Well, hello 2015! So grateful to welcome the first Monday of a new year. A new year of adventures for our family and another year of meeting new friends to share our adventures with. All of us on separate journeys, each with different stories to live out, yet through our family and friendships, our stories take on the shape of God’s providence, weaved and held together by strands of grace, hemmed in behind and before by his unstoppable love and relentless mercy. (Psalm 139:5)
When Christmas joy …
The year of 2014 neared its end with an awesome Christmas Eve celebration at our church and a wonderful Christmas morning with just the two of us, my husband and I. And we actually had a fun time! I was quite surprised by that since it was our first year we were apart from family. We were hoping for a white Christmas but instead we had Indiana sunshine that is bright as a grey wool blanket. To be honest, I was struggling to feel the joy of Christmas this year and my grumbling about the circumstances that prevented us from traveling didn’t help either. I soon realized I was substituting family to experience real joy instead of reveling in the glad tidings of great joy, for unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. Isaiah says, “Once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder…” (Isaiah 29:14). An outrageous wonder of sacrificial love… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all the earth. There was much joy!
When Christmas joy becomes sorrow …
We received a phone call informing us of sad news that a member of our family passed away unexpectedly Christmas morning. The harsh brutal bite of reality hurt, leaving an open wound of unsettling grief. I read that death is a thief whose robbery is profoundly felt during holidays. We pray our family will believe that God will never stop pouring out his grace upon them. God keeps track of all their sorrows, collects all their tears in his bottle for he has recorded each one in his book. (Psalm 56:8)
When Christmas joy becomes sorrow becomes hope …
It is hard to find hope on your own. At least I think so. I’ve never been strong enough to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I need others to remind me that joy will come in the morning. I should be reminded of God’s promises and assurance of a living hope through Christ. Here are a few quotes (and Bible verses) that have helped me to understand that it is God’s grace that joy springs out of sorrow and sorrow grows into hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This living hope is our hope of salvation that includes an imperishable inheritance. The new life that we have in Christ is something that can never be taken away. (I Peter 1:3-4)
When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for this world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks. 
We are not the Author of our story. We are the characters. 
Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you…We can trust God, because the biblical story will help us endure when our own little stories seem confusing and we feel forsaken. And we can pray, as Job did. Though filled with anguish and despair, Job continued to wrestle with God—unlike his friends, who talked about God but never really knew him. In that story, God reveals himself to be almighty and approachable, transcendent and personal, and the ultimate answer to suffering. 
Our stories are different, our journeys are different, but to keep on keeping on, in hope, is our deepest vocation, whoever we are, wherever we live, whatever we do. 
Behold, I am making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)
 Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts |  Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace |  Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering |  Dr. Steven Garber, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture