The Rough Edges of a Smooth Life: New Year’s Eve


It’s New Year’s Eve! It’s that time of year again to focus on the events of the past…those good and bad things that naturally happen to all of us and so we begin to plan new year resolutions to not repeat the bad things that we made a mess of and to aim for more of the good things. But not the same good things, definitely better and much greater! We want to forget the messes we stirred up and the mistakes that we made.

Frankly, I’m done with planning New Year resolutions. In the past, I’ve written grand lists of self-centered improvement tactics that only infuriated me when I continued to do the things that I wanted to stop doing. I kept getting in my way of being successful. I need to continue to plan today to be productive tomorrow. 

Secondly, bad things and messes and mistakes will always occur. There will always be rough edges of a smooth life. While I don’t wish for anything awful to happen or to experience difficult situations, I know for a fact that I will, because every smooth life is designed with rough edges.

It is the rough edges that add the character development for self-improvement.

What I enjoy most about New Year’s Eve is reflecting on the year that is coming to its end. I like to think about the year in reverse. Instead of beginning in the winter of January 2013, I begin with September and the first beginnings of autumn. A family birthday celebration at the beach and early morning walks along the shore before the sun announced the new day.

A Better Story

Andy Layla

Remembering the season of red and orange leaves and the glorious days of family outings at a pumpkin patch, watching our little one march happily from pumpkin to pumpkin and climbing over hay bales. With each little foot step our little one takes or the squeeze of a tiny hand in mine, I am reminded that God has gone before us on the path our family has journeyed and he is holding us firmly in his strong right hand.

Layla at the Pumpkin Patch

Isla and Pumpkins

I remember a chaotic and exhausted feeling from fighting the never-ending bout of nerve pain. Those peaceful walks along a wooded path under the beams of sunshine cascading through golden leaves reminds me of God’s presence then and to celebrate that he knows the pain of those rough edges I felt and he did enable me to be vibrant through the rough.

Rough Edges of a Smooth Life Rough Edges of a Smooth Life

After autumn, I have a flashback to the hot days of summer and those oscillating fans blowing on my legs and face. I ventured on a missions trip that stirred my heart to move out of my comfort zone…to search for rough edges in the deep of another’s person life–to help them experience a smooth life, in some kind of way.

I am thankful that God has placed this longing in my heart to venture into the rough of an unknown community. It was good (and still is) to feel the sharpening of the Holy Spirit on those rough edges in my heart, melting them away, smoothing the edges with more mercy and grace.

View from the flag pole

When I think about spring, I remember having a new appreciation for the handiwork of God, the creator. I learned to have a consistent time of personal worship. I remember wanting more of Jesus and praying for God to change my heart. It’s good to look back through the year, as now I can understand that those rough edges in my life were being formed and shaped by the one who loved me the most, God. I was running four miles almost daily and felt like my space in this world could not get any better than running with worship tunes streaming through ear buds. My smooth life as I once knew it was soon going to change.

New Growth 2

Bird Song

Through daily personal worship, I began to see God in the smallest of insects or in the buds of a tree about to burst in color. I think back to those lonely days of adjusting to being alone yet being completely filled with joy and peace in the Creator, thankful that he sprinkled a bit of his creativity onto me through watercolor painting. God was beginning to show me more of the rough edges in my life that only he could smooth out.

Watercolor by Donna

Watercolor by Donna

And now, here we are at the winter and the close of a new year. A year of surrendering to the handiwork of God, creating and shaping my soul to want more of him, to want to be changed because of his grace alone.

It would take a year feeling the tenderness of more grace in the rough edges for me to surrender my strength and become even stronger through weakness and to know that a smooth life can still be smooth through the trials when it is God who is giving the strength to keep going. There is a void from a loss of a family member and we celebrate that God is making all things new.


I did something completely different this Christmas while celebrating Advent. While wanting to take the time to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming, I also wanted to focus on the freedom I have in Christ to overcome an obstacle…a very rough edge. So, I began a “Lent in Advent” with the purpose of giving up something for the 25 days of celebrating Advent….a self-inflicted rough edge that controlled me. While focusing on the one…God’s Son, the one God promised to send to rescue me, I struggled through the Lenten process of giving up, running away from it and running into the fulfilled expectation of Jesus first coming and all that he accomplished for me (for us) on that cross. It is day 31 in “Lent for Advent”.

Looking back through the year shows me how God has kept his promise to love us no matter what. He has given us a gospel-centered community to intercede for us in prayer, encouragement and friendship. He is constantly rescuing us. Revealing his story to us when we need him the most. The storms and trials are rough yet Jesus is in the boat too. The storm knows his voice and life becomes smooth.  Without the rough edges, those hard trials, I would not have been able to celebrate real joy and victory through Christ. I would not want a smooth life any other way.

I am eager and excited to welcome 2014! I can’t wait to live the better story God has for us!

Happy New Year!

Don and Donna

The links on this page will take you to posts that I’ve written this year. Move the curser over the link for the title of the post. I hope you will be encouraged by reading. -Donna

Hope in the Season of Advent

Advent 2

I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord. Psalm 121

How I love the season of Advent! I love preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family. The delicious smell of sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven and everyone wanting to be the first to sample a cookie or unroll a cinnamon bun dripping with gooey sweet icing.

I love to light candles around our advent wreath, celebrating the promises of God, and to see the glow of tea lights shimmering through colored glass. One of my favorite activities of Christmas past was decorating ginger bread houses with my children. I remember their giggles and delight with decorating a gingerbread house and displaying it as a center piece on the dining room table, nibbled on everyday so that by the end of Christmas, the only thing remaining were pieces of broken gingerbread. I remember one year when a few of us volunteering in children’s ministry at our church decided to plan a Gingerbread House party for the kids attending a mid-week program. I don’t know what we were thinking! We were amazed and delightfully overwhelmed by the number of kids that came…maybe 80 or more! The gingerbread houses turned quickly into gingerbread huts constructed with four graham crackers, with each cracker glued to a side of a small milk carton, with that wonderful white sticky miracle icing that would chip a tooth if you took a bite of it once it dried and hardened. It was a crazy wonderful messy event with every child proudly carrying their creation home on a small plastic plate…each hut covered in colorful skittles, cinnamon drops, sprinkles, licorice twists and sugared gumdrops, soon to become a center piece on their kitchen table.

Ah, the sweet memories of Christmas past! We are creating new memories this year, even through topsy-turvy unexpected life changing events. There is some unrest, unknowns and a lot of “what ifs” trying to rob our first love of focusing on God’s promise that we have been rescued from fear and doubt and so much more than that!

How we delight in the promises of God, asking for his help to focus our hearts on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. God made a promise to rescue us and he keeps it perfectly…confirmed the promise by his oath. God’s unchangeable character is guaranteed by his promise and his oath. It is impossible for God to lie. We pray for his help to find refuge and a strong encouragement to hold fast to this hope. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6)

There is great hope in the season of advent! God wants you to have the full assurance of hope—no weak and flimsy hope, but a strong, full, confident hope—lest you become “sluggish” or “dull” and begin to think that the Christian hope is not as real as the hopes offered by the world.

And God intrudes in our story. He is making all things new. He has made all things new. Even though our tummies aren’t filled with sugar cookies, we are filled with the forever sweetness of God’s grace that pours over us regardless of the condition of our heart. On the outside, we may resemble a lopsided and pasted together gingerbread hut but we are securely held tight on a strong foundation built on God’s promises.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!” And he would. One day, God himself would come. (The Jesus Storybook Bible)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) 

Our help comes from the Lord! This is our hope in the season of advent! Merry Christmas!

A grand and messy Advent Eve

Gosh, I was excited for Saturday to arrive! I had been anticipating the arrival of Advent for weeks and weeks! I couldn’t wait to place our Advent wreath on the dining room table and light our first candle. I couldn’t wait  to pick out a tree with my husband. We had set aside Saturday, Advent Eve, to do this. And it was going to be a great day preparing for Advent. Even pulling boxes and boxes of decorations out of basement storage and hauling them upstairs was going to be fun.   We went to sleep Friday night with happy hearts…

We woke up Saturday morning with the grumbles…well, that’s not completely accurate…I (not we) woke up with the worse case of grumbles.

I knew what was waiting for me in the basement. Those boxes and boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff.  You see, I’ve been collecting Christmas decorations to deck the walls and halls and bathrooms and children’s rooms and family room and kitchen and…there are a lot of boxes.

How many little Christmas trees with tiny lights does one family need? I counted 12.  (It is a nice number…Jesus had 12 disciples. I happen to have 12 trees.)

And the grumbling and irritation increased with preparing for the glorious start of Advent.

There packed neatly on the basement shelves, was a large box of gold ornaments. Gold ornaments of all sizes, shapes and design. There was a box of red ornaments…and ditto what I said about the gold ornaments. And a box of  blue and purple and silver and white. Plus beads and ribbon to drape gracefully around the tree. A variety of tree skirts, too. Unfortunately, I also have plastic holly bushes, plastic holly vine, twigs with fake sugar glued on to give a sparkle to those plastic holly bushes, fake poinsettia and I can’t overlook the gold angels…wire sculptured angels and some ceramic angels with their wings opened over the overstuffed snowmen, which were guarded by wooden toy soldiers. I have a few metal reindeer, too.


And the grumbles just grew worse as I became buried under the debris of Christmases past. I seriously needed to get my heart in gear about Advent!

To wrap up this story in a neat little package, we did rummage through all of the stuff collected from years past and picked out the ornaments to use this year.

The grumbles began to go away as the lights were placed on the tree and the magic of Christmas was there. Right there in the beauty of that eight foot tree with the lovely beautiful glass ornaments and sparkling glass ice cycles hanging gracefully from branches mingled with the sweet smell of a fresh Douglas Fir.

“What a beautiful tree! I just love the beginning of Advent!”, I said happily to my sweet husband.  The grumbles had begun to disappear as I gazed at this creation. I was also quite proud of myself for deciding to unload, I mean “give away”  all of that extra Christmas stuff, plus I decided to be content with just one tree. I told God that all of  that stuff was going away and I would be content with just a little bit of stuff, such as those gorgeous beautiful glass ornaments hanging on one Christmas tree.

“Yes, now my heart is ready for Advent.” So I thought.

I was no longer mumbly grumbly.  And after a long day of “preparing my heart” for Advent (all of the above)…I was exhausted. Evening had come, a warm fire was glowing and our family room illuminated only by the glow of the fire and our beautiful tree gleaming with hundreds of white lights reflecting off of shiny glass ornaments. My husband had fallen asleep on the couch and I was enjoying the peace of gazing at our Christmas tree and thinking how sweet it is to welcome the first day of Advent. Our tree is beautiful!

And then it happened…

CRASH!  The tree fell over!


Don was jolted out of a peaceful sleep and bolted off the couch.

Yep, it was a mess with those beautiful glass things shattered on the floor, fragments of glass imbedded in the couch (the tree nearly fell on Don) broken glass and broken branches and lights hanging off and water saturating the carpet…

Don and I stood there looking at the mess and staring wide-eyed and speechless at each other. (sigh)

I spoke out loud to God and said, “I get it, God. I get it! It’s all yours! Advent is all about JESUS. This tree is not what it’s all about. Those beautiful glass ornaments do not reflect your glory.” And I began to laugh.

The messiness of Advent Eve brought my heart to a true place of worship and repentance.  Advent is celebrating God keeping his promise to send a savior, Christ the Lord. God is a covenant keeper.

“Our God in heaven, thank you that you did not remain there. You could have justly condemned us for our guilt, our devotion to idols, our constant self-seeking, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing lives. But you did not. You came.” ~Tim Keller (from 843 Acres, The Devotional Blog of The Park Forum: Advent: The Feet That Bring Good News.

By the way, a friend told me about some families that were unable to have a decorated Christmas tree…they do now!

Advent Eve Story