Two years ago, our Christmas letter felt almost embarrassing. (It had been a great year.) 2011 has also been an unusual year.
In January, Dave got a call from the Perimeter Institute, the physics think-tank he’s worked with for years, asking him to join them fulltime for a semester starting in February. An administrative glitch at his school meant this came together surprisingly easily. Megan and I enjoyed a few days of fresh oranges and shopping with my sister and my parents in Florida.
Possibly the most significant spiritual moment of 2011 for me happened in late January when I was on my annual retreat weekend. My agenda was to figure out what my next vocational step would be. I got up early to walk the labyrinth. It was covered with snow but I decided to walk it by feel. Halfway around, I realized I was out of the maze altogether. I had a clear, freeing sense of God saying, “This is not the season – you can’t know yet.”
In hindsight, I’m glad I couldn’t see ahead. Because the next few months were a blur, a bad dream of significant illness, a run of bad luck and crisis in our family and extended family. And then, as the smoke cleared in May, we adopted a puppy. We had considered a number of elaborate names – our cats had been Eucharistia and Eleuthera – but when we met our sweet, goofy black and white lab-springer spaniel cross, Matt took one look at him and said, “His name is Lucky.”
I’ve thought a lot this year about the concept of luck. What does it mean to be lucky? What does it mean when a heap of horrendousness piles into your life? And really, where is God in the middle of what looks like bad luck? (Or good luck, for that matter?) There have been times this year when it would have been too much of a stretch to say we felt lucky. But we’ve also learned that what we see as bad may not always be, and what we hope for may not be what we need. And oftentimes the blessing we experience is an unexpected one.
I’ve been reading a great book – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Her premise is that when we practice gratitude, in small things and hard-to-be-thankful things, we learn the goodness of God in all situations. I’m learning to pay attention to the blessings around me, even in the midst of what sometimes threatened to be an annus horriblis, as the Queen would say.
There have been many things that have not been hard to be thankful for: two graduating boys (John from grade 6 – with a citizenship award, and Matt from grade 8); a 20th anniversary stay at the Muskoka resort at which we spent our honeymoon; Megan returning to piano lessons with delight; Dave’s opportunities to travel to Switzerland and Winnipeg, as well as the extension of his PI sojourn; all three kids having deeply meaningful camp experiences, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Fish; a lovely few days hiking in the Finger Lakes of New York with our puppy; three kids playing rep or select level soccer and two boys playing on their school football teams; and, new work direction for me at last (see storywell.ca for details).
Advent is a season of “you can’t know yet”, a time of waiting and hoping where perhaps the best preparation is the confession that we are a people walking in darkness, waiting for great light. The great good news of Advent is that “when the time was right, God sent his Son” and that God meets us in our own particular time and place and need, if we will only wait.
This Christmas, may you experience God’s light in every corner of your life and may you know gratitude.
Dave, Susan, Matt, John, Megan & Lucky