ages-old sun still rolling and rising, like the stars never get tired. I just ate something with peanut butter in it and am now seated, at rest.

It’s good to be breathing. Clouds of cold breath, cotton candy floating in the freezing air.

One heart beats one heartbeat. Then another.

One breath, which by its very nature needs be a song to the Giver of breath, whether we chose it for so brave a task or not. We might breathe in tune with the harps of heaven if only we’d stop to listen.

The very trees are grace. And think of all the trees whose shade we’ll never feel, whose roots we’ll never know.

Our very breath, a sign.

And in all the simple goodness of life, nothing could ever be so wrong as to take away the light and the air and the heartbeats, until the Giver says so, and welcomes in a greater grace.

So life is good.

But it doesn’t always feel that way.

To be honest – which is what we should always be – 2014 felt off, like living through a long dreary day and thinking, It’s got to stop raining soon, but it doesn’t.

This year, so much felt so stagnant. Sometimes I actually went backwards. Promises fell through. Some things I thought were promises turned out to be just maybes, and those are almost never kept.

I felt sick for a long time. Sometimes I was, and maybe sometimes I wasn’t. But when you believe there’s something wrong, something is wrong.

A dear friend – and father and husband and brother and son – passed away. And there seems nothing anyone could do.

There were missed appointments and allergic reactions and time wasted. There were polar vortices – plural – swirled near a frigid May.

Fires in Venezuelan streets, coup in Thailand, retrograde motion in Egypt, the stealing of Crimea, death in Syria, ebola in West Africa, Malaysian planes gone missing and shot down, ISIS and Boko Haram, Hong Kong politics and Eric Garner.

Words were said that should not have been. Good deeds left out that should have been of first priority.

There are beautiful people I know, and maybe I should have been different toward them.

Mercies withdrawn. Grief withheld.

Hardships, snakebites, and shipwrecks. Wars and rumors of wars. A country divided over dead bodies, sent backward in time.

And…

And…

All told, 2014 was rough.

And that’s okay. Not only because it must be, but because it really is.

Because what seems like the worst thing ever can also be the best thing of all. Doesn’t every tribe and country have a proverb that says it’s through the darkness that we best see the light? Didn’t Paul go blind before he saw Glory? And don’t we Christians know that we die to live?

In thy service pain is pleasure.

With thy favor loss is gain.

I will tell you, even in this oftentimes trying series of 365 days, the sun rose on every one of them. Behind miles of clouds or hanging open in an azure sky, something warm was warming. No year has been more sanctifying for me. Never more time spent in prayer and in communion. There was less laughter, but there was still a lot of laughter. Fewer smiles, but I still smiled far more than anything else.

It’s a tragic reality that it takes going numb to appreciate warmth in all our senses. That it takes failure to learn the better way. Would that all the bitterness could be forgone, and still the sweetness come. But what sort of wise man ever rose who did not first fall?

So I would not bid for myself another year like this one, but if there is no better way to grow, then give me another. But I’m hoping for a better season – for you and me and all of us – and one in which we don’t forget all the low places we’ve ever been, nor neglect all our friends and stranger who linger there.

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